I said it last January and I’ll say it again now: Time to give Harbaugh a new deal

December 27, 2010 | Drew Forrester

I’m sure, given what happened the last time he handed out free money to a coach via a contract extension, Steve Bisciotti would prefer not to have to do what he needs to do now.

But the time has come.

The time has arrived for John Harbaugh to receive an extension on his current contract.

I wrote THIS PIECE last January after the Ravens knocked off the Patriots in the playoffs and I’ll opine in similar fashion today.

I was right last January and I’m right again now.

John Harbaugh deserves a contract extension.  It’s basically non-negotiable, no pun intended.

The only issue standing in Harbaugh’s way is something he doesn’t control — the NFL’s labor agreement.  Owners are leery of entering into any kind of new long-term obligation to a coach, player or team employee until the labor situation is settled, whenever that might be.

But this much is certain — John Harbaugh’s original contract with the Ravens, thought to expire at the end of the 2011 season, will be extended by Steve Bisciotti once Baltimore’s 2010 season ends.  A team source yesterday said “no formal talks have occurred” but there’s an agreement in place to initiate extension negotiations when the Ravens current season comes to a close, whenever that might be.

When the Ravens went looking for a new coach in January of 2008, they were wildy overwhelmed with a guy from Philadelphia named John Harbaugh that not many people knew much about.  I remember one team staffer saying to me, “How this man isn’t already a head coach in the league is a complete mystery.  He’s a real find.”

Turns out that was true.

Now…is John Harbaugh the modern-day version of Vince Lombardi, Bill Walsh or (gasp) Bill Belichick?  No, he isn’t, and no one’s saying he is, including Harbaugh himself, who has a humble side that isn’t always easy to bring out but exists nonetheless.

But Harbaugh has done one helluva job since taking over in Baltimore.  He inherited a locker room fresh off a near mutiny of ex-head honcho Brian Billick and was asked to guide this team through the choppy waters of the AFC North.  And, it should be noted, Harbaugh had to do it all while having ZERO games of experience as a head coach, having served in a coordinator capacity at Philadelphia prior to his arrival in Charm City.

Three straight visits to the NFL playoffs trumps any criticism folks can – rightfully – dish out with regard to some of Harbaugh’s coaching decisions and his sometimes mercurial personality both in and out of Owings Mills.  I had my own run-in with the coach a month ago in Carolina which he instigated after taking exception to a question I asked of him during a Monday press conference.  Others in Owings Mills have privately bristled at Harbaugh’s caustic manner, particularly after losses, and it’s widely rumored that team President Dick Cass has pulled up the coach for a “stop berating the people here” meeting that smelled a lot like the get-togethers they had with Brian Billick back in 2006 before Bisciotti publicly addressed (and some said: undressed…in a wordsmith way) the former coach at a January press conference .

But in the NFL, the only thing that matters is winning.

And that’s what Harbaugh has done since coming on board in 2008.

Last time I checked, there are a lot of good coaches in the NFL who haven’t engineered their team(s) to three straight post-season appearances.

John Harbaugh has, though, and deserves the financial reward that comes with that.