Okay, I know the first ball hasn’t been snapped in anger yet, but I have really been impressed with John Harbaugh during his first off-season as a coach.
He started by hiring a top notch coaching staff, especially his coordinators. Rex Ryan, Cam Cameron and Jerry Rosburg are very well regarded and respected. He kept a good mix of past assistants like Vic Fangio and Mike Pettine and mixed in some new position coaches like John Matsko on the offensive line and Hue Jackson as his quarterbacks coach. He obliviously took Art Modell’s advice to heart and surrounded himself with good people.
From the day he took over, Harbaugh hasn’t been afraid to make changes. He rearranged the locker room so that players wouldn’t just interactive with their own position; hopefully this stops cliques from developing and brings the entire team together.
In the offseason conditioning program, Harbaugh and strength and conditioning coach Bob Rugucki have totally changed the philosophy and tempo. They leaned more on free weights, and according to published reports, players are working hard and often. The Ravens have had 40-50 players in the weight room at all times. They often said the Nebraska football program (back when they were winning championships in the 90’s) didn’t beat you in September; they beat you in February and March with their off-season conditioning program.
Harbaugh has also made it clear that training camp will be much more physical, and he has ended the practice of veteran players being able to go home during camp. They will work, eat, and sleep as the Baltimore Ravens.
Terrell Suggs’ and Ray Lewis’ appearances at mini-camp last week highlight the fact that players seem to be buying into Harbaugh’s enthusiasm and program. While we still don’t know how he handles three game losing streaks or in-game adjustments, it’s clear that Harbaugh was prepared for this opportunity. The man had a plan.
Some of his plans came from Andy Reid of the Eagles (his boss for the last nine years), and clearly some have come from his father Jack (a college coach for 41 years) and even some from when he was a boy in Ann Arbor, Michigan watching his father coach alongside the legendary Michigan head coach Bo Schembechler. Hard work, conditioning, and physical play are all trademarks of Schembechler’s teams at Michigan. It seems like Harbaugh has learned from all and now is ready to apply those lessons with a few modern twists during his first opportunity.
It’s only April, but so far so good for John Harbaugh. The Ravens appear to be in good hands and the journey of 2008 has begun. T minus three months ‘til training camp.