John Harbaugh’s Baltimore Ravens backed their way into the playoffs on Sunday evening when the Pittsburgh Steelers fell 27-24 to the Dallas Cowboys. The Ravens have lost three straight games for the first time since 2009 and missed opportunities to clinch to AFC North and snag a spot in the postseason with each of those losses.
Poor coaching has played a role over the last three weeks. So much so that offensive coordinator Cam Cameron lost his job after Baltimore fell 31-28 to the Redskins in week 14.
Harbaugh’s on-field decisions haven’t helped the Ravens steer out of the rut they’ve drifted into during this slump.
After another frustrating, ugly loss, I took to Twitter and asked Ravens fans to list the one thing they think is John Harbaugh’s strength as a head coach. I was looking for something specific, an aspect of his style of coaching or decision making with this team.
I received plenty of answers, but none that I agreed with.
The Ravens have been to the postseason five straight seasons, but how much of that actually has to do with Harbaugh? Pointing to a life-time record or a list of postseason appearances means nothing.
Are Harbaugh’s challenges and clock management helping the Ravens? Is keeping Michael Oher at right tackle improving the offense? Are Harbs’ locker room speeches helping to fire up these underdogs?
No. No. And no.
The optimists tell me that Harbaugh manages his team more like a CEO, by delegating to the staff, rather than approaching the job like a traditional head coach. To me, that sounds likes he defers the blame to his coordinators when things go wrong and gets the credit after wins.
They tell me that Harbaugh is a leader and a player’s coach. Yet, a near mutiny broke out in the locker room in October.
I also get the “it’s too soon to judge Harbaugh” response. To that I ask, “when can we judge him?” How long do you say it’s too soon? How many postseason appearances do you have to make before you finally come to the conclusion that this coach won’t take you to the big game?
Some view Harbaugh as the coach that has led the Ravens to the postseason five straight times, but maybe he’s the guy that hasn’t been able to take a capable team to the Super Bowl.
The Ravens are headed for a one-and-done trip to the playoffs and frankly, that’s not good enough. A couple AFC Championship games don’t make you a top tier NFL head coach. Winning them does. Good coaches stare into the face of adversity and overcome the obstacles, not use them as excuses.
For the first time since he took over Brian Billick’s Super Bowl caliber roster, Harbaugh has the odds stacked against him. The injuries are piling up on defense and confidence in the locker room has disappeared.
A good head coach finds a way to win. A good head coach adapts throughout the season — or hell, throughout the game. A good head coach doesn’t let grudges get in the way of winning games.
What kind of coach is John Harbaugh?