When all is said and done, what will be the legacy of John Harbaugh as the head coach of the Baltimore Ravens?
No matter what happens this season, John Harbaugh is a legend in Baltimore. The veteran coach has taken the Ravens to six playoff appearances. He won Super Bowl XLVII in the 2012 season. It was the Ravens fifth straight year knocking on the door of the Super Bowl. It took three trips to the AFC Championship to finally get to the big game. Winning the Super Bowl is legendary, but the pursuit of that championship through the first five years of Harbaugh’s tenure, was pretty special as well.
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Since the Super Bowl victory things have soured a bit. The Ravens had a frustrating 8-8 season in 2013 and they missed the playoffs. 2014 made it seem like the Ravens were back. Baltimore beat their arch rival, the Pittsburgh Steelers, in the wild card round. They then pushed the New England Patriots to the brink of elimination, but came up short. 2015 was a 5-11 nightmare that hit Baltimore fans like a ton of bricks. During the four game losing streak earlier this season, it was hard not to worry that 2016 was going to be just like that 5-11 nightmare.
The Ravens are currently 6-5 and have righted the ship to a large degree. Sure, the offense isn’t humming, and sure their six wins have mostly come from weaker competition, but the Ravens have a chance to make 2016 a special season. Winning the division is within reach and a trip to the playoffs makes anything possible. Baltimore has a chance to soar back to their familiar heights and if they don’t it spells bad news for Harbaugh.
If the Ravens don’t win the division, this was another wasted season and a continuation of a downward trend. If the Ravens don’t win the AFC North, they will have wasted a highly ranked defense and a ton of talent all across the roster. That would be a bad look for John Harbaugh. Greg A. Bedard of Sports Illustrated wrote an article suggesting that Harbaugh could be on the hot seat if the Ravens crumble down the stretch.
"If the 2016 Ravens don’t finish the season strong, John Harbaugh could suffer the same fate as Billick—the former coach went 80–64 in the regular season and 5–3 in the playoffs with the Ravens, but finished 33–31 in his final four seasons. It’s also not out of the realm of possibility that a new start could extend to the front office and Newsome, with Eric DeCosta the GM-in-waiting around as a viable alternative. Harbaugh had his own 5–11 season last year. After winning the Super Bowl in the 2012 season, he’s now 29–30 over the past three-plus years, although he does have a playoff victory against the Le’Veon Bell-less Steelers after the ’14 season."
Bedard makes a compelling point, Steve Bisciotti could be put in a familiar situation. When the Ravens said good-bye to Billick, it was because they needed a fresh start, not because he was a bad coach. Billick is a member of the Ravens ring of honor, and walking away from him was not an easy decision for Bisciotti. Baltimore is fond of Harbaugh, but the Ravens have to be going in the right direction.