Coming into 2017, the fate of head coach John Harbaugh was largely undecided. A head coach that had only reached the postseason once in the last four seasons, fans were starting to question his ability to return the franchise to the success it experienced during his first five seasons at the helm.
Tension was at an all-time high earlier in the season when the Ravens were struggling to piece together any sort of consistency, winning one week by multiple scores, and failing another to look like an NFL caliber offense. Many in the fanbase called for Harbaugh’s job — even former Raven Bernard Pollard went on a Twitter tirade, openly questioning his ability to lead a team and put aside his ego.
Fast forward to Week 17, and the Ravens look like the odds on favorite to secure the No. 5 seed in the AFC playoffs after finding some form of consistency over the final month of the season. Even in a 39-38 loss to the Steelers, there were encouraging signs from the offense’s performance.
Even with the turnaround, it’s fair to revisit the topic of the future of John Harbaugh in Baltimore. If the Ravens don’t get in the playoffs, it’ll be considered a massive failure, as the team’s postseason drought would extend to three years.
Seeing as the Ravens are 10-point home favorites, it seems as though the playoffs are a safe bet, but even if the Ravens do make the playoffs, what is considered a success? What reestablishes the confidence the fanbase once had in John Harbaugh? Is a playoff appearance enough? A win? Would it require a run to the AFC Championship game?
My personal belief is that in order for a large part of the fanbase to have restored faith, Harbaugh will have to come away with at least one win this postseason.
The Ravens have set a standard throughout franchise history — especially during the early years of Harbaugh’s tenure — that getting in the playoffs is simply not enough. It’s anticipated the team will be playing in the postseason, an even winning during it. Digging deeper, we find that Harbaugh has led his team to the Divisional round of the playoffs every year he’s led them to the playoffs.
While a two year absence from the postseason will make Ravens fans thankful to be back, the standard should be set to win at least one game in the postseason.
I’d have to imagine if the Ravens fail to make the playoffs today, the future of Harbaugh in Baltimore becomes cloudy. If they make it, he’ll surely lock himself into another year and a win or two may even restore the fanbase’s confidence in him completely.