But, it’s getting more difficult to ignore his very measurable success. Here’s a look, entering the 2013 season:
John Harbaugh never wants it to be about him.
But, it’s getting more difficult to ignore his very measurable success. Here’s a look, entering the 2013 season:
From his job interview with the Ravens, to his first press conference, to his consistent action and talk about the Ravens, it is all about “the team” for Coach Harbaugh. Signs can be seen around the Ravens’ training complex: “The Team, The Team, The Team.”
“My coaching philosophy can be summed up easily,” Harbaugh said. “The three most important things are the team, the team and the team. Everything we do is to make the team better. Individuals can let their lights shine, and we encourage that. But, nothing should detract from making the team better.”
Despite his early success as a historically good head coach, “Harbs” diffuses accolades: “It’s about us. It’s about the team. It’s about the players, the coaches, Steve (Bisciotti), Ozzie (Newsome) and the scouts. It’s about Dick (Cass) and the support staff. It’s about all of us pulling together to win – to be the best,” Harbaugh said.
Unlike other NFL head coaches, “Harbs” took the road less traveled. Most NFL field bosses graduate from pro jobs that include the word coordinator after offensive or defensive, or they emerge from heading big-time college programs. John was the secondary coach of the Eagles (2007) – and prior to that, Philadelphia’s special teams coordinator (1998-2006) and a collegiate coach for 14 years – before becoming the Ravens’ head coach in 2008. (Harbaugh also grew up learning about the game from his father, Jack, a longtime college coach.)
Last season (2012), the Ravens captured a second-consecutive AFC North title with a 10-6 mark before sweeping four playoff games to win Super Bowl XLVII: 24-9 over the visiting Colts on Wild Card weekend; 38-35 in double overtime at Denver in the Divisional Round; 28-13 at New England in the AFC Championship – shutting out the Patriots, who owned the league’s top offense, in the second half; and then topping the 49ers, 34-31, in New Orleans after jumping to a 28-6 third-quarter lead. Showing a resolve that was a hallmark of that championship team, the Ravens overcame a three-game December losing streak and 53 games lost to defensive starters to win the title.
Producing a second-straight 12-4 record (13-5 overall) in 2011, Baltimore won the AFC North, sweeping the division for the first time in team history. The Ravens were 6-0 against playoff teams (7-1 including postseason), matching Green Bay as the only clubs to go undefeated in division play and against other postseason qualifiers during the regular season. In what was a franchise first, the Ravens also went unbeaten at home (9-0 with a playoff victory over Houston). Baltimore earned a 20-13 Divisional Round victory over the Texans, and then fell, 23-20, in a heartbreaking AFC Championship thriller at New England.
After earning a 12-4 mark in 2010, the Ravens won at Kansas City (30-7) in the Wild Card playoff. Baltimore then dropped a 31-24 Divisional Round contest at Pittsburgh, which advanced to the Super Bowl. In 2009, Baltimore dominated at New England, 33-14, in the Wild Card game before dropping a 20-3 contest at Super Bowl-bound Indianapolis in the Divisional Round. (The victory at New England was the Patriots’ first playoff loss at home since 1978.)
In Coach Harbaugh’s initial season (2008) in Baltimore, the Ravens advanced to the AFC Championship game after winning at Miami (27-9) and at the AFC’s top-seeded Tennessee Titans, 13-10. Pittsburgh, the eventual Super Bowl champion, stopped the Ravens (23-14) in the AFC title matchup at Heinz Field. That first Harbaugh/Ravens team tied the NFL record (since 1978) for turnarounds by a head coach taking over a sub-.500 team. The Ravens’ 2-1 playoff record following that regular season campaign established a new league standard in this same category. With the 13 total victories in ’08, Harbaugh set the NFL record for the most wins ever by a rookie head coach starting a rookie quarterback (Joe Flacco). In 2012, Harbaugh and Flacco once again set an NFL record when they became the first quarterback-head coach duo to start their NFL careers at the same time and lead a team to the postseason in each of their first five seasons.
Impressively, the Ravens’ top four seasons for fewest turnovers have all occurred during Harbaugh’s tenure. In 2012, Baltimore set a franchise single-season record for fewest turnovers (16), breaking the previous mark of 20 from 2010. Constantly stressing attention to detail, Harbaugh’s 2010 and 2011 teams combined to produce the fewest penalties (182) over a two-year stretch in franchise history.
Maintaining a strong defensive tradition, the Ravens finished four (2008-11) of the past five seasons as the NFL’s No. 3 scoring defense (fewest points allowed) – tying an NFL record for consecutive seasons ranking in the Top 3. Harbaugh’s red zone defense has finished in the Top 5 in each of his seasons, including first in 2011 and second in both 2012 and 2008.
The Ravens’ offense has also experienced successes during the Harbaugh Era. In 2012, QB Joe Flacco produced his fourth-straight 3,500-yard/20-touchdown passing season – a Baltimore football record – while Pro Bowl RB Ray Rice has led the NFL in yards from scrimmage (7,506) since 2009. A year ago, the Ravens set team records with 398 points scored and 72 plays of at least 20 yards gained (third in the league).
John Harbaugh strives to be the best. “We don’t want to just win a championship. We want to be a championship team,” he stated. “We want to become something. We seek the highest levels.” His teams are balanced, disciplined and hard-nosed. “We want to be the most physical team, but we also want to be the cleanest. Hard-hitting and playing with physicality does not mean dirty,” he added.
Harbaugh, who established a reputation as one of the NFL’s top special teams coaches, is the third head coach in Ravens history, following Ted Marchibroda (1996-98) and Brian Billick (1999-2007). Coach Harbaugh arrived in Baltimore with 24 years of pro and college coaching experience, including the previous 10 seasons (1998-2007) with the Eagles.
