Prior to the 2008 season, Jason Garrett pawned Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti and his franchise for a salary increase from the Dallas Cowboys. At the time, a dejected and rejected Bisciotti had to settle for option two, a barely known special teams coach of the Philadelphia Eagles.
John Harbaugh is one of the most likable people you’ll ever meet – it’s easy to understand how he convinced Bisciotti for the keys to his franchise. Harbaugh is a charmer, he’s PR friendly and a model leader any owner would want to control their billion-dollar company.
If you ever meet him in person, you’ll find yourself leaving the conversation saying to yourself that you could talk football with him all day. He’s practically a great next-door neighbor with one of the best jobs anyone could dream of having.
Regardless of how great of a person Harbaugh is or may be, his flaws professionally are becoming more evident as his team finds themselves in their biggest funk of his five-year head-coaching career.
Plaguing issues surrounding challenges, lack of accountability, and game management have hounded Harbaugh, and existed well before the start of the current season.
Most recently, timeout usage –or lack thereof – in the Ravens’ 34-17 throttling at the hands of the Denver Broncos proved to be costly. With the team looking to close Denver’s lead to 10-7 at the end of the first half, Joe Flacco rushed and threw an interception that was returned 98 yards for a touchdown. That made the score 17-0, and the rout was on.
The Ravens had all three of their timeouts, which they would inexplicably carry into the locker room with them.
Harbaugh looks like he’s over his head at times when it comes to game situations and pressures that lie with being a head coach. He will be the first to apologize and take blame for any miscues on his behalf but saying, “that’s my fault, that’s on me” is becoming all too frequent.
There was a particular instance late in Sunday’s blowout that further drives this point home.
Following Dennis Pitta’s 61-yard touchdown through a Broncos defense more preoccupied with their in-flight meal choices during their return to Denver, Harbaugh once again showed some of his flaws.
Pitta’s touchdown made the score 34-16. Had Harbaugh elected (and converted) a two-point conversion, the score would have been 34-18, thus bringing the Ravens within two touchdowns and two-point conversions of tying the game.
A highly unlikely scenario with only 4:08 remaining against the NFL’s 4th-best defense? Yes.
However, possible? Of course – just look at how much the Patriots made Harbaugh’s brother, Jim, sweat as they rallied from being down 31-3 at the hands of the San Francisco 49ers.
It’s Harbaugh’s job to put his team in the best situation to win and he didn’t do that on Sunday. By sending Justin Tucker onto the field to convert an extra point instead, Harbaugh brought the score to 34-17 – three scores behind instead of two.
Following the game, Harbaugh was asked if there was any thought to attempt the two-point conversaion. He simply replied, “no.”
Coach speak is to constantly preach to never quit. Harbaugh seems to quit often though – he elected to take a knee with 29 seconds remaining in regulation in Washington last week, and then you had the mismanagement yesterday. Why doesn’t Harbs practice what he preaches?
While it’s certainly not his intent to display a lack of confidence in his team, that’s exactly what Harbaugh’s actions display to fans.
Harbaugh is in no danger of losing his job, nor should he even have to address this publically because it’s clear he just made a mistake.
As Harbaugh takes time for self-reflection, he must realize that his decisions have upset fans. For the first time in his head-coaching career, fans doubt his abilities to lead their team to the franchise’s second Lombardi trophy.
These are uncharted waters for Harbaugh, and Sunday’s loss is just another example of why he is beginning to hear residents of Charm City echo some un-charming remarks about him.