I would like to take this precious Sunday space to salute John Harbaugh and his Ravens.
There isn’t a more consistent, resilient and well-rounded head coach in the NFL than Harbaugh, and his teams represent those qualities — none perhaps more than the one he’s coaching this season.
The 2021 Ravens are a team that has been ravaged by a debilitating rash of injuries that would break most clubs and wreck their seasons. But not Harbaugh’s team, which nearly stole its season opener on the road before losing in overtime to the Raiders, then outlasted the Super Bowl-runner-up Chiefs, 36-35, last week.
The Ravens (1-1), who play at Detroit on Sunday, have 11 players on injured reserve, most in the NFL. Among them, top running backs J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards were lost for the season before it began. Top cornerback Marcus Peters was also lost for the year with a knee injury.
And that’s not counting All-Pro left tackle Ronnie Stanley or veteran defenders Jimmy Smith and Derek Wolfe, who also missed the game against the Chiefs.
The way Harbaugh doesn’t flinch in the face of adversity may define his legacy with the Ravens. He has coached Baltimore for the past 13 seasons, making the playoffs nine times, winning one Super Bowl and getting to three AFC Championship games.
When the Ravens kept losing players to injury, Harbaugh kept grinding with the players who were healthy. He made no excuses.
Think back to last season, when the Ravens went to Pittsburgh to play the Steelers, who were 10-0 at the time. Baltimore had a number of players, including quarterback Lamar Jackson, on the COVID-19 list and nearly stole the game before losing, 19-14.
Ravens cornerback Marlon Humphrey said Harbaugh was particularly pumped up before the Chiefs game last week, despite the fact there were so many forces working against Baltimore. He referenced Harbaugh doing a muscle-man flex in front of the team the Saturday night before the game.
Harbaugh was animated on the sideline when he went for it on fourth-and-1 late in the game in an attempt to put it away and not give the Chiefs one more chance to score.
“I feel like that’s the Raven mentality — the game is on the line, don’t flinch, go for it,” Humphrey said.
Harbaugh makes no excuses and his teams play that way consistently.
Baltimore has had one losing season and one 8-8 finish on Harbaugh’s watch. The Ravens have finished very other season with a winning record.
Though Harbaugh hasn’t had this sustained run of success with the likes of Tom Brady at quarterback, he has had talent at the position. Joe Flacco gave him a decade worth of terrific seasons. Since 2018, Harbaugh has had Jackson, one of the most dynamic players in the game.
After Jackson, who’s 31-8 in the regular season as a starter, put the Kansas City game away with a run on that fourth-down play, he and Harbaugh embraced with a long, tight hug on the field.
“We’ve gotten to the point where there’s a lot of trust there,” Harbaugh told reporters of him and Jackson. “Hopefully, it runs both ways.”
Any Ravens fan who doesn’t trust in Harbaugh hasn’t been paying attention for the past 13 years. With Harbaugh on the Baltimore sideline and Jackson behind center, the Ravens should never be counted out — regardless of how overcrowded their injured reserve list becomes.
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