Recency bias in fan voting left two franchise greats off of the Ravens All-Time Team

On Friday the Baltimore Ravens released their All-Time team of the best players at each position according to votes from their fanbase. More than 8,000 votes were cast and while some players appearing on the list were no brainers like Hall of Famers Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, and Johnathan Ogden as well as future gold jacket candidates like Marshal Yanda, Terrell Suggs, and Justin Tucker, there were two glaring omissions left off the list and a big reason for it was likely recency bias by casual fans or those who have just started following the team in recent years.

The Ravens are about to embark on their 25th season as a professional sports franchise and over the last quarter-century, they have had many players that left lasting impacts on both the team in the community. Some did over the course of their careers, most of which were spent wearing black and purple, and others were able to ingratiate themselves with the team and the city in much shorter stints.

However, no list that includes the franchise’s All-Time team should exclude its leading leaders for their respective positions but unfortunately that’s exactly what happened when former Ravens’ quarterback Joe Flacco and retired wide receiver Derrick Mason were left off the list in favor of players who just joined or spent memorable yet not nearly as impactful stints with the team.

During his first 11 years in the league, Flacco was the face of the franchise for just over a decade, broke every passing record in team history and will do so for quite some time, and was the driving force that brought the Ravens their second championship in franchise history. His historic run through the 2012 postseason where he tied the great Joe Montana’s 11 passing touchdowns to zero interception and capped it off by being named MVP of Superbowl XLVII (47). Yet he was edged out by his successor and reigning league MVP Lamar Jackson by a mere 61 votes (3,967 to 3,906).

Flacco didn’t light up scoreboards consistently in the regular season, never came close to league MVP conversation or a candidate to be the cover athlete of the popular sports video game Madden by EA Sports. He was never even voted to a Pro Bowl, all feats that Jackson accomplished in just his second season in the league and first as the full-time starter. However, while his regular-season ‘eliteness’ was always a topic for popular debate, his ability to perform at a high level in the playoffs when it counted most was undeniably proficient.

He has 10 playoff wins on his resume to just five loss and his eight road wins in the postseason are tied for most all-time. Flacco earned the nickname ‘January Joe’ because once the playoffs rolled around, he was like a silent assassin with his stoic personality and unflappable calm focus. He led the team to the playoffs in each of his first five seasons, including three trips to the conference title game—one of which came in his rookie season back in 2008—and he’s never been one in done in the playoffs in six trips as the starter whereas Jackson is 0-2 in his first two appearances.

Compared to some other players at the position who are destined for or are already enshrined in the hall of Canton, Flacco’s postseason stats stack up pretty nicely in his favor. Earlier this month CBS Sports brought to light via a social media post that in the playoffs he has more wins than Drew Brees (10-8), a higher win percentage than Peyton Manning (.667-.519), more passing touchdowns than Troy Aikman (25-23), a higher quarterback rating than Steve Young (88.6-85.8), more yards per attempt than Tom Brady (7.2-7.0) and fewer interceptions than Aaron Rodgers.

Last season Jackson had a regular season for the ages by leading the league in passing touchdowns with 36 and breaking the single-season rushing record for the quarterback position with 1,206 as he led the team to their best finish record in franchise history at 14-2.

He is undoubtedly the best quarterback talent that the Ravens have ever had and while the future appears bright with him leading the charge, his tenure with the Ravens has just begun compared to all of the time that his predecessor put in and all glory he brought to the franchise in the ways that matter the most. Jackson is off to a fantastic start and the has the team primed for a deep run in the postseason this year but until he has some more time under his belt and adds at least one more Lombardi trophy to Baltimore’s collection, he shouldn’t be the top quarterback on the All-Time Team over Flacco.

One of Flacco’s favorite and most trusted targets early on in his career was Mason who spent six of his 15 years in the league as the go-to target for the Ravens in the passing game, including the first three years of a young Flacco’s career from 2008-2010.  He is arguably the best receiver in the history of two separate NFL franchises and despite spend most of his career with the Tennessee Titans, where he got his start and made two Pro Bowls, he is still the Ravens’ all-time leader in receiving yards with 5,777 and receptions with 471.

Mason played with three different quarterbacks during his time with the Ravens and eclipsed 1,000 yards receiving four times, most by any player in team history. He also holds the team record for most seasons with at least 50 or more catches with six and is third in touchdown catches with 29. Despite his name being all over the Ravens’ record books as the most decorated pass catcher in team history, he was left off the All-Time Team list in favor of his fellow wideouts and retirees Steve Smith Sr and Anquan Boldin.

Mason came in third in the voting with 2,682 while Boldin came in first with 6,260 and Smith in second with 3,176. Like Mason, both of them began their careers with other teams and spent over a decade in the league, but unlike Mason, they each spent just three years with the Ravens—Boldin from 2010-2012 and Smith Sr from 2014-2016.

Boldin never eclipsed the 1,000 yards receiving during his time in Baltimore, but he was a sure-handed chain moving target for Flacco and was an integral part of the run to the Ravens’ second title. Smith Sr was a fan favorite with his gregarious personality and had an explosive first year with the team where he broke the 1,000-yard receiving threshold, but a torn Achilles cut his second season short and he recorded less than 800 yards receiving in 14 games during his final season with the team.

People tend to think back fondly and revere the most recent while sometimes overlooking the significance of the past and those that came before. Apparently, Ravens fans are no exception to the rule, at least among those that voted anyway. Mason will go down as the most underrated player in franchise history and Flacco will always be the most underappreciated whose legacy is marred by the huge contract that he rightfully earned that some, including myself, point to as the reason the team was in cap hell for almost a decade but you can’t put a price on a Superbowl victory because that Vince Lombardi Trophy that he helped deliver to the team and the Charm City after a 12-year drought is priceless.

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