Let me make this perfectly clear from the start…
I’m a big John Harbaugh fan.
I know that he’s getting a ton of heat lately for some in game decisions, and deservedly so. I’ve dished out some of my own. But when I’ve talked to players, when I’ve talked to other key members of the Ravens organization, when I’ve talked to John, a few things are clear:
• He’s a hardworking man
• He’s a compassionate man
• He’s a man with strong moral and spiritual values steeped in faith
It’s very hard NOT to like John Harbaugh.
But I’m beginning to wonder if his brand of coaching in the NFL has grown obsolete. He’s attracted to players who are grinders; guys who work hard; who seek to overachieve and believe in the concept of TEAM to its fullest extent.
I wonder if the focus on such players has permeated throughout the organization to the point that the club as a whole has adopted a similar outlook. And I wonder if it influences them to look the other way when it comes to flamboyant playmakers on draft day who lack pristine backgrounds. I wonder if given the opportunity to draft a Ray Lewis, an Ed Reed, a Chris McAlister, a Jamal Lewis or a Terrell Suggs, would the Ravens do it while led by John Harbaugh?
All of those guys brought a bit of swagger. All were outstanding players. All might have played elsewhere if John Harbaugh was in the Ravens war room when they were drafted.
Consider who the Ravens have drafted since Super Bowl 47 courtesy of DraftHistory.com:
I remember that the Ravens were EXTREMELY excited to draft Keenan Reynolds, a player with great character but a skillset that might not translate to the NFL. They thought he’d make an immediate contribution as a special teams player – particularly as a punt returner. They enthusiastically called his name because they couldn’t wait to include Reynolds’ sterling reputation and accomplishments on their roster.
Yet now, it’s clear the Ravens need a punt returner with Devin Hester’s immediate future clouded, and Reynolds’ name isn’t even whispered.
It’s something to think about.
Harbaugh is also a man who is fiercely loyal. Just take a look at his coaching staff. How long did it take to unseat Cam Cameron? Former defensive coordinator Greg Mattison?
And then there’s Dean Pees.
We’ve lost count of how many fourth quarter leads the Ravens have blown given their bend but don’t break approach which eventually breaks anyway. How does he keep his job with the same repeated failures?
Yesterday during his press conference John Harbaugh dropped this in:
“This is a long season. There are 10 games left to play. There are 10 opportunities for us to get rolling. The thing that I’m most excited about is that our problems are easily correctable.”
The same problems on both sides of the ball have been going on for years. If they are so easily correctable, why aren’t they being corrected?
Do you ever wonder if these pressers are pure lip service?
Do you ever wonder if the Ravens are in denial?
Do you ever wonder if the rest of the organization is buying what John is selling?
I don’t think it’s lip service. I think that Harbaugh believes with every fiber of his being that his convictions are sound and with perseverance good results will eventually emerge. The conviction is so strong that the rest of the organization sips John’s brand of KoolAid.
And that’s not necessarily all bad but there needs to be a checks and balances system in place – some spark within the organization to keep Harbaugh on his toes and it can’t be the owner. It has to be someone else and Ozzie Newsome apparently doesn’t want to be that guy.
I have long maintained that John likes to build his staff with older coaches who have no shot at taking over for him if things go awry. He doesn’t want a Josh McDaniels or Dan Quinn (now the Falcons HC) as a coordinator. They could be built in replacements – potentially seamless replacements if a season spins out of control. But the ambition of such coordinators might provide a spark, an organizational sense of urgency that the Ravens desperately need.
You only need to listen to quotes like the one above or watch Joe Flacco casually survey the defense during the game’s final seconds while the play clock runs out for proof.
John Harbaugh is a very good coach. He’s a solid general.
But he needs a few colonels around him and he needs to be willing to take on players who don’t fit his prototype. He needs to think outside of his box.
We all know what doing the same things over and over and expecting different results equates to.