As soon as Jared Gaither was signed away, I thought I had to speak up and say that I am one of the few people among our fan base who will dearly miss Jared Gaither. This may sound crazy to some, but let me explain.
When it was National Letter of Intent Day in 2005, the Baltimore Sun put together small biographies on each member of the Maryland Terrapin recruiting class. As I read through the snippets, I came across the information of Eleanor Roosevelt’s DT Jared Gaither. The section on this 6-9 350 lb. athlete read as follows,
“ Played just one season of football and started along the defensive line … played basketball for three years before going out for football for the first time as a senior … played defensive tackle and tight end for one of the top teams in the state … recorded 89 tackles, including nine sacks, and one forced fumble while batting down four passes at the line of scrimmage … was primarily a blocking tight end, but finished the season with three receptions for 93 yards and a pair of touchdowns … earned significant postseason honors despite playing only one year …… lettered four years in basketball … was a major D-I recruit in basketball … had verbally committed to South Carolina in hoops before deciding to play football … also recruited in football by Florida, Georgia, Pittsburgh and Clemson … coached by Rick Houchens.”
My jaw dropped to the floor as I read this. I could not believe that we were getting a 6-9 350 lb. player who was supposed to play SEC basketball and also averaged 31 yards per catch as a tight end. Gaither seemed unreal and I could not wait to watch him on Saturdays.
As soon as Gaither got to College Park, he did not disappoint. Playing left tackle instead of defensive line, Gaither played in all 11 games did not allow a sack as a true freshman. This was no slouch year in the ACC either, as 4 ACC pass rushers went in the first round of the 2006 NFL Draft. Gaither received numerous freshman All-American accolades and I began to think, “Wouldn’t it be cool if Jared Gaither replaced Jonathan Ogden?”
Heading into the 2006 campaign, I put thoughts of Gaither in purple and black on hold since I hoped he wouldn’t leave College Park until the 2009 Draft after his senior year. That 2006 campaign for Gaither was a little different, as he played mostly at right tackle. His performance was still at quite a high level, as his offensive line unit only surrendered 19 sacks that season. Gaither was becoming a force and I could not wait for him to be an upperclassmen in College Park.
Then in the summer of 2007, Gaither abruptly ended his career at Maryland when he declared for the NFL’s Supplemental Draft after being declared academically ineligible for the 2007 season. Now that Jared Gaither would be draft eligible, I began to wonder again if the Ravens would take a chance on Gaither and have Jonathan Ogden mentor the young prodigy.
I can remember sitting that entire summer day on the couch watching the NFL Network, waiting for some update on the Supplemental Draft to crawl across the bottom of the screen. Then, at some point that afternoon, across the bottom of the television screen rolled, “Baltimore Ravens select Jared Gaither in 5th round of Supplemental Draft.”
Euphoria set in and my day could not get any better.
Now four years later, Jared Gaither will suit up this fall for the Kansas City Chiefs. Many fans are happy to see him leave, using words such as “lazy” and “unreliable” to describe the former Terp. I, on the other hand, would have to disagree.
Unless you personally know Jared Gaither, I do not think you can really use those adjectives to describe him. All you can do is look at film and statistics to evaluate Gaither’s stay in Baltimore. When you do that you see that in the two seasons he started (2008 and 2009), the Ravens topped 2,200 yards rushing each season. Without Gaither in 2010, the team’s overall rushing total dropped to just over 1,800 yards. The Ravens also gave up 40 sacks in 2010, as opposed to only giving up 33 in 2008 and 36 in 2009. Also, in each of the three seasons which Gaither played (2007-2009) the Ravens had a Pro Bowl rusher in each season (Willis McGahee in 2007, FB Le’Ron McClain in 2008, and Ray Rice and Le’Ron McClain in 2009). In 2010, the Ravens did not send anyone from their backfield to the Pro Bowl.
What words would I use to describe Jared Gaither? The phrase “pretty darn good” comes to mind. I’ll miss Gaither along with a few of his departing former (and once again current) teammates. And here’s how I’ll miss and remember them…
TE Todd Heap: Todd Heap was the Ravens pass offense for years. He will be just as fondly remembered in this town as Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, and Jonathan Ogden. Unfortunately, Heap was never able to get that Super Bowl ring with us. And of course I will miss chanting “HEAAAP,” with 70,000 other Baltimoreans each fall.
DT Kelly Gregg: The 2000 Baltimore Ravens had a defense that was so good, Kelly Gregg was on the practice squad. Second to only Ray Lewis in career tackles in franchise history, Gregg deserved to be recognized as a Pro Bowl player at least once. Buddy Lee was one fun Raven to watch all these years.
WR Derrick Mason: There’s a lot to remember about Mason, but what always stood out to me was how he finished the 2008 campaign with essentially one good arm. Playing in what looked like excruciating pain and still hauling in passes was quite admirable.
RB Willis McGahee: McGahee did make the Pro Bowl in 2007, but that is not the signature McGahee moment. That moment was in Week 17 of the 2009 season. Willis McGahee laid one of the all-time stiff arms in Oakland on the Raiders’ Hiram Eugene, helping to seal the win and a playoff berth for the Ravens.
FB Le’Ron McClain: Another player who I felt was misjudged by the fan base, solely because he wanted the ball. McClain’s blocking got McGahee to the Pro Bowl in 2007 and Ray Rice in 2009, while he himself ran his way into the Pro Bowl in 2008. Whether he liked blocking or not, McClain was good at it. For his sake, I hope he gets “Mo’ Carries, Mo’ Touchdowns” in Kansas City.
S Dawan Landry: What I’ll always remember about Landry was his stellar rookie season, as he intercepted 5 passes and returned one for a touchdown against the Saints. Landry was also fun to watch as the primary pitch man each time Ed Reed wanted to run the Triple Option offense after an interception.
OL Chris Chester: Not a whole lot that sticks out about Chester except for his alternate ego: Chris Chester #48, the Tight End. This would come out any time the Ravens were not happy with his performance on the line or whenever they ran short on tight ends. I’m glad he stuck to offensive line, but that huge jersey with a #48 on it is what I’ll remember most.
CB Fabian Washington: Fabian Washington was actually pretty atrocious in 2009 and 2010, but everyone forgets that he was top flight in 2008. That may have had something to do with Rex Ryan still being in Baltimore in 2008, but we’ll never really know. Washington had his best game against the Redskins that season, knocking down 4 passes.
CB Josh Wilson: I always love when the Ravens nab a Terrapin, so I was heartbroken when Wilson decided to bolt for the Redskins. What I’ll never forget is his walk-off game winning interception returned for a touchdown against the Texans this season. Not just because it won the game in exhilarating fashion in overtime, but also because I had to a pull an all night study session for a Finance exam because the game ended late.
WR Donte’ Stallworth: What will I miss? I’ll miss being able to make jokes about having a WR with more rushing attempts than catches.
OT Tony Moll: Who? Okay, maybe I won’t miss every Raven.