John Harbaugh won the 2019 NFL Coach of the Year award. Let’s look at his entire run with the Baltimore Ravens and assess his strengths and weaknesses:
John Harbaugh is a great leader. He’s the perfect front man of the Baltimore Ravens organization. He’s an energetic and self motivated coach who blends seriousness and toughness very well with charisma and magnetism. He’s poised and sometimes stoic but more than anything he’s passionate. In other words, he’s a Harbaugh. In a family of coaches, he happens to be the best one.
Harbaugh’s biggest strength is keeping the train from falling completely off the tracks. The Baltimore Ravens have had one losing season during his tenure. That losing season came in 2015 when a freakishly long list of injuries prevented Harbaugh from making things work. The Ravens have had to battle back from some tough times during Harbaugh’s run as their coach yet he never loses the locker room.
When the 2012 season spun out of control, Harbaugh managed to stop the bleeding. He fired Cam Cameron as the offensive coordinator and righted the ship for a playoff run. The Ravens managed to get hot at the right moment for a trip to Super Bowl glory. Not many coaches can finish the regular season losing four of their last five games and then lead the team on one of the most dramatic trips to the Super Bowl in NFL history.
Harbaugh doesn’t always help his team avoid slumps but he never allows a slump to take the season from the team. He’s a player’s coach which is something most current and former Ravens would confirm. The fact that Bernard Pollard stands alone on an island of feuding with Harbaugh says a lot. You can’t please everybody but Harbaugh obviously meshes well with his teams. Ray Lewis and Ed Reed may have built the core principles of the Ravens way yet Harbaugh has kept the winning culture alive.
The ultimate example of him being a player’s coach is evidenced by what Lamar Jackson has done since being drafted in 2018. The Ravens drafted Jackson with Harbaugh completely on board with making him the next franchise quarterback. Harbaugh had to go with Jackson much quicker than he intended to and he made it work.
With a make-shift offensive system the 2018 Ravens won six out of seven games to make the playoffs with a rookie quarterback. In 2019, Harbaugh changed everything and went all in on making the ideal team for Jackson. Building an entirely new team identity after more than 10 years with one team is an impressive showing of perspective and vision.
That’s why Harbaugh won the 2019 NFL Coach of the year award. He didn’t get in the way of his team trying something new. He actively worked on and encouraged the entire team to be different than the rest of the league. Jackson is a player who has the ability to change the way we look at the quarterback position; and the Ravens offense could change the way of the NFL forever. Greg Roman has a lot to do with this however Harbaugh deserves a lot of credit.