Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Jared Gaither worthy of MVP consideration

Now that the Ravens regular season has ended, many in the area are looking back and debating the merits of certain players who might deserve the tag of Ravens MVP. Joe Flacco, Ed Reed, Ray Lewis and Derrick Mason are among the most popular choices and justifiably so. Yet there is a player who flies a bit under the radar, who is also worthy of consideration.

His name is Jared Gaither.

One of the biggest questions the Ravens were forced to address entering the ’08 season was the offensive line. After the team broke camp and just before the conclusion of the preseason, few if any thought the Ravens had done anything to improve in that area. The truth be told the O-Line actually looked worse.

To add insult to injury the Ravens quarterback situation looked a bit frightening since the team was forced to start a rookie behind such a questionable line. Thoughts of Kyle Boller’s rookie season danced through our heads as gracefully as Jonathan Ogden dances in Gebco commercials. Mix in the retirement of JO and a banged up corps of running backs and it was difficult to forecast anything but gloom and doom for the Ravens ’08 campaign.

Gaither had at best an uneven training camp, missing a significant portion of it due to an ankle injury. He and book end tackle Adam Terry both spent more time with trainer Bill Tessendorf than they did with offensive line coach John Matsko during those summer days in Westminster. Making matters worse, Gaither didn’t appear to be in the best shape and he was called to the carpet on more than one occasion by Ozzie Newsome because of a questionable work ethic.

How could Gaither possibly make folks forget about Jonathan Ogden? Why did the Ravens commit the left tackle position to him so early in camp? And what would they do to protect a rookie quarterback’s blind side?

These were daunting questions with few answers.

Yet somehow, the light went on for Gaither. Somewhere, somehow, someone got to him and gave his maturation curve an EZ Pass and put him on the fast track. Not only did he dedicate himself to his craft, he played and continues to play with pain – another measure of maturity, selflessness and dedication to team.

What if Gaither didn’t come around? Would Adam Terry give the old matador’s effort and wave the proverbial red cape at speed rushers as they passed him by unabated to the quarterback? Would Joe Flacco have survived the season? And if he didn’t well there goes some of the gadget wizardry from Cam Cameron when Flacco is coupled with Troy Smith.

And without an offense, would the defense have caved like they did in ’07? Would they have all bought into the Harbaugh way if they were once again asked to carry a wretched offense?

I doubt it!

Gaither has been so good this season that he’s made us all forget about Ogden’s retirement. He has helped to keep Joe Flacco clean for the most part despite with teams that can really get after the quarterback: Pittsburgh, New York, Dallas and Philadelphia. Flacco has started and finished each game healthy over the course of a full season, something that has only been done twice before by a Ravens’ QB (Vinny Testaverde, ’96, Boller, ’04).

So if your criteria in choosing a Ravens’ MVP are tied to whether that player is replaceable or not clearly Reed, Flacco, Lewis and Mason loom large.

But then again so does that large man wearing No. 71.


Anonymous said...

It's a team effort, and there have been some exceptional individuals, to be sure, but the biggest difference -- and the reason we're going to Miami on Sunday -- is Flacco, hands down.

Jeremiah said...

I think Gaither played better than JO has since before he hurt the toe. I also do not remember JO facing so many top pass rushers in one season. The game that made me think Gaither was MVP worthy was the Philly game when Trent Cole was killing Terry, and Gaither came in and shut him down with one arm. He is not a guy we could replace. Flacco, Reed, even Ray and Nagta could be replaced by a guy already on the team without too much drop off, but take Gaiter out of the mix and the O grinds to a halt. He was able to block unblockable guys 1 on 1, and allowed the TE to slip out and the chip blocks to go to the other side.

Jason Brown is just as worthy and since the O line is almost always graded as a unit, I think the entire O line should share team MVP honors.

ravcolt said...

Derrick Mason hands down