Ravens Have Underperformed During John Harbaugh’s Tenure

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.

John Harbaugh may be overvalued around the NFL

Image Credit: AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

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?

Zach Wilt is the Founding Editor of BaltimoreSportsReport.com and host of the BSR Podcast. You can follow him on Twitter @zamwi or send him an email:zach@baltimoresportsreport.com.

Zach Wilt is the Founding Editor of BaltimoreSportsReport.com and host of the BSR Podcast. He's a loyal Orioles, Ravens and Capitals fan who is obsessed with baseball, loves traveling, In-N-Out Burger and Walt Disney World.

21 Comments

  1. MGW

    December 17, 2012 at 10:10 am

    Marty Schottenheimer. Andy Reid. Norv Turner. John Harbaugh.

    If you’re happy “making the playoffs” these are your guys. Want some trophies in your case, you better look elsewhere. I’m sure Philly fans are/were very much split down the middle over Reid. He won a lot of regular season games and took his teams to the playoffs. What else do you want?

    But you can get stuck in a decade long rut with these guys too, always being second or third best. A dog chasing his tail. For a while, the Ravens weren’t as good as New England. Then they weren’t as good as Indy. Then it was Pittsburgh. Now it’s New England, Houston, and Denver.

    I guess it’s what you want out of your football team. If you enjoy every December buying your “Playoffs” tee shirt and hat, then you are in heaven with this guy. He gets you there each year.

  2. Shanty

    December 17, 2012 at 10:23 am

    I would say they over value Harbaugh and Flacco. Still a good move to remove Cam. Now all can clearly see that the mystery to the slumping Ravens has been revealed. Poor coaching from the top and poor execution from players in key positions. If you kept Cam through the end of the playoffs you would go into the off season not knowing what was wrong with this team. There is no where to hide anymore for these two, 3 games left, how they execute in these games will seal their fate.

  3. direwolfc

    December 17, 2012 at 10:56 am

    Seriously? 5 playoff appearances in five years, 2 AFC championship games in 4 years. Under Harbaugh, the Ravens have always had a reputation as a team that plays hard, doesn’t choke, and nobody wants to play late in the season or in the playoffs.

    Nobody would argue that Flacco is comparable to the Mannings, Rothlesberger, Brady, Rodgers, or Brees, who together combine for virtually all the super bowl appearances (and wins) since Harbaugh has been coach.

  4. MGW

    December 17, 2012 at 11:58 am

    The much maligned Rex Ryan has gone to 2 AFC Championship games without HOFers Reed and Lewis on his team. The much maligned Rex Ryan has gone to 2 AFC Championships without one of the league’s most dynamic backs, Ray Rice
    Is Flacco better than Sanchez? I’d say head and shoulders above him, and yet the much maligned Rex Ryan has been to 2 AFC Championships.

    No, I’m not a Ryan fan. I would love to see Jack Del Rio, who oddly enough is leading Denver’s now stoudt defense, take the headset.

    Fraudbaugh has underachieved, bottom line.

  5. Pole

    December 17, 2012 at 1:41 pm

    MGW,
    With all that hate inside you, you’re gonna explode. I thought you were going on a football hiatus so your blood pressure would get under control.

    • MGW

      December 17, 2012 at 3:17 pm

      Pole, you say it’s hate, I say it’s love. This team is in a five year episode of Ground Hog Day, the only thing that changes are the teams that they are playing second and third fiddle behind. I’m tired of fans telling me about “making the playoffs”, isn’t it time to move past that?
      Pull the bandaid off in one fell swoop and get it over with. Fraudbaugh has done all he can, they need to turn it over to a professional now.
      Again, Pittsburgh prints “Six Super Bowl Championships” bumper stickers and we print “Made the Playoffs Five Straight Years”.

      • direwolfc

        December 17, 2012 at 3:39 pm

        yeah, 1979 was rough for the Ravens, we would have had a chance if the Steelers hadn’t gone all the way that year

        • MGW

          December 17, 2012 at 4:51 pm

          My point is this town is satisfied with playoff appearances. Under Fraudbaugh they’ve always played second or third fiddle to some other team, whether it was Indy, New England, Pittsburgh, or now Denver and NewEngland.

