It’s hard to evaluate a head coach’s performance, especially when someone like Coach Harbaugh hands the offensive and defensive sides of the ball so completely to his coordinators. With Brian Billick, you knew he always had a hand in the offense and could be held responsible when it fell short of expectations. John Harbaugh is not that guy, and he shouldn’t be. To me, he focuses on what a coach should focus on- the attitudes of his players, game management, certain personnel decisions, and a general oversight of his coaches. However, these categories are much more than fluff, and most of his work goes on outside the game itself. He must be held responsible if his coaches fail to establish a single identity on either side of the ball or mismanage the players at their disposal. As far as in-game management, I will not parse through every fruitful or wasteful challenge, every bad timeout or 4th down decision. Yes, Coach Harbaugh had some puzzling decisions at critical moments in games, but I didn’t notice any more than any other coach on game day. He could use to manage the last 2 minutes of each half a bit better, but if I had a dime for every game with a poorly executed 2 minute drill I would be a very rich man.
However, he also was the one who decided to let Matt Stover and Chris McAlister walk, though even Stover wouldn’t have made the 48 yarder that Hauschka missed against Minnesota, but he would have been more reliable within 40 yards than either Hauschka or Cundiff. McAlister’s absence was pronounced as the secondary was at first poor then poor and injury-depleted, though it is doubtful that he would have made a positive impact on the team. For a coach who tries so hard to motivate his players with rah-rah type speeches, he has had a few stand-offs with his players. But we have no idea what really goes on in the locker room, so I have trouble giving him a bad grade on that basis.
And now for the coordinators…
Cam Cameron- Sometimes I thought I was watching Mike Martz and other times Matt Cavanaugh run the offense. This was a team that came out swinging and throwing the ball all over the field, and seemed to want to get back to that whenever possible. Even after the free-wheeling passing began to lose its effectiveness Cameron still kept trying to fit the square peg in the round hole. At times he entirely neglected the three-headed monster that had gotten the Ravens to the AFC Championship game in 2008. Look, I understand that he wanted to make this offense more dynamic, and I applaud that. But Cam should have understood that it wasn’t going to happen overnight. A team that whose strength is running the football should try to work in a stronger passing game, but it shouldn’t turn its back on its roots. Joe Flacco and his receiving corps are far from capable of maintaining that sort of offensive output, and it felt as though the play-calling was trying to force the issue where it just didn’t work. When he rediscovered running the football it never seemed to be for long, and we waited throughout the entire season to figure out whether this was a running team, a passing team, or a bit of both. It wasn’t that the offense was terrible, but that it lacked continuity throughout the season. I still believe that Cameron is one of the better coordinators in the NFL, but he has to decide what he wants the offense to be- he has 6 more months to do it.
Greg Mattison- How much blame/credit can we give this first-year coordinator for the success/struggles of the Ravens defense? If you watched each game it felt as though this defense had taken a tremendous step back from previous seasons, but on further review it wasn’t all that much worse statistically. Naturally having three new starting cornerbacks in Foxworth, Carr and Webb dragged down the performance of the secondary considerably, and Dawan Landry didn’t hit his stride until late in the season. Oh yea, and the best safety in the NFL was injured for most of the year. These factors clearly hampered Mattison’s ability to sell out and leave receivers one-on-one. However, I also noticed a general toning down of the defense; an unwillingness to ever send the house or overload one side. He didn’t seem to blitz less often, but they were targeted at a specific player rather than a side of the formation. There is no doubt that Rex Ryan led better defenses and was probably a better coordinator, but he also had better players to work with than Mattison, who lacked a strong complement to Ray Lewis as Antwan Barnes/ Tavares Gooden/etc. failed to become effective starters. Generally Mattison did a fine job, though we won’t know how good a coordinator he really is until he isn’t hampered by a substandard secondary.