I know, I know… another “Fire John Harbaugh!” article.
However, this one is a little different and not fueled by wishy-washy fan hatred. I would first just like to say that I really like John Harbaugh. I agree with Tony Lombardi’s sentiments on the man. He’s a good leader of men. He’s a good motivator. I also think that he’s a pretty good manager. But like his predecessor (Brian Billick), Harbaugh may be having a tough time reeling in some of the bigger egos on the team – namely Joe Flacco.
First, the main reason that Billick was fired was because he went 5-11 and had lost the locker room. The players were no longer responding to coaching – specifically their high priced, franchise players such as Ray Lewis and Ed Reed. In the final four years of Billick’s tenure, the Ravens went 33-31 with a division title and 1 playoff appearance. This also included the franchise’s best season record of 13-3.
Since the Super Bowl, John Harbaugh is 27-30 with no division title and 1 playoff appearance. After this season is done, there is a very good chance that the number of losses will grow to around 33 or 34. Making matters worse, Harbaugh is on his 3rd offensive coordinator since the Super Bowl and there never really seemed to be a good succession plan in place.
The way that Harbaugh has handled the coaching staff since the Super Bowl has been a disaster. He should have known that Gary Kubiak was likely one-and-done. They should have had a contingency plan in place for when Kubiak left. Whether that was Kyle Shanahan, Matt LaFleur, Bobby Turner, or even pushing hard to keep Rick Dennison, I can’t honestly say. However, they clearly didn’t have a good handle on things.
They didn’t seem prepared.
These failures have created a situation where players may not be buying into Harbaugh’s philosophy anymore. I noticed this in the last few years when Joe would refer to Harbaugh as “John” rather than “Coach” or “Coach Harbaugh”. To me, that says that Harbaugh and Flacco are too close, so it is difficult for Harbaugh to objectively coach him.
And that makes the offensive coordinator’s job even more difficult.
According to Jeff Zrebiec, there may be a lot of truth to this. In a recent interview with Tony Lombardi, Zrebiec doesn’t outright say that Flacco is uncoachable, but he uses words like “sensitive” and “stubborn”. If Flacco is too stubborn to accept coaching from Marty Mornhinweg or Marc Trestman, what hope is there for him buying into the system?
Making the situation worse, is that the Ravens have absolutely no back up plan at QB. They have no one who can legitimately challenge Joe for the starting spot. And what are the coaches supposed to do?
Call him out?
They can’t, and he knows it.
The reality is the Ravens are stuck with Flacco for at least 2 more years.
If the franchise player and the team’s highest paid player aren’t buying into the coaches, why should anyone else? It’s a terrible precedent that appears to have been set.
So, to recap…
• Billick lost the faith of players – particularly high priced franchise players.
• Billick finished with 33 wins and 31 losses including a 13-3 season, a division title, and 1 playoff appearance in his final four years.
• Billick gets fired and replaced by Harbaugh.
• Harbaugh’s record the last 4 years is worse than Billicks and his best season was 10-6 with no division titles and only 1 playoff appearance.
• There is a good chance that Harbaugh has lost the faith of some players and may not be able to reel in other high priced franchise players.
Sounds familiar, right?
I know many fans want to see the Ravens get rid of Harbaugh and hire some young offensive hot shot to get everyone back on track, but does anyone think that Joe is going to all of a sudden start respecting some young buck?
Marty Mornhinweg isn’t some scrub coach – he’s been in the NFL for 21 years and helped Brett Favre to some of his best seasons as a Green Bay Packer. If Flacco can’t buy into what he has to say, how is some young gun going to convince a soon-to-be 10-year NFL vet with a Super Bowl MVP under his belt that the ways of the past aren’t good enough anymore?
It’s just not a likely scenario.
What I would like to see happen is for Mike Shanahan to be hired as the head coach in 2017. Shanahan is only 64 years old and runs the exact offense that Flacco excelled in during the 2014 season. Kubiak learned that offense from Shanahan.
Normally, I’m not a big proponent of hiring retreads. However, in this situation, they need a strong personality with a track record of success – particularly offensive success – and Shanahan has that. The Ravens need a coaching staff that is going to come in and demand respect and from what I’ve observed, Shanahan doesn’t seem like the type of coach that takes s*** from players. I think Terrance West, Ronnie Stanley, Ken Dixon, Crockett Gillmore, Maxx Williams, Mike Wallace, Chris Moore, and even Breshad Perriman would all benefit from Shanahan’s offense.
To those raising an eyebrow – I get it. Shanahan does come with some baggage. However, I wouldn’t hold his time with the Redskins against him simply because their ownership and front office never seemed to really want to work with him. In fact, it came out after the Redskins fired him and hired Jay Gruden that the Redskins’ owner, Dan Snyder, was meddling with their players behind the coach’s backs (namely Robert Griffin III).
Bisciotti is not Snyder – not even close.
Ozzie Newsome is not Bruce Allen.
The positive takeaway from Shanahan’s time with the Redskins is that he helped build the team that Jay Gruden is running now. Shanahan drafted Kirk Cousins. He drafted Trent Williams, Ryan Kerrigan, Jordan Reed, Niles Paul, and Alfred Morris. He also signed guys like Pierre Garcon. Shanahan does have an eye for talent and he inherited a pretty bad Redskins team.
Lastly, Shanahan was the only coach to get good production from Jay Cutler while they were with the Broncos. Cutler, who has essentially been a modern day version of Jeff George, is the epitome of stubborn, aloof, and arrogant as a football player, yet Shanahan got a lot out of him. I think that Shanahan might be the only guy out there that could get the most out of Flacco until the Ravens can figure out who their next QB is going to be. Hopefully (and I mean this very sincerely), Shanahan can help Flacco turn things around and get back to the QB we all saw in the 2012 Super Bowl run.
Hiring Shanahan gives the Ravens the opportunity to actually build the offense around the offensive design that worked so well for Flacco. On top of it all, Mike would be able to bring in guys that actually know how to run that system, which means there would be a legitimate succession plan for Shanahan after he retired.
I don’t think the Ravens would be John Harbaugh’s last sideline pit stop in the NFL. Several teams immediately would consider hiring him. Jacksonville, Indianapolis, Houston, the NY Jets, Buffalo, Detroit, Chicago, and so on.
Harbaugh won’t be unemployed long and I do think he’ll enjoy a long career in the coaching realm.
I just think that it’s time for the Ravens to move on.
And Mike Shanahan would be the best way to do that.