          This coach squandered a team with at least two HOFers, probably the top 5 back in the league, and a host of other Pro Bowlers. It’s not as if he miraculously turned around a bunch of slugs.

          But, Baltimore is happy just being there, I guess. Like Philly was for a while, like Schottenheimer did in Cleveland and KC. Like Norv usually does in San Diego.

          Like one of the writers here said, what does Harbaugh bring to the table? Game management? No. Clock management? No. Relationship with his players? No, see the article done by Yahoo and posted here where the players just about orchestrated a mutiny. What is Fraudbaugh’s skill?

  6. Jay Matthews

    December 17, 2012 at 5:34 pm

    I love the ‘mutiny’ as example of poor coaching. I’d say entertaining opposing viewpoints and quashing the negativity would be a trait you’d want in a leader.

    As for this line…Pointing to a life-time record or a list of postseason appearances means nothing… Well, it’s got to count for something. Maybe it’s not the only factor but how the hell else do you judge a coach?

    As for knocking Harbaugh in general: who else do you want? Somebody mentioned del rio. Really? I forgot how great a head coach he was in Jacksonville. Rex Ryan? Backed into the playoffs two years in a row and made some noise, but his ‘take old scraps’ approach is coming to fruition and he’s lost his guys.

  7. Ravens2488

    December 17, 2012 at 6:07 pm

    Matthews said “As for knocking Harbaugh in general: who else do you want?”… Really? I’ll take Cowher, Gruden, Del Rio, etc… Do you realize these guys ARE coaches and not a Special Teams Coach that lucked into a “Made for the Super Bowl” team and if not for his piss poor coaching or lack of, this team would have been in at least one Super Bowl.

    This team wins inspite of Harbaugh. Now that the vets and onfield coaches have left or have their say diminished by a coach that is scared someone will take his job, this team is now showing the shitty job Harbaugh has done.

    You can put a Ravens jacket on Harbaugh and a pair of headphones but the guy is still clueless during games.

    • Ravens2488ISdumb

      December 18, 2012 at 9:26 pm

      I hate how Harbaugh made Cundiff miss that field goal. And why did he tell Lee Evans to drop that touchdown pass? Man if he didnt make those piss poor coaching calls we would have been in at least one Super Bowl

      • Captain Sprewell

        December 18, 2012 at 9:50 pm

        Yea or if our great coach could have gotten us in a position to play those games at home instead of on the road, eh Ravens2488IsDumb? This coach you guys support has had a team full of talent yet can’t get the number one seed to help his team get to the big show. Didn’t your great coach make the decision to keep Cundiff rather than Mr. Automatic Matt Stover who went on that year to be pretty successful with the Indianapolis Colts? Why yes he did. Look it up dirtball. Also your great coach mishandled his timeouts and should have used one to help his kicker- which he picked- who was rushed just before missing the kick you spoke of. Sorry to put your man down Mrs. Harbaugh.

    • Pole

      January 2, 2013 at 1:18 pm

      I think Gruden lucked into his SB Championship. He did it with Dungy’s team, he had nothing to do with the personnel on that team. Then after his SB year he has a below .500 record over the next six seasons. What has Del Rio done as a head coach to be put into your list as a REAL coach?

  8. MGW

    December 17, 2012 at 6:26 pm

    I realized his strength…

    He comes up with catchy phrases like “Mighty Men” and “Play like a Raven” and What’s our name?”

    Great stuff!!!

