Harbaugh Could Be Next Great NFL Coach
I still remember sitting in the press conference after the Ravens had fired Brian Billick, and Owner Steve Bisciotti said he was on the lookout for the next Hall of Fame coach.
Nearly six years later, I sat in front of John Harbaugh yesterday as he told the President of the United States that he plans on returning to the White House next year to celebrate a second Super Bowl win.
Since becoming the head coach of the Ravens in 2008, all Harbaugh has done is consistently win, which is why ESPN believes he can become the NFL's "next great coach."
"While it's too early to start talking about making a bust of Harbaugh for Canton, his ability to consistently win – and win at a high level – in a league that prides itself on parity underscores an unprecedented path of success," wrote Jamison Hensley.
"Harbaugh, 50, didn't make the cut in ESPN.com's countdown of the 20 greatest coaches of all time. He would, however, rank at the top of the list for the NFL's next great coach."
Consider these impressive stats that put Harbaugh in a league of his own:
He has won more games in his first five seasons than any coach in NFL history. He is the only one to win a playoff game in each of his first five seasons. He is the only one to make it to three conference championships in his first five years.
Critics will tell you that Harbaugh has been fortunate to coach great players, which he'll say is true, but Hensley says Harbaugh's knack to overcome challenges is often overlooked. He got to the AFC championship after parting ways with Derrick Mason and Todd Heap, then won the Super Bowl after Terrell Suggs and Ray Lewis missed a combined 18 games due to injury.
"His teams have always survived serious injuries to star players, unpopular divorces with fan favorites, offensive inconsistency and a near-annual turnover at defensive coordinator (four in five seasons)," Hensley wrote.
"When you sign up for Harbaugh's program, you're required to follow the rules at practice. Run full speed. Tuck in your shirts. Buckle your chinstrap. And don't ever think of sitting down. The signs posted throughout Ravens headquarters – like W.I.N. (What's Important Now) and Team, Team, Team -- seem more suited for a college setting, but Harbaugh is all about professionalism. If you're not playing the best at that position, Harbaugh won't put you on the field, and it doesn't matter if you're a former Pro Bowl player. … His attention to detail was key in turning the Ravens from underachievers to a perennial playoff team."
Hensley compared Harbaugh to Bill Belichick, who is easily considered the best coach of this era. Belichick called Bisciotti to recommend Harbaugh for his head coach position.
Since Harbaugh was hired, the two great coaches are tied for the most wins in the league (63). They are tied for the fifth-best winning percentage in the playoffs (.692) in NFL history. Both grew up with a father who was a head coach, and both started out as special teams coaches.
Hensley pointed out that Harbaugh can become the head coach since Belichick to repeat as a Super Bowl champion.
If Harbaugh is going to accomplish the feat, he'll have to take a crack at it for the first time without future Hall of Famers Ray Lewis and Ed Reed.
"What you'll read now about Harbaugh is how this is his team since Lewis has retired," Hensley wrote. "That's the perception on the outside. Those at Ravens headquarters know this has always been Harbaugh's team."
Suggs' Message For Roethlisberger After Knee Surgery
News broke yesterday that Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger underwent surgery to repair the meniscus in his right knee.
That was not music to Terrell Suggs' ears.
In 2011, Suggs had sacked Roethlisberger more than any other NFL defender with 15.5 takedowns. Suggs didn't get a chance to boost that stat last season because Roethlisberger missed both Ravens-Steelers matchups after sustaining a sprained right shoulder and a dislocated rib.
Suggs was asked if he had a message for Roethlisberger as he rehabs his knee, which, by the way, only took him three weeks to recover from the last time he had the same surgery. He's expected back by training camp.
"We know how much you two love each other," said NFL Network's Amber Theoharis. "So I'm sure you have some well wishes for him as you're looking for him to recover, getting ready for that matchup."
Said Suggs, "You know, it just isn't the same game when the two teams don't have all their parts playing. So you're absolutely right, I do wish him well."
Then it was the delivery of his next line that was great (be sure to watch it in the video below).
"And I hope for him to have a speedy recovery," Suggs said in a staccato rhythm with a sly, mischievous smile etched on his face.
Translation: Please get healthy so I can knock you around some more.
Quiet Signing Of Smith Could Be A Steal
Among all the hubbub of the yesterday's White House visit, the Ravens quietly made a move that could prove to be huge this season.
Baltimore inked underestimated linebacker Daryl Smith to a one-year deal. The terms of the deal haven't been released yet, but The Baltimore Sun's Aaron Wilson said he was told it was a relatively small investment for the Ravens.
He will be leaving the Jacksonville Jaguars after being drafted in the second round of the 2004 draft and becoming the franchise's all-time leading tackler.
"Smith, 31, was an underrated linebacker during his nine-year career with the Jacksonville Jaguars, and the Ravens were lucky to find such a solid player in June who fills a void," wrote Hensley. "Smith is great insurance for the Ravens if Jameel McClain can't return to form or rookie second-round pick Arthur Brown isn't ready to start immediately. He essentially replaces Rolando McClain, who abruptly retired a month ago."
The question with Smith is whether he is fully recovered from a groin injury that sidelined him all but two games last season. If the Ravens are getting the 2011 Smith, however, SI.com's Chris Burke says the Ravens are getting a "steal."
"Adding D Smith could be HUGE for #Ravens, who I already expected to have an ELITE D in 2013...good for A Brown as well to mentor," tweeted ESPN NFL scout Matt Williamson.
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