The Baltimore Ravens have officially announced that longtime head coach John Harbaugh will be staying on next season, and likely beyond that. In a statement from the team, they confirmed the two parties are in the works on a contract extension and that he will be brought back in 2019.
While this may not have seemed to be the right decision (or even a remotely logical one) as recently as a few weeks ago, at this point, it appears to be the correct one. Why? The answer is pretty obvious.
In looking at the results over the past few weeks, it’s fairly clear that Baltimore is a different team than the sputtering outfit that dropped three straight games to head into their bye. This directly correlates to a change at the quarterback position which took place following the Ravens coming out of their break.
Since that change, Lamar Jackson has gone 4-1, injected life into the offense, and indisputably boosted team morale. His presence has been a huge part of the team’s turnaround and keeping them in the playoff hunt, though he certainly isn’t the only factor.
The other major one is in fact Harbaugh, and the Ravens are right to keep around their long time leader for that reason and several others. While several of the issues this year and the last few can potentially be traced back to Harbaugh, the converse of that is the current reality; that he deserves a lot of credit for the turnaround of the past few weeks.
Starting off with something already discussed, he’s owed a lot of credit for the way he and the rest of his staff handled the Jackson/Joe Flacco situation. It was a pretty complicated one - Flacco was Harbaugh’s guy through and through, and the longtime coach ultimately should’ve been expected to show him requisite loyalty after what had been a tough couple of years for the franchise.
Interestingly, Harbaugh played it both ways here. He was excited about the arrival of Jackson and seemed eager to help develop him, but remained steadfast in his conviction that Flacco would be the guy for 2018.
This was smart, as Flacco’s experience and newfound health coupled with some pretty strong performances had Baltimore rolling to begin the year. Unfortunately for the longtime franchise quarterback, things began to fall off the rails and the team fell into a rut.
What followed is the beginning of the argument for Harbaugh staying with the team. While he had staunchly defended Flacco for years (including this one), he was also prepared for the insertion of Jackson both with his mindset and in the moves he had made.
This coaching staff is undoubtedly built to help Jackson have success and he’s done so thanks in no small part to their help. Marty Morninwheg, James Urban, and Greg Roman all deserve credit for Lamar’s early success, as does Harbaugh for putting them into position to help him find it.
More than that, Harbaugh’s leadership is among the best in the league, and that’s again been on display this season. Throughout the aforementioned QB situation, some very tough losses, as well as swirling speculation about his job security, he’s remained a steadfast CEO for the team in every sense.
This is an underrated quality for a modern head coach as many owners become enamored with the idea of an offensive genius that can both win games and sell tickets. While there’s nothing wrong with going after a coach such as this (a-la Sean McVay) there’s still room for big picture coaches like Harbaugh to continue to succeed.
While he may not have the individual offensive acumen of a Pat Shurmur, his leadership is unique for this day and age. This could be exemplified by something such as his “Good” motto, a refrain for when the team is facing some type of adversity.
While there’s still a good amount of work that needs to go into this team, including turning Jackson into a more refined player, Harbaugh is still among the better options for the job of doing it. As a result, he’ll be sticking around, which at this point is unquestionably the right decision.