The Baltimore Ravens were in need of a change.
Brian Billick came into Baltimore with a mission. That mission was to find a quarterback and turn the team into a Super Bowl contender.
He was able to do half of that. Not only did he make the Ravens a Super Bowl contender, he actually won a Super Bowl back in 2001.
But Billick was hired because he knew quarterbacks; at least that’s what he told everyone. He won a Super Bowl with Trent Dilfer and then chased him out of town.
In recent years, he went from Kyle Boller to Steve McNair, back to Kyle Boller, then to rookie Troy Smith.
You can shock the world and win a Super Bowl with a Trent Dilfer, but you can’t consistently win without quality and consistency at the quarterback position.
Billick learned this lesson the hard way, and hopefully his replacement can learn from his mistakes.
John Harbaugh comes to Baltimore from the Colts, a team that knows a little something about life with a good quarterback. Harbaugh has a lot of work on his hands, but none more important than finding a starting quarterback that can lead this franchise for the foreseeable future.
He comes into this season with a promising rookie in Joe Flacco, a shaky veteran in Kyle Boller, and a second-year quarterback from The Ohio State, Troy Smith.
Troy Smith has been a winner throughout his football life, and it appears he’ll be the starter for the Ravens on opening day, but it’s clear that Flacco is the direction this franchise wants to go in.
In a perfect world, Flacco would spend this season learning the ins and outs of the NFL from the bench. But the NFL is rarely a perfect world, and I would expect Flacco to make an appearance as Ravens’ starter at some point this season.
Willis McGahee is recuperating from knee surgery, but plans to be ready for opening day. He’ll be needed to help take pressure off of Troy Smith. The offensive line has the potential to be good from the center left.
On the right side, Marshal Yanda and Adam Terry are questionable at best.
Todd Heap is a walking injury at this point in his career, but if he can stay healthy, he can be a great safety valve for Smith.
The Ravens can use an influx of talent at the wide receiver position. Mark Clayton and Derrick Mason are both OK, but neither strikes fear into the heart of opposing defenses. Wide receiver is an area they’ll probably look to improve next offseason.
On defense, the Ravens are surprisingly solid for a team that only won five games last season. Ray Lewis is not the guy he was back in 2000, but he’s still a pretty good linebacker and the emotional leader of this defense.
Trevor Pryce, Kelly Gregg, and Haloti Ngata will make up a pretty good defensive line.
Bart Scott and Terrell Suggs are fantastic linebackers. Combined with Ray Lewis, they can dominate long stretches of games.
The secondary can be beaten deep, but Chris McAlister and Samari Rolle are as good as they come. Ed Reed is one of the best players in the NFL. Dawan Landry combines with Reed to make up the best safety combo in the NFL.
The Ravens are solidly middle-of-the-pack this season. A lot depends on how Troy Smith or Joe Flacco can handle running the offense.
I’m not overly optimistic, but I’m not overly pessimistic either.
With McGahee recovering from minor knee-surgery, his health is a question mark going into the season. Ray Rice, at worst, is a decent change-of-pace guy for McGahee; at best he is a decent replacement for him.
Fighting for draft picks, fighting for the playoffs, or contending for the Super Bowl?
The Ravens won’t be bad enough to fight for a top draft pick, but they won’t be good enough to contend for the playoffs.
Like I said, solidly middle of the pack.
A six-win season may only be a single-game improvement, but the progression at the quarterback position will be the true measure of this season’s success.
Sean Crowe is a Senior Writer and an NFL Community Leader at Bleacher Report. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. His archive can be found here. You can find everything he writes, including articles for other publications, here.