Taking umbrage with “NFL Top 10”

April 1, 2011

I normally do not put much stock in lists.

Lists are generally silly and subjective and, in the grand scheme of things, mean absolutely nothing. After all, how do you rank things like movies, TV shows or NFL players? It’s entirely in the eye of the beholder and usually, after some initial hashing, people forget about them within two weeks.

That’s the attitude I take into lists, hence why I don’t get up in arms about them. In fact, I usually enjoy list shows. One I always end up watching is “NFL Top 10” on NFL Network.

The show is usually harmless fun and ranks things in a top 10 list like open field runners, uniforms or linebacking corps. The fun part of the show is the clips they show sports personalities and ex-players disagreeing with the list. My personal favorite moment was when they ranked “Motivational Coaches.” When they listed Marty Schottenheimer fourth, Chicago radio loudmouth Mike North bugs his eyes and says “Whoa, whoa, whoa, MARTY SCHOTTENHEIMER!?!”

But I must say, the show got my blood boiling recently when they did the list of top 10 defenses and ranked the 2000 Ravens seventh, behind the 1969 Chiefs, the 1950s “Madison Avenue” Giants and, incredibly, the “Gritz Blitz” Atlanta Falcons of 1978.

Needless to say, this is an absolute sham. A crock. A travesty. A disgrace. Any list that ranks the 2000 Ravens seventh among top 10 defenses isn’t worth the paper it was printed on or the videotape used to broadcast it.

I can tell you absolutely, unequivocally, as someone who watched every game they played, the 2000 Ravens were easily No.3 behind the 1985 Bears and the Steel Curtain Steelers of the 1970s. There is no question about it.

Here’s the test of whether a defense is merely very good – like the 2002 Buccaneers – or is in the pantheon of the best of the best: as a fan, it was surprising when the other team got a first down. Not a touchdown, but a first down.

Well, the 2000 Ravens were the latter. They were that good. As a Ravens fan, I’ve seen a lot of good defenses, and not since those fabled ’85 Bears has anyone been as good as the 2000 Ravens.

All the relevant stats are there. Fewest points ever in a 16-game season. Super Bowl championship. Gave up less than 1,000 yards rushing for the season. Four shutouts. Need I go on?

And unlike the ’85 Bears or the Gritz Blitz, they didn’t need a gimmick. The 2000 Ravens defense hardly blitzed; they finished in the middle of the pack that year in sacks. They lined up in a 4-3 and kicked your butt. Simple, brutal and effective.

Nobody could run on them with massive tackles Sam Adams and Tony Siragusa and future Hall-of-Fame middle linebacker Ray Lewis up the middle. And if you tried to pass, you risked getting picked by Hall of Fame safety Rod Woodson and an underrated secondary, or getting your quarterback killed by speed rushers Mike McCrary, Rob Burnett and Peter Boulware.

NFL Top 10’s rationale for ranking them so low was that they didn’t face an all-Pro quarterback all year. Well, forgive them for playing who’s on the schedule. My eyes nearly bugged out when they punished the team for the schedule. They lined up and played who was in front of them. As if they could determine who the other teams lined up behind center. Mind you, that season, the Dallas Cowboys came to town with Hall of Famers Troy Aikman and Emmitt Smith in tow, and the Ravens beat them 27-0.

I could live with the ’69 Chiefs being ahead of us. They did have three Hall-of-Famers and won the Super Bowl. But the Gritz Blitz Falcons? Really? What did they win? Yes, they gave up an average of nine points a game – fewest in a 14-game schedule – but they went 7-7. There’s no way a team that went .500 should be ahead of a Super Bowl champion. The Gritz Blitz Falcons – so named because they liked to put nine guys on the line of scrimmage and attack the quarterback – won exactly ONE playoff game in three years.

For those that think I’m just being a homer, go back and actually watch the 2000 Ravens play. I highly recommend the AFC Championship game against Oakland. Personally, I thought they were better in that game than in the Super Bowl against the Giants. It looks like the Ravens have 17 guys on the field. The Raiders came in as the best rushing team in the league and couldn’t gain 6 inches. The Raiders could have had Joe Montana at QB and Jim Brown in the backfield and they wouldn’t have won that day. I’m serious, it was that dominant a defensive performance.

In the games against the Raiders and Giants, 10-point halftime leads were like 20 point leads. I remember an anecdote from that season that summed it all up. I think it was from the Raider game. Tight end Shannon Sharpe used to ask defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis how many points he needed from the offense. Lewis said, “10.”

When you only need 10 points, that’s when you know you are bada$$.


  • Ryan Mavity has been a reporter with the Cape Gazette since February 2007. He covers the city of Rehoboth Beach, Baltimore Ravens football and Delaware State University football. He lives in Georgetown with his wife, Rachel and their son, Alex.

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