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Ravens 2018 Draft gives John Harbaugh a “Get out of Jail Free” card

When does the patience run out for Harbaugh?

NFL: Indianapolis Colts at Baltimore Ravens Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The Baltimore Ravens had one of the best drafts of the 2018 NFL Draft, at least according to many national media outlets. One thing the team did was cover their tracks and give head coach John Harbaugh a new lifeline by drafting quarterback Lamar Jackson.

After the 2017 NFL season concluded, Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti considered firing Harbaugh. However, he decided against it and even went a step further. The team drafted Jackson under the Harbaugh regime, seemingly to renew the trust between the two sides.

Just after the Ravens won the Super Bowl in 2013, Harbaugh made his imprint on the roster. Many veterans departed, either through trade, release, free agency or retirement. During the 2013 regular season, Baltimore had a 8-8 record with the offense ranked at 29th in yards (4,918).

The Ravens hired Gary Kubiak, a departure from the typical Harbaugh hiring of his former colleagues. Baltimore also signed Steve Smith, to pair with Torrey Smith at the wide receiver position. Not only was Smith added, but Owen Daniels was added to pair with Dennis Pitta and the then-tight end Crockett Gillmore. In return, Baltimore’s offense flourished, finishing eighth in the NFL in yards (5,838).

After finishing the season with a loss in New England against the Patriots, the Kubiak departed to become the head coach of the Denver Broncos. To replace him, Baltimore hired Marc Trestman, the former head coach of the Chicago Bears. Baltimore saw many injuries in that season, beginning their struggles as a whole.

In the past three seasons, the Ravens have compiled a 22-26 record under Harbaugh. During that time, current Baltimore starting quarterback Joe Flacco has struggled and the offense hasn’t been much better. The last receiver that the Ravens drafted in the first round was Breshad Perriman. He too has struggled heavily in the NFL.

After losing to the Washington Redskins in Week 4 of the 2016 season, the Ravens would promote another former colleague of Harbaugh by the name of Marty Mornhinweg. Mornhinweg began the season as the quarterbacks coach of the Ravens. The Ravens were 14th in yards in 2015 during a 5-11 season (5,749), but would take a step back in 2016, finishing with 5,563 yards (17th in the NFL).

Instead of surrounding their quarterback with more talent on the offensive side of the football in the draft, the Ravens decided to go with mostly defensive players in the 2017 NFL Draft. To make matters worse for the offense, Flacco injured his back, Pitta re-injured his hip and Perriman saw more injury issues.

Though Baltimore signed wide receiver Jeremy Maclin and had a Mike Wallace, who finished with 1,017 receiving yards in 2017, their passing offense sputtered (3,030 yards, 29th in the NFL). Flacco’s back hadn’t fully healed and the offense finished 27th in the NFL (4,886 yards).

Mornhinweg stayed with the team after the 2017 season and a heavy drop back in offensive production. So did Harbaugh, but they, along with the departing Ozzie Newsome at general manager, drafted Jackson from Louisville. Despite the offense falling flat on its face and becoming weaker by the second with the current coaching staff, Baltimore’s coaching staff was given the nuclear football in Jackson.

Usually, teams wouldn’t give a head coach who could get fired a new quarterback. They usually tell them to win with the team that they have and maybe Harbaugh will do that with Flacco. Baltimore re-hauled the offense by signing John Brown, Michael Crabtree and Willie Snead to replace Jeremy Maclin, Mike Wallace and Michael Campanaro.

If Flacco produces, it will raise his trade value and make the organization look good. If he doesn’t produce, Harbaugh will probably still have his job because he can play the new quarterback in Jackson. This seems to have effectively saved his job.

Harbaugh hasn’t taken his team to the playoffs since the 2014 season. In addition, he has stuck with Mornhinweg, who has led the offense to two poor rankings at the end of the season. With Bisciotti being patient with Harbaugh, when does the patience run out? Is this a team that wants to win now or are they preparing for the future? Those are two questions that remain for this current iteration of the Ravens.