Now in his ninth season as the Baltimore Ravens head coach, loyalty and conservative decisions have been the only knocks against John Harbaugh. At times, Harbaugh has been overly loyal to veteran players and coaches. He has also been too content to approve passive gamelans and in-game decisions. Harbaugh has overcome these flaws in 2016.
Harbaugh has been more aggressive in replacing underperforming players. Back in March, the Ravens released inside linebacker Daryl Smith. This decision to release the popular veteran leader has allowed C.J. Mosley to excel in his natural middle linebacker position and given Zach Orr the opportunity to showcase his speed at weak side inside linebacker. After averaging 3.2 yards per carry in a starting role over the first three games, the Ravens benched Justin Forsett in Week 4 before releasing him. This decision has paid off, as Terrance West has averaged over 100-yards rushing over the last two games. In Week 5, cornerback Shareece Wright, who signed a 3-year contract last offseason, was deactivated following a few consecutive weeks of poor pass coverage. Rookie Tavon Young filled in admirably in Wright’s outside cornerback role. In previous seasons, these veterans would have been given a longer opportunity to improve, but Harbaugh is more comfortable playing young players this season.
The head coach has been much more aggressive with his mid game decisions as well. No longer satisfied to play the field position game and hope execution in key situations will provide wins, Harbaugh has tried to put opponents away. Harbaugh went for a fourth down conversion instead of kicking a makable field goal in Week 2. In Week 4, the Ravens went for a 2-point conversion in the third quarter. In Week 5, Harbaugh called for kicker Justin Tucker to attempt a throw into the end zone instead of kicking a short field goal. Unfortunately, these aggressive decision did not pay off, but they do display a noticeable change in Harbaugh’s coaching strategy.
Then this week, the Ravens fired offensive coordinator Marc Trestman for his lack of commitment to the running game and for producing the 22nd ranked offense in the league. Trestman was given only 21 regular season games to prove himself, a much shorter leash than his predecessors Cam Cameron and Jim Caldwell were granted. Harbaugh did not give Trestman the same respect and loyalty that he has shown to defensive coordinator Dean Pees when his unit was struggling.
Five games into the 2016 season, it appears the Ravens stated desire for continuity that they preached following last season was merely spin. The Ravens have been much more willing to move on from underperforming veteran personnel and alter their coaching strategy.
John Harbaugh is coaching with a clear sense of urgency this season. No matter the final outcome, this is a positive development for the franchise. Changes have been and will continue to be necessary for the Baltimore Ravens.