Four years. Four playoff trips. John Harbaugh has achieved a great deal in a very short time as head coach of the Baltimore Ravens. A look around the NFL shows us that now, more than ever, this league is a business first. Contracts aren’t binding agreements anymore; they’re merely scraps of paper with large numbers written on them. Loyalty? Yea, no, not so much. Just take a look at the controversy surrounding famed quarterback, Peyton Manning. Players, and even more so coaches, are expendable, and that’s putting it kindly. There’s always someone younger, better, and more willing to prove themselves. At least that’s what Owners and General Managers think.
It makes me wonder what some GM’s and Owners out there are thinking of. Do they wonder why their franchise is stuck in the mud? Do they wonder why their fans will go so far as to boycott games? Do they sit at their desks and ask themselves why they aren’t in the playoffs year in and year out?
You know what it makes me think? It makes me think that I’m lucky to be a Ravens fan.
Rewind to 2008. The Baltimore Ravens make John Harbaugh the head coach. Draft: Joe Flacco in the 1st round, Ray Rice in the 2nd round. Flash forward to today. Four years. Four playoff trips. Coincidence? No. Hell no. That year was the foundation upon which the Baltimore Ravens have been building. What John Harbaugh and Co. have brought to the Ravens is stability and consistency.
The Ravens don’t possess some secret or some magical scroll with the blueprint for success in the NFL written on it, which brings me back to the other GMs and Owners around the league. What can be expected of coaches when they’re literally working under the pressures of coaching not to lose their job rather than building towards putting the best team on the field they can every Sunday?
The NFL has literally become a "Coaching Carousel". It seems like many organizations aren’t giving their head coaches a fair shake to be able to build a team. Sometimes it’s one, two, maybe three years and you’re gone if you don’t show some signs of success regardless of how many years your "contact" is for. Then the team presses the reset button and its back to square one. How can players succeed when philosophies change each year and when schemes change as often as the seasons do? From 4-3 to 3-4, Air Coryell to West Coast. So many teams struggle to find their identity and find a winning combination between coaches and players. The teams that struggle with a revolving door of coaches seem, at least to me, like their efforts to find the perfect combinations are futile. The NFL is built for parity, but some teams seem to make that principle irrelevant by messing it up for themselves by constantly changing more, more and more.
By no means am I saying that I think that running an NFL franchise is easy. What I am saying is that we should all feel lucky to be Ravens fans. Take a look at some of the teams that have had a revolving door of coaches: The St. Louis Rams, Cleveland Browns, and Jacksonville Jaguars just to name a few. The list goes on and on. It’s not a coincidence that some of these teams remain in the basement for years. Succeeding in this league is hard and sustaining a winning franchise is even harder. When you’re constantly changing the complexion of the team year in and year out, it makes it damn near impossible to even win a handful of games.
We shouldn’t take this team for granted. From top to bottom, the Ravens, as an organization, are outstanding. The John Harbaugh era has been great, and I hope it continues for many, many years.