Some had speculated that the 2017 season would be “playoffs or bust” for Ravens head coach John Harbaugh, but owner Steve Bisciotti took a step to dispel that perception on Monday.
The team announced the extension of Harbaugh’s deal beyond the 2018 season. According to NFL Network, the 10th-year coach will receive an extra year and is now under contract through the 2019 campaign. Signed to a long-term extension after leading the Ravens to an NFL championship in 2013, Harbaugh had received an extra year on his contract two other times since then.
After becoming the first head coach in NFL history to win a playoff game in each of his first five seasons and winning Super Bowl XLVII on Feb. 3, 2013, Harbaugh hasn’t maintained the same level of success as the Ravens have gone just 31-33 with one trip to the playoffs over the last four seasons. Bisciotti made it clear after last year’s 8-8 campaign that he expected more from Harbaugh as well as general manager Ozzie Newsome and assistant general manager Eric DeCosta, but he gave no ultimatum that this season would be a make-or-break year for the coach he hired to replace Brian Billick in 2008.
“I can’t quantify it. If Joe [Flacco] goes out for the year in Week 2, I’m going to grade with a curve,” said Bisciotti in January when asked what he would need to see in 2017. “If we have the kind of injuries we had [in 2015], I graded with a curve [that] year at 5-11. I just can’t project that out because there are so many variables that go into that. I really can’t.
“But I can just tell you right now that I trust my partners.”
An extra year tacked onto Harbaugh’s contract reflects that trust, but history suggests that it shouldn’t be viewed as a sign that the veteran coach is safe under any circumstances this season. It was 10 years ago that Bisciotti fired Billick one season after giving him a four-year contract extension, a deal that ended up paying the Super Bowl XXXV-winning coach $15 million after his dismissal.
Whether it’s a public response to Harbaugh’s harshest critics or a token of confidence to a coach whose team has endured a number of serious injuries before the start of the regular season — including a back ailment that’s sidelined Flacco for the entire summer — the one-year extension should calm questions about his immediate future. But that scrutiny will intensify again should the Ravens miss the playoffs for a third consecutive season, something that hasn’t happened since 1996-99.
Currently owning a 95-64 career record including the playoffs, Harbaugh is currently the sixth-longest-tenured head coach in the league and owns a share of the NFL record for most playoff road wins (seven) by a head coach. Counting the postseason, Baltimore ranks fourth in the NFL in wins since Harbaugh’s arrival in 2008.