  9. Pole

    January 2, 2013 at 8:08 am

    MGW,
    I hear your Norv Turner bit all the time. First of all Norv Turner has been a head coach for 15 season, made the playoffs in four of those seasons so the Turner analogy doesn’t wash.
    If the Ravens were a made for Super Bowl Team when Harbs got the job, why was their previous season 5-11? I would agree with the above statement the Ravens have played second fiddle to the Pats, Colts, and Steelers but who hasn’t? Name me the last season when the AFC Superbowl team didn’t have a QB named Brady, Roethlessbruger, or Manning? 2002 with Rich Gannon playing for the Raiders.
    It goes to show how important the QB has become in the game since the rules have been slanted towards the offensive side. Is Harbs a good coach? I’d say he’s probably middle of the road with getting his team about as far as they could. He doesn’t inspire his teams nor does he normally stay in a funk as they have lately. I predict it will probably be either Manning or Brady in the SB again for the AFC but it won’t be because of Fox or Belicheck, it will be because of their QB.

    • MGW

      January 2, 2013 at 10:48 am

      Pole – I think we finally have common ground. As you stated, Harbaugh is a middle of the road coach.

      The point you bring up about Flacco is a real dilemma for the team. He wants Brady-Manning money, but is he worth it? It’s not my money, but the team does have a hard salary cap and little room to maneuver. I’m not sure what I’d do if I were Ozzie. He’s pretty good, but not worth that BIG money he’s expecting.

  10. Pole

    January 2, 2013 at 11:55 am

    If he thinks he deserves big money the guy is delusional after what he has done this season. I was looking at the NFL QB’s last week and he is a top maybe 8-15 NFL quarterback. That is mainly because other teams have such $hitty guys on their team. Henne, Tannehill, Bradford, Hoyer, Fitzpatrick, Cutler, Lewis, Romo, Quinn, Ponder, Sanchez, Palmer, Vick, Freeman, and Locker.

    I just named 15 guys there is no doubt he is better than. That only leaves 17 other guys we can have discussions on. He should get the money of a QB in the top 10-15 range. If he doesn’t like that, franchise tag him and start looking for a preplacement.

    • MGW

      January 2, 2013 at 1:59 pm

      Pole – You DO know the team is projected to have around $1.2 under the cap next year, right? Now cutting ties with Reverand Ray will loosen the purse strings a little. If Nutcase Reed is also jettisoned,that’ll help too, but a Franchise Tag would cost the team around $17 mil projected. Again, not my money, so I don’t care, but as a fan you HAVE to look at the cap ramifications. First, not sure they can come up with that cap number without disassembling the team. Second, is he worth $17 million?
      But it’s all about the cap number, that’s the main thing. They don’t have the flexibility now, and would have to make some pretty drastic moves to get there.

      • Pole

        January 2, 2013 at 2:38 pm

        You are telling me what they can’t do, what do you suggest at this point?

  11. The Intimidator

    January 2, 2013 at 1:10 pm

    The Captain (Sprewell) is on fire! Cap, damn sure glad to have someone on here with the wit that you have.

    You see Cap, you have assclowns like “Ravens2488ISDumb” who come on with some dumbass comment but think they are clever with making up a screen name and think they rock because they got front row seats for a Justin Bieber concert.

    Guys like MGW, Ravens2488, 9Incher are usually spot on with their comments and that makes the Purple Kool Aid crowd wet their pants because around here your not supposed to talk bad about Harbaugh or Flacco. If your a Raven fan like the 3 I mentioned and myself, your supposed to toe the line and drink the purplish liquid.

  12. The Intimidator

    January 2, 2013 at 3:43 pm

    Oh yeah Captain, I forgot Pole… Pole is like the “Devils Advocate”… Pole doesn’t let you getaway with just throwing shit out there. He’ll come back with some decent comments that go against what you say.

    Pole is mostly a “Right to the point” type of guy. No fluff to him. He likes to call guys out. Pole gives a different perspective.

    Pole’s not an “East Coast” guy. He’s from America’s Heartland, Ottumwa, Iowa. Pole is used to rolling his own smokes, running naked amongst the animals, watching the grass grow, sitting on the duct taped “La-Z-Boy” on the front porch chewing tobacco while trying to hit bugs with the juice from between his teeth, and listening to the radio. So you got a farmboy who slows down the fast pace of the BSR.

    Nothin for nothin, but Pole is a decent dude.