In the aftermath of the hiring of Ravens head coach John Harbaugh, BaltimoreRavens.com sought out a fans' voice straight from the message boards. "theFranchise" is one of the most-frequent posters on the team's official boards, and he was the inaugural winner of the Ravens' "Post From the Press Box" contest, where he sat in the Press Box at M&T Bank Stadium for a game this year.
Here is what theFranchise had to say:
"Welcome Coach Harbaugh" - three words splashed across the header of BaltimoreRavens.com that invoked an expletive, followed by stunned silence.
Silence, however, is not always a bad thing. In this case, silence was the only appropriate response to the hiring of a coach whose resume is relatively unknown. But days later, after researching his background, "coach Harbaugh" is starting to have a nice ring to it.
To summarize John Harbaugh's career here would be a waste, as several sources have already done so, including BaltimoreRavens.com. Rather, I have been asked to give my honest opinion on the hiring of John Harbaugh without a single head coaching decision made. In my mind, the question that every fan must ask is, how does anyone know that this is the right man for the job if he has never done it before?
That is not an indictment of Harbaugh's lack of experience as a coordinator or head coach in this league. Despite his lack of visibility, his prior credentials provide more peace of mind than Dallas offensive coordinator Jason Garrett, whose coaching experience is extremely limited. Instead, as fans, we are left to support Coach Harbaugh out of love for this team. Respect for what he has accomplished in his 20-plus years as a coach is unquestioned. The praise that has been heaped upon him by former players and coaches with whom he has worked speaks volumes about his character.
Character, it seems, is the operative word at 1 Winning Drive. Behind the closed doors of the Castle, decisions are made in the draft and in free agency on players who possess the qualities of a Baltimore Raven. A similar process was undoubtedly employed in finding only the third head coach in Ravens history, albeit with much more deliberation. At the end of the day, as the Ravens' philosophy entails, winning off the field is equally important as winning on the field. Frankly, John Harbaugh has all of the qualities of a winner.
From his press conference and interviews, Coach Harbaugh comes across as a charismatic individual with strong convictions. Through his words and mannerisms, Harbaugh spews personality and gives off an energetic aura that is refreshing after a disappointing season. A video feature in the Baltimore Ravens Media Player, however, revealed a side of the man under the headset that was genuinely human. The manner in which he spoke to the legendary Art Modell was touching, as his hushed tone exuded awe and respect for the man responsible for the Ravens.
Though he has yet to roam the sidelines as a head coach, Harbaugh's enthusiasm thus far makes it hard to imagine success not being in his future. As Modell pointed out, the locker room is filled with loyalty and passion. That passion should not be difficult to translate into wins on the field, as the desire to win is usually all that stands between victory and defeat at the final whistle.
With that said, I am comfortable with John Harbaugh as the new head coach of the Ravens. Though I cannot fully stand behind him until he puts his stamp on this team, patience is a virtue, even in this "what-have-you-done-for-me-lately" league. I still anticipate growing pains in this first season of the Harbaugh Era, the Ravens' losing record in 2007 notwithstanding.
To paraphrase a famous quote, "things can only get worse before they can get better." The fall from 13-3 to 5-11 is a harsh reminder of parity in the NFL. Harbaugh has been entrusted with reversing the Ravens' fortunes, and in doing so, must weather the storm of criticism that is sure to come his way once he experiences his first bump in the road. Despite whatever rough seas he may travel, coach Harbaugh now bleeds purple and black. And blood is always thicker than water.
Undoubtedly, when Ray Lewis asks, "WHAT TIME IS IT?!?," at the start of the season, Coach Harbaugh will know it's game time.