Coach of the year -- John Harbaugh, Ravens: An argument can be made that Harbaugh should be the NFL Coach of the Year, not just of the division. He put together his best coaching job in his 11th season in Baltimore, leading the Ravens to the playoffs by overcoming distractions and pressure-filled situations. Many teams would’ve fallen apart at the bye, when Baltimore faced a three-game losing streak, questions about Harbaugh’s job security and a hip injury to starting quarterback Joe Flacco. But Harbaugh rallied the team around rookie QB Lamar Jackson and a new offensive scheme, which transformed a 4-5 team into a playoff contender. There had been questions about Harbaugh’s future in Baltimore because the Ravens had gone 40-40 in five seasons since winning the Super Bowl (2013-17), including a three-year playoff drought before the season. But, in 2018, Harbaugh left no doubt that he remains among the upper echelon of coaches in how he steered a struggling team to the division title.
ESPN named Ben Roethlisberger as the offensive player of the year, Myles Garrett as the defensive player of the year and Baker Mayfield the division’s rookie of the year.
In his two years with an offense perpetually wrestling with the Ravens’ supersize investment in Flacco, Roman became inseparable from each season’s most obvious success. In 2017, it was the emergence of running back Alex Collins and a ground game that averaged nearly 25 more rushing yards per game despite the loss of injured guards Marshal Yanda and Alex Lewis. And this past season, it was the matching of Jackson’s talents to schemes that, for the season’s first half, had led the team’s rushing attack nowhere.
“He’s a genius in the run game as well as the pass game,” tight end Nick Boyle said Monday. “G-Ro, he calls a lot of great schemes against a lot of these tough defenses in the NFL.”
“I think G-Ro does an amazing job every week just scheming different things up based on personnel,” defensive tackle Michael Pierce said last week.
With Greg Roman serving as the unofficial run game coordinator and James Urban as the quarterback coach, Baltimore may be able to upgrade from Marty Mornhinweg at play caller while still maintaining continuity for Lamar Jackson next season.
Brown became the starting right tackle Week 7, and from that point he never missed a snap, nor did he allow a sack during the regular season. But Brown gave more pressure in the playoff loss to the Los Angeles Chargers, and he was obviously stung by the defeat. Packing his bags Monday, Brown said he would return to Oklahoma, where he played college football, to train and become a better player.
“I think I played well for a rookie, not for a sophomore,” Brown said. “I want to be one of the greats in this league. It’s going to take a lot of work to get where I want to be – obviously, that’s All-Pro and being as consistent as I can be, for as long as I can be. Really, just reshaping my body as much as possible, just continuing to get stronger, more explosive, lighter.”
Edwards made the biggest leap of any Ravens rookie. He signed as an undrafted free agent. He landed a spot on the practice squad after being released on cutdown day in September. He wasn’t promoted to the active roster until Oct. 13.
“I think I definitely proved that I belong,” Edwards said. “But at the same time, I know I have a lot of work to do. I want to definitely contribute more to the team and to the offense next season.”
Lamar Jackson, Orlando Brown Jr. and Gus Edwards all started the playoff game while Mark Andrews and Kenny Young were major contributors. Early returns suggest Ozzie Newsome nailed his final rookie class.