The Ravens had the best regular season in franchise history, and the coach who led them has been honored for it.
Head Coach John Harbaugh was named the 2019 AP Coach of the Year Saturday night at NFL Honors in Miami. It's the first time Harbaugh has won the award during an outstanding 12-year career that has made him the winningest coach in franchise history.
By a vote count of 27-14, Harbaugh beat out San Francisco 49ers Head Coach Kyle Shannahan, who helped turn the 49ers around after going 4-12 last season and are now in the Super Bowl following a 13-3 regular season. In the regular season, however, Harbaugh's Ravens defeated Shannahan's 49ers.
"This is football, and these are really team awards, none more so than this award right here," Harbaugh said after being presented by actor Josh Charles, a big-time Ravens fan who texts Harbaugh after every game.
Harbaugh's teams have made the playoffs eight times, including Baltimore's 2012 Super Bowl season. However, the Ravens had never had a regular season quite like 2019.
They finished with the NFL's best record (14-2) and enjoyed a franchise-record 12-game winning streak to end the regular season. Baltimore captured its second straight AFC North title, winning the division by a six-game margin, and clinched the AFC's No. 1 seed in Week 16.
Harbaugh thanked his family, though his wife, Ingrid, and daughter, Alison, were not able to be in attendance because Alison had a big basketball game, and won, Harbaugh pointed out with a smile. He thanked the "top-notch" Ravens organization, starting with Owner Steve Bisciotti, President Dick Cass through the rest of the front office.
"Mostly and above all, our players and our coaches. We have some special people," Harbaugh said. "They're a joy .. to work with every single day and an honor to be around. Players and coaches, you make it happen."
It was Harbaugh's vision that set the tone for Baltimore's record-setting season. He was the driving force in the decision to re-design the offense and to tailor the attack around the skill set of second-year quarterback Lamar Jackson. While some were skeptical it would work, Harbaugh went against the NFL grain and relied on Jackson's ability as both a passer and runner to lead an offense that was versatile, unique, and difficult to stop.
Showing his openness to new ideas, Harbaugh relied more on analytics when making in-game decisions while continuing to trust his instincts. The Ravens became the NFL's most aggressive team on fourth down with much success. They were a perfect 8-for-8 on fourth-and-1 during the regular season, staying on the attack in situations when many teams would have punted or settled for a field goal.
Harbaugh is the winningest coach in franchise history (118-74 regular season, 10-7 postseason), with only one losing season, establishing a winning culture in Baltimore that has stood the test of time. Only three active NFL head coaches have a longer tenure – Bill Belichick of the Patriots (2000), Sean Payton of the New Orleans Saints (2006), and Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers (2007). All of them have won at least one Super Bowl.
Regardless of personnel or playing style, the Ravens have continued to thrive under Harbaugh. There have been seasons when Baltimore relied on its defense to win. But in 2019, the Ravens were the NFL's highest-scoring team, averaging 33.2 points.
In an era when potent passing attacks are prevalent, the Ravens set the NFL single season rushing record (3,296 yards), topping the Patriots' mark of 3,165 yards in 1978. They became the first team in NFL history to average more than 200 passing yards and 200 rushing yards in a season. Their exploits resulted in wide individual recognition for players, as 13 Ravens were selected to the Pro Bowl, tying an NFL record for most from one team in a single season.
Harbaugh is quick to praise others for contributing to his success, but winning Coach of the Year for the first time adds another highlight to his already impressive tenure. He is a coach who prefers to chase excellence over accolades. But this season, Harbaugh received both.