If the reports of John Harbaugh’s departure from Baltimore at season’s end are true, it’s hard to imagine he wouldn’t want to go out having exhausted every avenue.
The emotional pull most coaches have to a quarterback who won them a Super Bowl is understandable. The Giants have sacrificed a half-decade worth of rebuilding time and equity just to maximize the final years of Eli Manning’s career. The Eagles would have likely refused a Brinks truck full of draft picks if anyone came after Nick Foles with a more enticing offer than Cleveland made. And so, the Ravens have pinballed through some of the most difficult seasons in Joe Flacco’s career without making a serious run at his replacement. Until now.
Lamar Jackson has, to this point, been a thorn in Flacco’s side. Conventional wisdom suggested he would need a year or two of seasoning before making a professional debut with any sort of success. Add in the fact that Flacco looked objectively good this preseason, finally free of a nagging back injury, and Harbaugh’s long-game succession plan seemed to have some merit.
But the league has changed. Flacco, who has a hip injury, has changed. The team’s record is 4–5, bordering on irrelevance in a more competitive AFC North.
At this point, what was—or is—stopping Harbaugh, Marty Mornhinweg and Greg Roman from hunkering down during the bye and installing something that would maximize all of Jackson’s myriad talents? The Bengals will be in the midst of a coordinator change on defense and vulnerable. There are more examples than ever of offensive coordinators getting their playmakers in space.
Make it work, or go down trying.
It’s probably too simplistic to compare Harbaugh’s situation to that of his brother, Jim, who used an injury to Alex Smith to pivot the offense toward Colin Kaepernick. It earned the team a Super Bowl berth and forced defensive coordinators to spend time preparing for the unknown.
Jackson, who has only made sporadic appearances throughout the season, would at least be good for as much.
Harbaugh’s legacy in Baltimore is fairly secure regardless. He won the most important game in the sport. He seemed to do a fine job perpetuating to Baltimoreans whatever they felt was essential in a Ravens head coach. He was begrudgingly analytical at a time when many coaches were afraid to do anything but punt on fourth down. He worked his way through the business from special teams; a corner of the football world still keeping some good coaches down.
Would he be thought of any less if he tried and failed with Jackson? Would that be hard to explain during another job interview? Probably not. So what is he waiting for?
1. Area man who spent nearly a decade living in glass houses, throws stones.
2. Speaking of insane things, Hue Jackson is back! The Bengals make room for their former OC.
3. The Buccaneers, in full Jameis Winston injury avoidance mode, are sticking with Fitzmagic.
4. The Panthers are all in on Christian McCaffrey as C.J. Anderson hits the waiver wire.
5. What’s the plan now that Cooper Kupp is down for the season?
6. Sean McVay’s mom yelled at him for cursing on television. Moms, right?
7. Now that he’s a member of the Saints, will Brandon Marshall finally make the playoffs?
I am normally resistant to obvious nostalgia grabs targeted at my generation, but holy smokes, inject this straight into my veins. Will see you all at the Rockaway AMC on May 19.