After their heart breaking loss to the Steelers last night, the Ravens are now a very pedestrian 31-32 since they beat the 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII in 2012. Over that period, they have been very mediocre, very average, with only one playoff appearance.
The loss to the Steelers was devastating on a number of levels. This was a critical game for both organizations. Had the Steelers loss, Mike Tomlin and Todd Haley would have been left wide open for criticism by their fan base, front office and ownership.
They would have had to account for burning all of their time outs on their last drive. For not leaving at least one in order for them to kick a field goal, in a worst case scenario setting, that would have taken the game into overtime had Antonio Brown failed to cross the goal line.
Antonio Brown had the presence of mind to stretch his left arm and break the plane of the goal line. It was a play for the ages, by a magnificent player. Never mind that Steelers WR Cobi Hamilton was not set on that play. Never mind that Ravens safety Eric Weddle had several of his fingers wrapped around Brown’s facemask. But hey, that’s the game.
The outcome of this game can potentially set both of these franchises in dramatically different directions. This will no doubt will be an interesting off-season, especially for the Ravens.
For all of the questions as to whether Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti will bring back coach John Harbaugh, one has to wonder as to whether or not Harbaugh will be in a mood to come back, depending on how the conversation goes.
For one, coach Harbaugh will have options, no matter what. I don’t know that he’ll be in a mood to be a lame duck coach with one year left on his contract. I would think he’d want more a vote of confidence from ownership, versus playing out what amounts to a “show me, prove yourself” one year deal.
Not when – if he were to become available – he would have a plethora of suitors to pick from. I know that he loves living in Maryland, and I know that he loves being the head coach of the Baltimore Ravens. But with that said, I don’t know that he’d stick out what amounts to a one year contract at 7 million, where he may be able to get a 4 year deal at 7 million somewhere else. He also may be able to get a 5 year deal that would also pay him north of that 7 million mark. That’s not a stretch and it very well could happen.
Harbaugh would be a hot commodity not only with current vacancies in the NFL, but also with college football opportunities as well. He is charismatic and a proven winner, so recruiting players for his college team (if it goes down that way) should not be a problem for him. Plus big brother Jim has done a nice job with his college programs, and that’s something else that works in his favor.
In regards to explaining the team’s mediocre record the past 4 seasons, Harbaugh could point in the scouting department and GM Ozzie Newsome’s direction. With the exception of their most recent draft, the Ravens have not drafted particularly well. They have missed on a slew of top draft picks. That is simply something that cannot be pinned on Harbaugh.
Ozzie Newsome selects the players, and John Harbaugh coaches them. It has always been that way. Who’s responsible and who’s accountable? We can debate that all day long, but both have left themselves open to scrutiny.
Since the conclusion of the 2012 season, the talent level on this team hasn’t been on par with division rivals Steelers and Bengals. That falls on the shoulders of the front office. For his part, coach Harbaugh has to answer for his team blowing a 10 point lead on the road to the hapless New York Jets. Plus a dismal home loss to the Washington Redskins. Those October losses have come back to haunt the Ravens, and one can easily argue that they shouldn’t have been in the position of having to beat the Steelers last night for the division crown as well as a playoff berth.
I think it’s fair to question Harbaugh’s loyalty to offensive line coach Juan Castillo, who seems to be a polarizing figure since the day he arrived. There’s no doubt that the offense has to be completely overhauled. The Ravens need an offensive coordinator who will install a system that takes full advantage QB Joe Flacco’s strengths, while minimizing his weaknesses.
I don’t think the Ravens are that far away from becoming a perennial contender once again. I believe with another strong draft and a new offensive coordinator, this team can get deep into the playoffs next year. I believe with their first 3 picks, they need to take a cornerback, a free safety and a rush end. No particular order, just the best player available at those positions when they’re on the clock.
It will be interesting to see if coach Harbaugh is here for those picks. The team has options, and so does he. In this situation, the door certainly swing both ways. Unless something drastic happens after the season’s last game in Cincinnati, I would say at this point it’s 50/50 that he comes back.