Here’s a case where the legacy of former Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis might be underrated.
An ESPN panel ranked the top 50 players in Super Bowl history, according to their performances in Super Bowl games. Lewis was ranked just 39th among the top 50 players in Super Bowl game history, despite being MVP of Super Bowl XXXV, and helping the Ravens win Super Bowl XLVII in his last game before retiring.
Let’s look at Lewis in each game. In Super Bowl XXXV, the Ravens blew out the Giants, 34-7, and Lewis led a defense that cemented its place as one of the best in NFL history. Lewis was named Super Bowl MVP with five tackles and four passes defensed, and his numbers would have been better if the Giants’ offense hadn’t been rendered so inept.
Consider that only three defensive players in the last 20 years have been named Super Bowl MVP. Even if that was Lewis’ only Super Bowl, he might have deserved to be ranked higher than No. 39.
However, Lewis capped his career in Super Bowl LXVII when the Ravens beat the 49ers, 34-31. Lewis didn’t have one of his best games with just seven total tackles, and he was beaten in pass coverage on several occasions. However, he was part of a Ravens defense that preserved the victory with a goal line stand to end the game. It also cannot be denied that Lewis’ experience and leadership during the game’s key moments counted for something.
“The final series of Ray Lewis’ career was a goal line stand to win the Lombardi Trophy,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said after the game, via the Associated Press. “It was not perfect. It was not pretty. But it was us. That’s who we are.”
Lewis is in good company on ESPN’s list, sandwiched between Jets quarterback Joe Namath, ranked No. 40, and Packers quarterback Brett Favre, ranked No. 38. But Lewis, a current ESPN analyst, couldn’t crack the top 35, despite a 2-0 Super Bowl record and winning an MVP on defense. That’s tough love from his current employer.