The Ravens arrived in Baltimore 20 years ago. It's a nice round number, good in blackjack and better for retrospectives on things like NFL franchise relocations.
In advance of an upcoming series looking back at the Ravens' weird, messy and promising 1996 season, Eric Edholm of Yahoo Sports went on WNST (1570 AM) today to share a couple of stories. They are delightful.
(Remember while reading these that they happened a mere four seasons before Super Bowl XXXV.)
That time Ted Marchibroda confused Baltimore's two NFL teams
In the second game of the year, after a season-opening victory over the Oakland Raiders, the Ravens played the Steelers in Pittsburgh. "They're getting their butts kicked," Edholm said. A 14-14 tie becomes a 28-14 Steelers lead, and 28-17 at halftime. Ravens coach Ted Marchibroda, angry, tries to tip over an empty trash can, make a statement to his players. He is 65 years old. The bin does not budge. "That's step No. 1," Edholm said.
Marchibroda wants to rally his listless team. The former head coach of the Baltimore Colts and Indianapolis Colts urges the Ravens: "Come on, we can beat 'em in the second half!" And then: "Come on, you Colts!" Said Edholm: "And everybody's going, 'Ted, we're the Ravens. We're not the Colts anymore.' And it took him a few minutes [to realize]: 'Oh, boy, what did I just say?'"
That time an apartment application was prolonged by a clueless Baltimorean
A Ravens coach, one Edholm could not remember, was filling out an application for an apartment. On the form, the coach identified the Baltimore Ravens as his employer.
"And the woman reading the application said, 'What's that?' Imagine that," Edholm said. "He said, 'Well, it's the football team.' She said: 'What is that? Canadian football? Is that the arena team?'"
That time Brian Kinchen wanted to make owner Art Modell pay — literally
Kinchen, a tight end and long snapper who came to Baltimore after five seasons with the Browns, "had a miserable experience," Edholm said. He had bought a condominium in Cleveland, even told Modell about it. "They said, 'Great, we want you here for life,'" Edholm recalled Kinchen telling him. "And he said, looking back: 'They knew at the time they were moving to Baltimore. So basically, they're sitting there lying to my face.'"
Edholm said Kinchen felt deceived by then-vice president of player personnel Ozzie Newsome and special teams coach Scott O'Brien. But while he suffered personally, professionally he was thriving. Before the move to Baltimore, Kinchen never had had more than 29 catches or 347 receiving yards in a season.
Entering the final game of the year, against the Houston Oilers, he had 48 receptions and over 500 yards. He needed just a little more to trigger a bonus. "For him," Edholm said, "it was like: 'I just wanted that bonus check. I was in that year where I was kind of, like, stuck in free agency. I had no real options. I was kind of just told I was going to be here, basically, and all I wanted to do was cash in that bonus check.'" He had seven catches for 70 yards in a 24-21 loss, enough to make his money.
All the other times the franchise didn't really resemble an NFL franchise
-- Quarterbacks coach Don Strock using a typewriter to punch out scouting reports.
-- Two or three coaches having to be crammed into a room at the Ravens facility.
-- Former Colts quarterback Johnny Unitas coming out to Memorial Stadium in a show of support for the Ravens, only to wander down the sidelines and wonder: "The hell's going on with these uniforms?' "
-- Ed DeCosta, then in an entry-level position with the team, taking someone to the hospital one day, driving Marchibroda to his college roommate's funeral another day, and painting a wall and refiling the video cabinet the next day. "Basically, everybody had, like, six jobs," Edholm said, "whereas everybody now in the NFL has, like, half a job."
For more stories of those first-year woes, Edholm's series is expected to drop next week.