Football World Reacts to John Harbaugh's Contract Extension
Ravens Owner Steve Bisciotti extended Head Coach John Harbaugh's contract yesterday, which was previously set to expire after the 2018 season.
And if NFL Insider Ian Rapoport is correct in reporting that it's a one-year extension, that means Harbaugh is scheduled to lead the Ravens for another three years. You're not going to find too many NFL contracts that promise more time than that.
As such, ESPN's Jamison Hensley says Bisciotti's move to keep his head coach in town for even longer is a sign that he believes Harbaugh will pull the team out of its recent playoff slump.
"The Baltimore Ravens did something they've rarely done in team history [with the announced extension]," Hensley wrote. "Why would the Ravens do so this time? This is likely a public vote of confidence to a head coach who has missed the playoffs for three of the past four seasons."
Harbaugh is facing an uphill battle as he attempts to return to the postseason.
We're not even out of the preseason yet, and the Ravens have already lost eight players to season-ending injuries, two to retirement and one to a season-long suspension. That's not even counting franchise quarterback Joe Flacco (back), who has yet to practice since minicamp in mid-June, nor wide receiver Breshad Perriman, who has been dealing with a hamstring injury since Aug. 1.
"This isn't an ideal situation for any coach, especially one who originally was entering his contract year in 2018. That's why the extension comes across as a timely move," wrote Hensley. "[T]his reported one-year extension suggests Harbaugh is getting some breathing room during what has already been a trying year."
And can we just nip the cynics in the bud right now?
You know, the ones who were quick to point out that Brian Billick was fired one year after getting a four-year contract. But, really, what's the tangible takeaway there? That there's no guarantee of job security in the NFL? Sorry, that's not news – every player and coach understands that, no matter what size contract they sign.
Plus, the circumstances under Billick's departure were different. The Ravens wanted to change the culture of the locker room back then, whereas players today are raving about team chemistry despite the run on injuries.
"Some had speculated that the 2017 season would be 'playoffs or bust' for [Harbaugh], but [Bisciotti] took a step to dispel that perception," wrote WNST's Luke Jones. "Bisciotti made it clear after last year's 8-8 campaign that he expected more from Harbaugh as well as General Manager Ozzie Newsome and Assistant General Manager Eric DeCosta, but he gave no ultimatum that this season would be a make-or-break year for the coach he hired to replace Brian Billick in 2008."
After going 31-33 since winning Super Bowl XLVII, there has been talk about the proverbial "hot seat" for Harbaugh. But Bisciotti said at the end of last season that when a team finishes with a losing record like the Ravens did in 2015 – the only losing season under Harbaugh in nine years – he grades on the curve if there are major injures. The Ravens lost Flacco to a season-ending knee injury that season, as well as other key players like Terrell Suggs and Steve Smith Sr.
Ravens columnist John Eisenberg says in the audio file to the right that Harbaugh's seat was never hot. That, in fact, it's "as cold as a January playoff game."
"Despite these uneven times, Harbaugh is still widely considered one of the better head coaches in football," wrote NFL.com's Conor Orr.
Bisciotti has frequently stated that he believes stability leads to long-term success. He has pointed to the Pittsburgh Steelers as a successful model to follow. The Rooney family stuck with Bill Cowher after he missed the playoffs in three consecutive years, and did the same with Mike Tomlin when he failed to advance three out of five years after lifting the Lombardi Trophy.
Cowher got the team back on track and eventually won a Super Bowl in 2005, and Tomlin has since led the Steelers to three-straight playoff berths.
Harbaugh is the sixth-longest tenured head coach in the league, only behind New England's Bill Belichick (17 years), Cincinnati's Marvin Lewis (15), Green Bay's Mike McCarthy (12), New Orleans' Sean Payton (12) and Tomlin (11).
And since Harbaugh took over in 2008, the Ravens' 10 playoff wins are the second most in the league behind Belichick. That type of successful record shouldn't be taken for granted.
"Is there someone out there who would be an improvement over Harbaugh?" asked Hensley.
"While Harbaugh has to share some of the blame for the Ravens' recent failures, he shouldn't shoulder all of it," Hensley wrote. "The front office has played a large role, as well. In 2013, the Ravens went 8-8 because they didn't properly address the loss of Ray Lewis, Ed Reed and Anquan Boldin. In 2015, Baltimore struggled to go 5-11 because there was no adequate replacement for Flacco.
"With their amount of injuries, the Ravens are going to need a strong coaching effort to do so. And, with this contract extension, Bisciotti believes Harbaugh is the right coach to do it."
What's the Impact of Albert McClellan's Season-Ending Injury?
Linebacker and special teams ace Albert McClellan becomes the eighth player to suffer a season-ending injury, and like the others, his loss hurts.
"McClellan, 31, is listed as a backup inside linebacker behind C.J. Mosley, but McClellan has been a special-teams ace for years and can play any linebacker position in the Ravens' 3-4 defense," wrote The Press Box's Bo Smolka. "He is also a locker room leader and considered a mentor to young Ravens linebackers and special teams players. Only five Ravens have longer tenure with the team than McClellan."
Either Kamalei Correa or Patrick Onwuasor was already expected to become the starting linebacker next to Mosley, but McClellan provided a nice insurance policy if neither of the second-year players worked out. Undrafted rookies Bam Bradley and Donald Payne now have a better chance of making the roster.
But the biggest impact may be felt on special teams, where McClellan was one of the clear leaders. He led the team in special teams tackles in 2011, 2013*and 2014, *and tied for second in 2015.
"His versatility is valued on game days when there are only 46 active players and few backups within each positional group," Jones wrote. "McClellan's loss may prompt general manager Ozzie Newsome to seek veteran depth at the [linebacker]."
Matthew Stafford Becomes NFL's Highest-Paid Player
Remember when Flacco set the quarterback market with a $120 million deal?
Well, the Detroit Lions and Matthew Stafford just blew that out of the water by another whopping $15 million on a five-year deal that the team announced Monday.
"The deal is worth $135 million with $92 million in guarantees, making Stafford the highest-paid player in the league," wrote NFL.com's Nick Shook. "The $27 million-per-year average surpasses a deal signed earlier this summer by Raiders quarterback Derek Carr, which pays the Oakland passer an annual average of $25 million."
Don't be surprised if upcoming contracts one-up the Stafford-Lions deal. That's just how the NFL world works. Each new deal has to out-due the last.
"It opens up the possibilities for future larger paydays for the league's other upper-echelon passers, such as Aaron Rodgers and Matt Ryan, among others," wrote Shook. "It's only a matter of time before we end up seeing a $30 million per year quarterback in the NFL."
Tyus Bowser a 'Rare Gem' and Has Been Best Rookie of Preseason
The Ravens rookie class has been impressive this season, but the most impressive of all has been second-round outside linebacker Tyus Bowser, says The Baltimore Sun's Childs Walker.
Walker said Bowser might be a "rare gem."
"Natural pass rushers are the most coveted defensive commodity in professional football," Walker wrote. "Players who can cover are next. If you find a guy who can do both, well, that's quite a thing.
"He made another two plays behind the line of scrimmage against the Buffalo Bills. But as he has all preseason, he also demonstrated the mobility to defend passes in the flats and even downfield. That fits with what the Ravens saw on Bowser's game film from Houston. He also comes off as a thoughtful, composed personality, which doesn't hurt. We haven't seen much of first-round draft pick Marlon Humphrey, but of all the rookies who've played substantial snaps, Bowser feels the most like a potential star."