The Pittsburgh Steelers and their head coach, Mike Tomlin, are under heavy fire this season after posting a 13-3 record but falling in the Divisional Round, in spite of the fact that they have reached at least the Divisional Round in three straight seasons.
The Baltimore Ravens have not even reached the Wildcard Round for three straight seasons. And yet the team and owner Steve Bisciotti is not about to fire John Harbaugh, who led his team to the Super Bowl in 2012 but has since posted exactly a 40-40 record in the five years since, the definition of average.
Bisciotti did, however, admit during his press conference late last week that he did weigh the possibility of firing Harbaugh, who has now been with the Ravens for the past 10 seasons. When asked if he thought about firing his coaching after three straight seasons without reaching the playoffs, he said, “it was certainly a consideration”.
He added, “but not one that I was inclined to make this year”. And he also followed that up by refusing to place a playoffs-or-bust edict on him for the 2018 season, meaning that his job security is not tied to whether or not that reach the postseason.
“He’s under as much pressure than probably he’s ever been in his life, and I expect him to keep his chin up and take his positivity and his talents and make the most of the season”, the Ravens owner said. “I may as well replace him now if I tell him to make the playoffs or you’re out of town next year. That’s not the way we run business here”.
Harbaugh is signed through the 2019 season after he was given a one-year extension before this past season began. The Ravens have finished second in the AFC North for the past two seasons, but third in the three seasons prior to that—though that includes a 10-6 year in 2014 in which they advanced to the postseason. That is their lone postseason appearance since winning the Super Bowl.
“I was very proud of the way John kept fighting, held the team together when we were losing in the middle of the year”, Bisciotti went on. Baltimore won its first two games, but then lost five of its next seven games. They were 4-5 before finishing the final seven games with a 5-2 record, one of those losses courtesy of a game-winning drive in Pittsburgh.
Bisciotti said that Joe Flacco “was obviously producing at substandard with his back injury and after the first couple of weeks”, and adding of the other side of the ball, “we were very encouraged by our defense and thought that could hold us together. We didn’t perform very well in the middle of the year. I was proud of the way we fought back as a team”.
The only other time in franchise history that the Ravens have failed to reach the postseason four time in a five-season span was in the beginning. They missed the postseason in their first four, but then won the Super Bowl in their fifth season, their first time in the playoffs.
They posted losing records the first three seasons under Ted Marchibroda before he was replaced with Brian Billick in the fourth year, posting an 8-8 record and then winning it all in his first two seasons. Billick coached the Ravens for nine years with four playoff appearances. Harbaugh has reached the postseason six times in 10 seasons.