Sometimes it takes adversity to really learn some of the tough lessons in life.
Head Coach John Harbaugh has, thankfully, not had to deal with a whole lot of extended brutal stretches over his eight-year Ravens coaching career.
Yes, there have been ups and downs along the way. But with six playoff trips in his last seven seasons and one Super Bowl ring on his finger, Harbaugh has enjoyed a whole lot of good days.
He, nor many people around the Under Armour Performance Center, have ever dealt with the kind of season the Ravens are having, mired at 4-9.
For the first time during Harbaugh's tenure, the Ravens are officially out of playoff contention before the final game of the season.
So how is Harbaugh handling it? He was asked that Monday as he faced a final three-game stretch with less meaning than usual.
"Are you asking me how I'm doing? Fine, thanks, and you?" Harbaugh initially quipped, inciting laughter among reporters. "I told the guys last night I've learned a lot. … I know I'm a much better man and coach than I was four months ago."
Without elaborating (perhaps he will after the season is over) Harbaugh said he now understands some things that he didn't understand four months ago. He's encouraging his players and coaches to take the same mental stance.
"It's not like I didn't think I had things to learn. You always know you have things to learn in life, and we all know we have rough edges," Harbaugh said. "We all know we have holes and weak spots and things like that, but we don't really want them tested."
Harbaugh and the Ravens have certainly been tested this year.
They had a brutal road stretch to begin the season. They were only the second team since 2000 to have five road games in their first seven contests (the 2000 Ravens were the other).
They experienced heartbreaking defeats and major injuries from the very beginning, Week 1 in Denver. Steve Smith Sr. had a potential game-winning touchdown in his hands and Joe Flacco's final pass in the end zone was intercepted. The final result was overshadowed by a season-ending Achilles injury to Pro Bowl outside linebacker Terrell Suggs.
The hits didn't stop coming, as a referee's pass interference call swung a Week 2 game in Oakland and a defensive secondary meltdown led to a crushing Week 3 loss to the rival Bengals.
An overtime win over the rival Steelers provided an oasis, but the respite quickly evaporated. There was another defensive lapse against Cleveland, a tough pill to swallow on Monday Night Football in Arizona, then a blown referee call that resulted in a loss to the Jaguars.
After Flacco went down in Week 11, the Ravens' chances of making a late run were slim, and Sunday's blowout 35-6 loss to the Seattle Seahawks was the final, "painful" nail in the playoff coffin.
"We're going through a real painful, tough season," Harbaugh said. "It's like having a cannonball in your gut, and that's how we feel right now."
In Sunday's locker room, Harbaugh talked to his team about having an "opportunity" to forge a positive story amidst trying times.
"You have an opportunity to make a statement and establish who you are as a person – who you are as a man – and what you stand for," Harbaugh said. "It's an opportunity someday to tell your kids when they are going through a tough time – a tough stretch in their life – 'OK, let me tell you about the 2015 season that we had. Let me tell you how we handled it as a team and as a family. Let me tell you how I handled it, how I went through it.'"
Privately, Harbaugh is leaning on his personal faith. He said one Bible verse, James 1:2, has been jumping out at him the last couple weeks.
"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds," the verse says.
"Things happen for a reason," Harbaugh said. "I believe that, and I'm going to rejoice in those things. I'm going to rejoice in those moments. … It's to make us better. It's to forge us, to make us become something. Sometimes that's just words. Other times it's reality. And for me, it has been a reality."