John Harbaugh isn’t involved in the Super Bowl as he and his Ravens team had hoped, but Harbaugh is in Miami for another reason this week: He has been named the Associated Press Coach of the Year for the first time in his career.
The award was announced during the NFL Honors program in Miami Feb. 1, the eve of the Super Bowl between the San Francisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs. Also at the awards program, Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson was unanimously named NFL MVP and offensive coordinator Greg Roman was named NFL Assistant Coach of the Year.
Harbaugh had hoped his Ravens team would be playing this week after the Ravens finished with an NFL-best 14-2 record and earned the AFC’s No. 1 seeding for the first time in franchise history. But the Ravens were upset by the Tennessee Titans in the divisional round of the playoffs, abruptly ending a record-setting season for the Ravens.
Along the way, the Ravens set a franchise record for wins in a season and enjoyed the longest winning streak in team history at 12 games. That included wins over some of the best teams in the NFL in a grueling midseason stretch. During the course of seven consecutive games, the Ravens beat five playoff teams, including Seattle and Buffalo on the road, and New England, Houston and Super Bowl-bound San Francisco at home.
Harbaugh, 57, spoke before the season about creating a “revolutionary” offense designed around Jackson, a bold assertion that drew some snickering at the time, but Harbaugh’s team went out and delivered on that promise.
The Ravens’ offense under the direction of offensive coordinator Greg Roman did things that had never been done on an NFL field before. Defying conventional wisdom in the pass-happy NFL of the 2000s, the Ravens anchored their offense around the running game, led by Jackson and running back Mark Ingram, a stout offensive line and a trio of physical, athletic tight ends.
Jackson (1,206 yards) and Ingram (1,018 yards) each topped 1,000 yards rushing and the Ravens finished with 3,296 rushing yards, the most in the 100-year history of the NFL. Jackson set a record for the most rushing yards by an NFL quarterback in a single season.
Defensively, the Ravens reinvented themselves with a midseason makeover after the unit struggled mightily during a 2-2 start. In their two regular-season losses, which came back-to-back against Kansas City and Cleveland, the Ravens yielded more than 500 yards of offense, the first time that had ever happened to their defense in consecutive games.
General manager Eric DeCosta and his personnel staff set about fixing that, signing several key additions including linebackers Josh Bynes and L.J. Fort and defensive lineman Jihad Ward, Domata Peko and Justin Ellis, and trading for Pro Bowl cornerback Marcus Peters. Then it was up to Harbaugh and defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale to seamlessly fit those new additions into their schemes, and the result was a winning streak that lasted the remainder of the regular season.
Harbaugh, the fourth-longest tenured coach in the league, has a regular-season record of 118-74 in 12 seasons. He has taken his team to the playoffs eight times, although this year marked the second straight year the Ravens were eliminated in their first playoff game. They have not won a playoff game since the 2014 season.
Just 15 months ago, Harbaugh was facing serious questions about his job security as the Ravens had gone through a playoff drought of three years, and they stood 4-5 at the bye week of the 2018 season, with far more questions than answers.
Coming out of that bye, though, with quarterback Joe Flacco nursing a hip injury, the Ravens installed Jackson as the starting quarterback and the Ravens reeled off six wins in their final seven games to earn a playoff spot. Just before the end of that season, the team announced that Harbaugh had been signed to a contract extension.
Now, he’s the first Baltimore coach since Ted Marchibroda with the Colts in 1975 to be named the AP NFL Coach of the Year.
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