Things were looking bleak two months ago for the Baltimore Ravens, and their head coach, John Harbaugh. While he led them to a Super Bowl in 2012, they had been anything but super since. Over the next five years, they went exactly 40-40 and only reached the postseason one time. They have had some high-profile end-of-season failures to end playoff bids two years in a row.
Then Joe Flacco got injured and, frankly, changed everything. They installed rookie Lamar Jackson at quarterback and defenses are still trying to figure him out as running backs like Gus Edwards and Kenneth Dixon have a field day rushing while opponents try to account for the running quarterback.
And make no mistake, that’s what he still is at this point in his career. He attempted 170 passes and ran the ball 147 times. That is the most rushing attempts by a quarterback in a season…ever. And he only started seven games.
But that won’t matter until somebody figures it all out, as they’ve been able to go 6-1 with him under center, their only loss coming in overtime to the Kansas City Chiefs, and they needed two big fourth-down conversions to take the game to overtime.
The improbable turnaround after the Ravens started 4-5 and then ended 6-1 to post a 10-6 record has had Harbaugh getting all sentimental lately. Perhaps that has as much to do with the fact that he hasn’t been to the postseason since 2014.
“I told the guys last night: this is the best team I’ve ever been associated with”, he said after Sunday’s game. “Thirty-four years in coaching, and even back to peewee…look at this team. Look at this bunch of guys. Remember what this is, because this is what a team is. This is what a real team looks like; a bunch of guys that make a team”.
He went on to attribute their successful turnaround to their team spirit. “That’s why we are where we’re at. That’s an ending, and now it’s a new beginning. Every ending is a beginning, right? Now, this is our beginning. It starts with playoffs. We’ll go to work and we’ll be ready to roll. OK, what do you have?”.
His team will now host the Los Angeles Chargers, whom they beat just a couple of weeks ago, but the Chargers have only lost one game on the road this season, so that’s not necessarily to their advantage to get the home game.
“Well, it’s the best team. T-E-A-M, the best team”, Harbaugh clarified when pressed. “The best bunch of guys who understand what it means to have each other’s’ backs, to fight through adversity, and never be divided by anything … Block out all the outside, turn to each other for strength, and be there for one another. That, to me, is what makes a team. That’s the best team I’ve been around”.