It would have been easy for the Ravens to pack it in with the plethora of key injuries the team suffered in the regular season, but “packing it in” is just not something a Harbaugh family member does…ever. Instead of hanging their head, the Ravens puffed out their chest and said, “That’s OK, guys like Corey Graham will step in…so will Bernard Pierce…and Albert McClellan…and Chykie Brown…”
And it crushed John to deliver “the news” to Cam Cameron on December 10th, but Harbaugh knew, in his heart, a change had to be made. Ownership pressure and some internal strife helped reality set in and the coach made the toughest decision of his five year tenure in Baltimore. But he made the right choice, obviously.
We in the media occasionally poke fun at Harbaugh for his bland, “I’m not really thinking about anything except the next football game” answers he gives to us, but we also know the REAL truth. The truth is this: The ONLY thing that matters to John Harbaugh and the Ravens is winning football games. What the fans think, whether they’re happy or sad, approving or disapproving…what the media says or thinks…what the rest of the league thinks…none of that matters to Harbaugh. Any question sent in his direction that doesn’t have something to do with winning the next game is of little importance to him.
John’s mentality – “the only thing that matters is what lies ahead” – is precisely the same view his team carries with them. You can occasionally squeeze a “quote worthy” remark from a player, but for the most part, they resemble their coach in that nearly every player follows Harbaugh’s routine of only worrying about what’s next.
If ever a team took on the personality of their leader, it’s this Ravens team, 2012-2013.
Lots of players turned in gigantic playoff performances to get this team to New Orleans and the Super Bowl. The quarterback is obviously going to get most of the spotlight – and rightfully so – but this Ravens team is heading to the biggest sporting event in the world because the guy steering the ship gave them all the ammunition they needed to get the job done.
He’s not perfect, of course, and he’d be the first to tell you that, privately. Like every single coach in the league, he throws a bad challenge flag here and there or fails to produce a result because of a questionable clock-management decision or in-game strategical decision.
There is NOT a perfect coach in the NFL, or in any sport, for that matter, but the guy in Baltimore is as good as anyone else in the league, including the guy he just bested in New England on Sunday night. (Is this where I should note that ever since he got caught cheating during the 2004 Super Bowl, Belichick hasn’t won another ring? OK, I’ll save that one for some other time…)
This season, no matter what happens in New Orleans, belongs to John Harbaugh.
He didn’t let his men retreat last January when they lost to the Patriots. They just looked ahead, on to the next challenge, and Sunday night in New England, it all came full circle for the coach and his players.
Maybe this, now, is the time that Baltimore can say to John Harbaugh: ”Thanks for coming, John.”