Just five weeks ago now, the Baltimore Ravens and head coach John Harbaugh were sitting on Cloud-9.
At the time, they were coming off a last minute 19-17 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars. The game, although it took a 53-yard field goal by Justin Tucker in the last 90 seconds for them to win, moved the team’s record to 3-0 and tied them for first-place in the AFC. It looked like the Ravens were back to stay and their 5-11 record from 2015 was a distant memory.
It’s amazing how much things can change in just one month.
The perfect start to the 2016 season has to seem like a distant memory at this point for Raven fans. With their latest 24-16 loss to the New York Jets this past week, they have now lost four games in a row and find themselves closer to the cellar of the AFC than the top. That last minute victory against Jacksonville in September, the first month of the season, is the last time they’ve tasted victory at this moment.
Now the one thing everyone in Baltimore will tell you is that the team only lost by a combined 19 points during the four-game losing streak and each loss was by just one score or less. So the Ravens are just a touchdown per game away from being 7-0 as opposed to 3-4.
As Baltimore learned in 2015 though, close does them no good when playoff time comes around. Last year of their 11 losses, nine of them came with the Ravens losing by just one score or less and five of them came with a margin of less than four points.
So the Ravens were ultimately very close to a winning season in 2015 if a few things would have swung their way. In the end though, close losses do nothing to help the Ravens win the AFC North. They certainly don’t help them make the playoffs and they damn sure won’t help them reach their ultimate goal – a Super Bowl Championship.
More importantly, those close losses won’t do anything to help head coach John Harbaugh keep his job.
The bottom line is that someone has to take accountability for the narrow defeats. They can brush these close losses off as bad luck or a play here or there all they want, but it doesn’t change the fact that the Ravens, and Harbaugh, are paid to win games.
Now of course the players have to take a great deal of responsibility for the play of the team and chief among them is quarterback Joe Flacco. He currently has one of the worst quarterback ratings in the NFL and has thrown more interceptions than touchdowns.
Clearly Flacco needs to be better, and even he knows it, but his play is not the only reason for Baltimore’s struggles. There are many reasons why the Ravens are currently below .500.
And all of them lead back to Harbaugh.
When push comes to shove, Harbaugh is responsible for all aspects of this team. Blame can get redirected to the offense, the defense, or the other coaches all he wants, but the bottom line is that all roads lead back to the head coach.
So despite the fact that Harbaugh has been in Baltimore since 2008 and even won a championship with the team, it will not keep him off the hot seat this offseason if the Ravens continue to play this way.
As a very famous quote from then New York Jets head coach Herm Edwards says:
“You play to win the game!”
And Harbaugh certainly hasn’t been winning enough games over the past two seasons.