Like it or not, Harbaugh begins offseason review
John Harbaugh would have preferred to be wearing sweat clothes,
standing on the football field and surrounded by a bunch of
Instead, the Baltimore Ravens coach was sporting a sharp gray
suit, light blue shirt and striped tie Tuesday as he entered a vast
auditorium in the team’s training complex. The audience consisted
of members of the local media.
”I guess I apologize for the fact that we’re even having this
press conference, that we have to talk about wrapping up the season
and the playoffs haven’t even started yet,” Harbaugh said.
”That’s not territory that we’re very comfortable with or very
familiar with or that we’re very happy about around here.”
This is the time of year when Harbaugh usually gets his team
ready for the postseason. On this day, however, he was stuck with
explaining what went wrong during an 8-8 season that caused
Baltimore to miss the playoffs for the first time in his six years
as an NFL head coach.
”We understand that we didn’t get the job done, and we
understand that we’ve got to go to work to improve in every single
way that we possibly can,” Harbaugh said.
Coming off a victory in the Super Bowl, the Ravens sputtered
from the outset – losing to Denver 49-27 in the opener – and never
really recovered. Baltimore was 4-6 before going on a four-game
winning streak, but finished with lopsided losses to New England
and Cincinnati to fall from playoff contention.
Harbaugh won’t have to pore over much film to determine the
team’s flaws. In truth, he’s known for months why the Ravens aren’t
good enough to be in the playoffs.
The lengthy list begins with a running game that averaged a
meager 3.1 yards per carry.
”That’s probably our biggest disappointment, because we
philosophically believe in being a rough, tough, physical offense
that can run the football,” Harbaugh said. ”That’s got to be a
staple of what we’re going to do, and it wasn’t this year because
of a lot of things.”
Running back Ray Rice was slowed by a hip injury and finished
with only 660 yards rushing, but much of the blame can be directed
at an offensive line that neither opened up holes nor protected
quarterback Joe Flacco, who threw a career-high 22 interceptions
and was sacked 48 times.
”We’re going to need to run the ball better, we’re going to
need to protect Joe better,” Harbaugh said. ”Those things will
make us better offensively. We’ve got to make more big plays down
Flacco, the Super Bowl MVP, simply wasn’t as effective as he was
last year. There were a variety of reasons for the decline,
beginning with the offseason trade of Anquan Boldin and including
the training camp injury of tight end Dennis Pitta.
”We were not as good in the passing game as we needed to be,”
Harbaugh said. ”We never got together. If we’re going to be where
we need to be going forward, we have to work on getting that
It wasn’t just the offense. The defense performed well enough
after losing Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Bernard Pollard and Cary Williams,
but there was plenty of room for improvement.
”We’ve got to be better defensively in some ways, too,”
Harbaugh said. ”We need to be better in the fourth quarter, we’ve
got to be better protecting leads late in the game. Those are
things that probably would have made a difference in games that
probably would have gotten us into the playoffs. Coaches are
working on this.”
Although it’s not his preference, Harbaugh will begin planning
toward next year much earlier than usual.
”In all honesty, I cannot wait – and I know our coaches feel
the same way – to dig into building our systems going forward,” he
said. ”This is when you build the foundation of your team. The
better job that we do right now, scheme-wise and personnel-wise,
the better that we’ll do next year. It’s like a sense of urgency
right now to get to work.”
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org