He was originally hired (1998) by then-head coach Ray Rhodes and, subsequently, was one of four assistants retained by Andy Reid in 1999. Prior to hiring him, the Ravens talked with over 30 people about the energetic Harbaugh. “Did we take a chance by hiring John? My belief is that you have to be willing to do things the masses don’t, or you’ll never separate yourself from the masses,” stated team owner Steve Bisciotti. “We obviously picked the right person.”
Harbaugh’s special teams in Philadelphia were consistently ranked among the NFL’s best. From 2000-05, Philly’s units finished in the Top 10 in five of those seasons in The Dallas Morning News’ comprehensive special teams rankings. In 2001 and 2003, the Eagles ranked No. 1, according to senior NFL writer Rick Gosselin’s composite (includes 22 kicking-game categories).
Following the 2001 campaign, Harbaugh was voted the NFL’s Special Teams Coach of the Year by his peers. He was also named The Dallas Morning News Special Teams Coach of the Year that season. In just four seasons (1998-2001), Harbaugh elevated the Eagles’ special teams units from 29th to first in the league.
In 1999, the Eagles signed K David Akers, who had been working as a part-time waiter after brief kicking stints with Carolina, Atlanta and Washington. With Harbaugh’s help, Akers became a three-time Pro Bowler. Harbaugh also worked with P Dirk Johnson, another “street” free agent, helping him record the then-top two net punting averages (38.4 in 2005 and 37.4 in 2004) in Eagles history. Under “Harbs,” 15 Eagles earned Special Teams Player of the Week awards, while snapper Mike Bartrum was named to the Pro Bowl, and RS Reno Mahe led the NFL with a 12.8 punt return average in 2005.
Harbaugh, a graduate of Miami (OH) – where he played defensive back – is from a football family. His father, Jack, is a 41-year coaching veteran who won the 2002 NCAA Division I-AA football championship as the head coach at Western Kentucky. His younger brother Jim, who was the Ravens’ starting QB in 1998, played 14 seasons in the NFL and was named the San Francisco 49ers’ head coach in January 2011. In a showdown that featured the first-ever NFL game between head coaches who are brothers, John’s Ravens bested Jim’s 49ers, 16-6, in a 2011 Thanksgiving Night (Nov. 24) primetime special. The Ravens, of course, then topped the 49ers in last season’s Super Bowl. (The brothers’ sister, Joani, is married to Indiana basketball coach Tom Crean.)
Among John’s 29 years of coaching is a two-year stint as the assistant head coach at the University of Cincinnati (1995-96). (The Bearcats finished 6-5 both seasons.) He coached 10 years on offense and four on defense at the college level, launching his coaching career in 1984 at the age of 21 as a graduate assistant for his father at Western Michigan. In his second position at the University of Pittsburgh (1987), he was mentored by the legendary Sid Gillman, a Pro Football Hall of Famer. John also coached the TEs at Pitt under head coach Mike Gottfried. While at Cincinnati (1989-96), Harbaugh coached special teams, TEs, OLBs, RBs and was also the recruiting coordinator.Over eight years, he recruited 27 starters for the Bearcats and tutored both the NCAA’s top return man (former Raven Robert Tate, 34.3 KOR avg. in 1995) and the second-ranked returner (current Ravens assistant special teams coach Chris Hewitt, 31.5 KOR avg. in 1993). John was part of a staff that helped Cincinnati produce three out of four winning seasons (1993, 1995-96) for the first time in 20 years.
“Harbs” also coached one season at Indiana in 1997 as the DBs coach/special teams coordinator under former Ravens offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, and one year at Morehead State in 1988 as the DBs coach/special teams and strength and conditioning coordinator.
Devoted to his family and his Christian faith, John is most active in helping the Baltimore area be better for families. He earned the 2011 “Power of Excellence Award” from the (Ben) Carson Scholars for “demonstrating excellence in life and being a role model.” He’s a board member for the Port Discovery Children’s Museum and a significant contributor to All Pro Dads, along with numerous Baltimore-area events and charities. Also a willing volunteer, his wife, Ingrid, contributes to both the Helping Up Mission and Sarah’s House.
Harbaugh has also been an advocate of the U.S. Military. In 2011, he was selected as one of two finalists (Titans owner Bud Adams) for the inaugural NFL Salute to Service award for exceptional efforts to honor and support the military community. In 2012, Harbaugh was presented an Outstanding Civilian Service Award by General Raymond Odierno, Chief of Staff of the Army. His passion for assisting the troops was felt immediately by the Ravens in 2008 when he helped institute Military Appreciation Day, an annual Ravens event that takes place during training camp. Since then, an estimated 5,000 service members have enjoyed preferred seating and opportunities to meet with Ravens players and coaches each summer. Away from the field, “Harbs” often recruits players and coaches to join him during base visits. He has also spent significant time and funds putting together care packages for soldiers overseas, in addition to school supplies for military families.
Harbaugh earned a degree in political science at Miami (OH), where he won the Football Scholar Athlete Award. In early 2014, John will be inducted into Miami’s “Cradle of Coaches Association” and will be immortalized with a statue on the campus. He earned his master’s in physical education at Western Michigan. John, who attended Ann Arbor (MI) Pioneer HS, Ingrid, and their daughter, Alison, live in Reisterstown, MD.
John Harbaugh speaks to the media after the Ravens' preseason loss to the Carolina Panthers.
The president had a humorous remark for Ray Lewis, Ed Reed and Joe Flacco.