SCHMUCK: Harbaugh sticks neck out by keeping coaches
If you were waiting to hear that Ravens coach John Harbaugh blew up his coaching staff Tuesday, you're probably wondering how in the world he could decide to stay the course after a second straight disappointing season.
Clearly he has his reasons — whether they are rooted in logic, loyalty or a lack of better candidates — but the news that there will be no drastic changes, particularly in the offensive braintrust, probably won't sit well with the sports talk crowd.
The bitter end of an often frustrating .500 campaign shined an unflattering light on the Ravens' attack and led to speculation that offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg would not be in his current position when the team resumed on-field activities this spring. Harbaugh wasted no time dispensing with that misconception at his final weekly news conference Tuesday morning.
"We're going to try to improve everywhere, including coaching,'' Harbaugh said. "And we will stay intact. I'm excited about going forward with our coordinators, all three of those guys. I'm looking forward to that."
There are all sorts of ways that might make sense, starting with the need to maintain continuity and create the best environment for quarterback Joe Flacco to be successful, but Harbaugh's explanation for how this non-decision was reached left little doubt whose job will be on the line if the Ravens don't enjoy a playoff renaissance next season.
When Harbaugh was asked if there was a consensus among the team's top management to retain all three coordinators, he made it clear that the decision was all his and the consequences would be, too.
"Everybody asks that question and it's fun to write about, but I'm making those decisions," Harbaugh said. "That's the thing that is a responsibility that [general manager Ozzie Newsome] and [owner] Steve Bisciotti have given me. That's my job. So that's my decision to make — whether we keep a coach or don't keep a coach."
Harbaugh better be right: It's probably fair to say that implicit in that responsibility is that he had better be right this time. He hired Marc Trestman to replace Gary Kubiak after the 2014 season and felt compelled to turn the inconsistent and sometimes incoherent offense over to Mornhinweg in October after the Ravens suffered a 16-10 home loss to the Washington Redskins.
Though the Ravens actually had a better record this year with Trestman as OC (3-2) than they did with Mornhinweg (5-6), the offense was more productive over the final 11 games and the Ravens literally came within inches of defeating the Pittsburgh Steelers to take over the AFC North lead on Christmas Day.
Still, the unfathomable red zone interception against the Eagles that easily could have knocked the Ravens out of contention in Week 15 combined with the similarly disastrous decision to throw the ball on first-and-goal at the 2-yard line in Cincinnati seemed to put Mornhinweg's job security in serious question.
Harbaugh doesn't have to worry about his own job security over the short term, but another season that ends short of the playoffs would certainly put the patience of owner Steve Bisciotti to the test.
"I don't worry about that,'' Harbaugh said. "I talk to Steve every single day, and we have a great relationship. The truth is, we're going to be friends for the rest of our lives. But what we're trying to do together is we're trying to accomplish something together. We're reaching for the stars.
"This is a really highly competitive endeavor. This is world-class sports at the highest level, and it's tough, man. It's competitive, and we're fighting every single day — all of us together, including Steve Bisciotti — to be great at what we do. When you take something like that on, you're exposing yourself to everything that goes with it. So I get that."
Feeling the pressure: The pressure to win obviously increases with each season in which you don't, and Harbaugh wouldn't be human if he didn't feel it. He is coaching at the very highest level, so that seat is always hot. It will certainly get hotter if the Ravens do not cure all that ails them over the course of this very important offseason.
Harbaugh might live to regret his decision to maintain the status quo at offensive coordinator. Or the Ravens might end up making a deep playoff run in 2017. Regardless, Harbaugh took full ownership of the process Tuesday and said he can live with whatever comes.
"If you start thinking about all of the other stuff and the ramifications of it, you're not thinking about what you need to think about,'' he said. "Like I said, I'm not worried about the future. I have faith. I trust what God has in plan, what's in store. I believe in that. I'm excited to see what's in store. I can't wait to see what the plan is for us as a team, as an organization, personally for my family. I can't wait to see what the next year holds. I'm looking forward to it. I don't walk through life scared. I'm not afraid. It says to be a strong and courageous man. That's what I try to do every single day."