If you follow the
Wonder why so many of these guys burn out? Think about all the challenges Harbaugh faced in his fifth year running this team. Every NFL season is an emotional rollercoaster. But the ride Harbaugh and the Ravens took to their Super Bowl win was as exhausting and as exhilarating as any in recent memory.
It started around the April draft when the Ravens learned that
Sure, the big linebacker blustered about coming back as early as October or November. And eventually he made good on that. But at the time, the Ravens had no way of knowing he'd return.
Conventional medical thinking was this: it took a full year to rehab a torn Achilles — even if you were
But Harbaugh handled it well. He didn't downplay the loss of Suggs — that would have been insane. But he didn't go all wobbly in the face of it, either.
Instead, he stayed relentlessly positive and the Ravens dusted off their famous "next man up" mantra. Veteran
Six games into the season, though, the Ravens were slapped with more bad news.
In a narrow 31-29 win over the
Just like that, the Ravens' best cover corner was lost for the year. So, apparently, was their great inside linebacker and spiritual leader.
The Ravens were 5-1. But now it was a defense with no Suggs, no Webb, no Lewis, a banged-up
But Harbaugh stayed calm and helped his team keep its focus, even as the pundits predicted doom.
Suggs stole a line from
Two losses in a row — to the
But it was at this point that Harbaugh made one of his best moves of the season.
After that 31-28 overtime loss to the Redskins, he made the painful decision to fire his offensive coordinator and long-time friend,
It was a gutsy thing to do. Who fires a coordinator that late in the season? But Harbaugh felt it had to be done. The offense was stagnant, not nearly ready for a deep run in the playoffs, never mind a spot in the Super Bowl.
The move didn't pay off immediately — the Ravens' lost 34-17 to the
Just as gutsy was Harbaugh's decision to put
McKinnie, overweight, out of shape and battling nagging injuries, had seemingly taken up permanent residence in Harbaugh's doghouse.
But after McKinnie requested a clear-the-air meeting with his coach and proved he could be effective again, Harbaugh shuffled three-fifths of the offensive line to get the big man back in the starting lineup.
Who gives their offensive line line a nearly complete make-over going into the playoffs? But the move immediately stabilized the line, and the protection for
Give Harbaugh credit: he coached his tail off this season. And he held this team together through a ton of adversity.
"It was a masterful job," owner
Yes, it was.
I don't want to make Harbaugh sound like Winston Churchill here. But in some of the Ravens' darkest hours, he was exactly the leader they needed.
Listen to Kevin Cowherd Tuesdays at 7:20 a.m. on 105.7 The Fan's "The Norris and Davis Show."