Gilberto Manzano, Sports Illustrated
30. John Harbaugh, Ravens, Super Bowl XLVII
Harbaugh is one of the few special teams coaches who worked his way into a head coaching position. That area of expertise paid off when Jacoby Jones recorded a 109-yard kickoff return for a touchdown during the Super Bowl victory against the 49ers. That was the same postseason when quarterback Joe Flacco entered the elite conversation.
19. Brian Billick, Ravens, Super Bowl XXXV
Billick coached one of the most prolific offenses in NFL history as the offensive coordinator for the 1998 Vikings. He parlayed that into a head coaching gig, but his success in Baltimore was largely due to the dominant defense. Ray Lewis & Co. helped the Ravens crush the Giants in the Super Bowl. The offense wasn’t as talented, but they leaned on quarterback Trent Dilfer, running back Jamal Lewis and tight end Shannon Sharpe.
John Keim, ESPN
‘If you kick me the ball I’m going to make you apologize’
Jacoby Jones, kickoff returner, Baltimore Ravens
When: Super Bowl XLVII, Feb. 3, 2013
Where: Superdome, New Orleans
Days before Jones ran back the longest kickoff return in Super Bowl history, the Baltimore Ravens kick returner was told by teammate Bryan Hall the 49ers would never let him come out of the end zone on kicks.
“Bet,” Jones told Hall.
“So I went to Coach [John] Harbaugh and I’m like, ‘Coach, we’re going straight down the pipe let me come out no matter what.’ He said, ‘OK,’” Jones said. “The funniest thing is on media day I walked and stood on the spot and I said, ‘Hey I’m coming out right here.’ They’re all looking at me like I’m crazy. It was the same spot I came off from. That’s the most memorable thing when you talk about it and it happens. If you kick me the ball I’m going to make you apologize.”
Baltimore did not have Jones return kicks for the first five games in the 2012 season. But, on his first time deep, he returned one 108 yards for a touchdown against the Dallas Cowboys. On a return the following season, Jones seemed destined for a 100-yard return score against the Pittsburgh Steelers before coach Mike Tomlin, who had walked onto the field, impeded his path as Jones ran down the sideline. Tomlin was later fined $100,000 by the league.
But before Tomlin, came the Super Bowl.
“Coach Harbaugh told me as long as you get at least past the 25-yard line I don’t care. That was my goal to get past the 25,” Jones said. “If I get past the 25, you know what that means? I am gone. When I hear the crowd I know I’m gone. I ran track; I know they’re not coming to get me. The only person close to getting me was Mike Tomlin.”
Austin Gayle, The RInger
Winner: QB Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens
Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson, at just 27, became the 11th NFL player to win multiple MVP awards, a crowning achievement for one of the league’s brightest stars. Although the take artists will home in on his throw into triple coverage in the AFC championship game that ended the Ravens’ season, what Jackson accomplished leading up to that moment was truly special. He leveled up in ways under new offensive coordinator Todd Monken that many never expected from him. He is one of the NFL’s most prolific passers and runners and athletes. A second MVP award rightfully solidifies him among the most special people to ever play the game.
Luke Jones, Baltimore Positive
Of course, a Super Bowl win isn’t a requirement to receive a bust in Canton. Few would question Dan Marino’s place among the best quarterbacks of all time despite him never winning a Super Bowl. Fran Tarkenton and Jim Kelly went winless in multiple Super Bowl tries while Dan Fouts and Warren Moon never even got to one.
That said, Brady isn’t regarded by many as the greatest of all time because of his three regular-season MVP awards, 15 Pro Bowl selections, and numerous individual records; he’s a seven-time Super Bowl champion. No quarterback’s perception changed more for the better than that of John Elway with back-to-back Super Bowl wins to conclude his career after being blown out in the first three in which he played.
Championships — or the lack thereof — headline any quarterback’s legacy, which is why Jackson is the first to tell you his work isn’t complete. Unfortunately, what remains can’t be accomplished in the regular season, no matter how many more MVPs Jackson wins.
Fair or not, the career of any great quarterback doesn’t feel complete without a Super Bowl title. It’s the gateway to football royalty.
Clifton Brown, BaltimoreRavens.com
The offense should evolve in Todd Monken’s second season.
The Ravens improved from averaging 20.6 points in 2022 (19th in the NFL) to averaging 28.4 points in 2023 (fourth). During Jackson’s final six starts during the regular season, the offense was even more potent, averaging 33.8 points.
That’s a significant jump. Monken benefited from having Jackson healthy for a full season, and Jackson developed from playing in an offense with more playmakers in a system that he embraced. The passing game improved, and Baltimore led the league in rushing.
The offense was disappointed in its showing in the conference championship. But now the Ravens can spend the offseason building on Monken’s system. The late-season emergence of tight end Isaiah Likely was a huge plus, offering the potential to cause more matchup problems if the Ravens use more two tight-end sets.
There are reasons to believe Baltimore could be better offensively next season, with Likely and Flowers a year more experienced. If the Ravens’ offense improves, it could improve their chance to make a postseason run.
“This year, every day was a new day in the offense right on through the last part of the season,” Head Coach John Harbaugh said. “Next year, it won’t be a new day every single day. I’m looking forward to that process.”