Players Give Credit To John Harbaugh


John Harbaugh emphasized Monday that he wanted the focus to be on his players leading up to the Super Bowl, not on him and his brother.

But veteran Ravens players put the spotlight right back on Harbaugh, crediting him with the Ravens'run to the Super Bowl.

"I think he's a special kind of coach," center Matt Birk said. "I really do – special kind of person, just the way that he connects with players as a group, but also on an individual level."

"One thing I've said about coach Harbaugh, I take my hat off to him," safety Bernard Pollard added. "The last few weeks, we can't even express how happy we are for him and just for this organization."

Harbaugh has been one of the NFL's most successful coaches during his time in Baltimore, as the Ravens are the only team to advance to the playoffs (and win a playoff game) in each of the last five seasons.

His 62-30 record (combined regular season and playoffs) is the second best mark in the NFL behind Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick. With a Super Bowl victory, Harbaugh would tie Belichick for the most wins over the last five seasons.

Harbaugh's success has been historic – he's the only coach in NFL history to win a playoff game in each of his first four and five seasons – but he often flies under the radar in terms of overall recognition. He has never been honored as the NFL's coach of the year and often gets overlooked in the media as one of the league's top coaches.

But Harbaugh's role in the Ravens' success isn't lost on his players.

"When you want to play for a guy, I think you play a little harder," Birk said. "You do some of the extra things that it takes to be successful."

Harbaugh has shown a willingness to confront challenges head-on, even in the face of criticism. Earlier this season immediately following the team's bye week, Harbaugh faced tough questions from players during a team meeting.

Rather than shutting out the questions, Harbaugh welcomed them.

"He humbled himself," safety Ed Reed said. "He knows what day I'm talking about – the bye week – to really listen to his players. … It was just something we had to go through as men and understand each other and understand the process together."

"We had a mid-season thing," Harbaugh added. "One thing about our guys, we like our guys talking things out and confronting issues. We've been doing that throughout the course of the season and it's pushed us so close as a football team. I think you're seeing the results of that right now."

Harbaugh is known for his workmanlike approach to his craft.

He pushes his players with tough practices and demanding hours, and that style has resonated and paid dividends for the Ravens.

"I think he gets the most out of us. We work hard," Birk said. "What's the secret to your success? When we come to work, we work. There aren't any easy days here, and that's a good thing. He says, 'Let's just work as hard as we can and get as good as we can, and then see what happens.' That's a great philosophy that, obviously, everybody has bought into."

Harbaugh grinded his way to the top of the coaching profession with stops at every rung of the ladder. He bounced around as an assistant at the college ranks, makings stops at Western Michigan, Pittsburgh, Morehead State, Cincinnati and Indiana.

He broke into the NFL as a special teams coordinator for the Eagles in 1998, and then stayed in Philadelphia until getting hired as the Ravens head coach in 2008. After hiring Harbaugh, the Ravens made quarterback Joe Flacco their first-round pick.

"You've got to tie him in with Joe," linebacker Ray Lewis said.  "They kind of came in together and we've been to, what, three AFC championships? A lot of them we could've won, but it just wasn't our time. But I think that the growing that he did with his team, the way he grew with us and the way that we understand and we respect each other and the conversations that we have as men, that's what I applaud him the most about."

When the Ravens hired Harbaugh, the move was criticized by some because he hadn't been a head coach at any level, or an offensive or defensive coordinator in the NFL, which is typically the path to become an NFL head coach.

But the Ravens bucked the trend in the NFL by hiring Harbaugh, who is now has led the Ravens to their first Super Bowl since 2000, and undoubtedly earned the respect of his players.

"For everything we've been through since Coach Harbaugh got here," Reed said, "he had a vision of working us a certain way and taking us through something to build something and to create this moment.

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