Happy New Year, Ravens Flock! I’m going to jump into the 2019 calendar year head first (into a brick wall, no doubt) and talk about the elephant in the room we don’t want to discuss.
The John Harbaugh trade rumors.
Let me preface these musings, and clearly state that at no juncture in time has there been any word from the Ravens organization surrounding a trade of John Harbaugh, nor should we expect such chatter from them in the midst of a playoff run, even if it’s true. The rumors and speculation have simply come from the mouths of national media on behalf of other teams’ wish lists, with John Harbaugh at the top of a weak crop of NFL coaching prospects.
So who wants Johnny Harbs?
The heaviest media focus seems to be on the Broncos, where it’s been said that GM John Elway would love to have Harbaugh as his next head coach in Denver, and they’ll be pursuing the Ravens to see if they can facilitate a trade. Couple that with the rumor that Gary Kubiak wants to get back into coaching, and the potential of Chuck Pagano returning to the NFL sidelines, and you could see a Ravens West coaching staff in Denver come 2019.
Other teams that may be calling about Harbaugh’s availability in the next few months vary, but I’ve seen the Miami Dolphins mentioned frequently, and surprisingly, the Cleveland Browns.
While I don’t think the latter is even a realistic possibility (unless they hand their entire draft for 2019 and 2020 to Eric DeCosta), the fact that multiple teams could be approaching the Ravens regarding a trade for John is all you need for a bidding war.
The next question is a simple one: what’s Harbaugh’s trade value?
I’ve seen a large sect of Ravens fans suggesting your starting point for a Harbaugh trade dates back to the 2002 John Gruden trade, when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers shipped out a pair of 1st round picks, a pair of 2nd round picks, and $8 million in order to bring in a young, successful, offensive guru of a head coach in Gruden.
I’m not sold on that package as a jump off for Harbs, and I don’t think any franchise would be either.
Yes, Tampa Bay won the Super Bowl in Gruden’s’ first year as head coach, but I wholeheartedly believe Tony Dungy was largely responsible for that Super Bowl-caliber roster, specifically that top-tier defense. After all, this wasn’t Gruden taking a scrub team to a Lombardi; Dungy carried the Bucs to four playoff berths in the previous six years (more than Gruden’s entire time in Tampa)!
Of course, the Gruden honeymoon was phenomenal in Tampa, but the team trended downward soon after, having surrendered a ton of top-end draft capital while digging themselves into salary cap hell, and the results showed: only two playoff appearances in the next six years with an 0-2 record, a singular 10+ win season, and a pair of sub-.500 seasons. Gruden was fired after a four-game skid to end his 7th season (started 9-3 and missed the playoffs that year), and didn’t coach again in the NFL until 2018.
Yes, the Super Bowl was worth it for Tampa fans, but I think that just like in 2002, the Ravens would need a damn near perfect storm – a desperate team that feels they’re just a good head coach away from winning it all – in order to attain a similar haul.
So what is the ideal starting point? I think a 1st and a 2nd round pick is a logical asking price for the Ravens. I’m not saying they won’t get more (or teams scoff, and the Ravens take less), but I believe that’s a reasonable expectation if we see three or more teams in a bidding war.
I can hear some of you audibly scoffing at a lesser package than that Gruden deal eons ago…
Listen: during the State of the Ravens last year, Stevie Biscuits clearly stated that he almost fired Harbaugh, then during the bye week this year, rumors started swirling that the parties were going to cut ties in the offseason.
So why would we expect a major haul for a head coach that was this close to being a free agent, and can very well hit the market after 2019 anyway?
Start with a team’s top two picks in the draft, and see where it goes from there.
Of course, all of this trade speculation is predicated upon what the Ravens organization, namely owner Steve Biscotti, thinks about Harbaugh’s tenure and his future with the franchise. He may side with the ‘Harboys,’ where the general consensus is that all of the winning in Baltimore is because of John, in spite of poor drafting and free agency moves over recent years. Harbaugh is a rah-rah guy who can rally the troops and always has the Ravens competitive (barring 2015, thanks to a Joe Flacco ACL tear), and for Harbs to carry his team to the playoffs in seven of the past 11 years is truly a feat in itself.
Plus, I mean… a Super Bowl win.
Then again, the owner and front office could side with the other half of the fan base, that despises the vast majority of Harbaugh’s coordinator selections (Cam Cameron, Marc Trestman, Dean Pees, Marty Mornhinweg), and sees how the team – the offense in particular – thrived most when Gary Kubiak was hired as the OC (not a Harbs hire) and when Jim Caldwell stepped in after they fired Cameron (was a Harbs hire) mid-season. They agree that Harbaugh is a rah-rah guy… but not a football mind by any stretch, and for every ‘get up’ game he has? There’s an equal or worse ‘let down’ game to a 6-10 or worse team every year.
My 2 Cents
I think the Ravens would be foolish not to explore trade opportunities, and I absolutely believe they will. The announcement that the team was working on an extension with Harbaugh was made weeks ago (prior to the Chargers game in Week 16), and while progress is possible – even probable, really – nothing has been finalized as of yet. I believe the announcement was made public as a means to show other franchises they don’t plan on releasing John this offseason, thus stirring the trade pot even more, and seeing what opportunities are out there.
Should the Ravens receive a viable offer? I can absolutely see new GM Eric DeCosta pulling the trade trigger, and I think we’d be looking at two first-round picks, and a mid-round pick in 2020 (some stipulation like ‘playoffs in year 2 bumps to a 2nd, otherwise a 3rd’) as the final trade compensation.
Of course, the Ravens would be left with a new opening at head coach, and in order to pull off this trade late in the coaching carousel game, they’d need a plan in place already. To me, that means a plan to promote from within, and I think the team would fill the vacancy in one of two ways:
- Greg Roman promoted to Head Coach, Wink Martindale remains as Defensive Coordinator, and current QB Coach James Urban to Offensive Coordinator.
- Wink Martindale to Head Coach, Greg Roman to Offensive Coordinator, and current Secondary Coach Chris Hewitt to Defensive Coordinator.
This provides continuity of the recent success on both sides of the ball, and continued growth for the franchise without regression, while adding draft capital that can be used to surround Lamar Jackson with more weapons, and fill some inevitable defensive voids to come.
What are your thoughts on the possibility of trading John Harbaugh in the offseason?