Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh may have earned criticism for his aggressive decision-making during the 2021 season, but new analysis from Pro Football Focus indicates that Harbaugh is one of the very best in the NFL at elevating his team.
PFF’s Conor McQuiston ranked the league’s 26 active coaches with previous head-coaching experience by estimating “how many games the coach would win with an average team.”
McQuiston explained on Twitter that his model used “the salary of every starter on a roster as a proxy for a talent” to adjust for a team’s talent level and isolate the impact of head coaches on the teams’ success.
Harbaugh finished in second place, with a predicted record of 10.7 wins and 6.3 losses with an average NFL roster behind only New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick.
McQuiston praised Harbaugh’s ability to get the most out of his offenses despite Baltimore’s historical lack of investment on that side of the ball, writing:
Harbaugh’s head coaching career includes many iterations of offenses helmed by the typically solid yet unspectacular Joe Flacco that generally lacked upper-echelon talent. Despite this, the Ravens have always fielded above-average offenses — and tremendous defenses.
Despite Harbaugh’s background as a special teams coach, he’s upheld Baltimore’s tradition of strong defenses while uplifting their offenses during his tenure. The Ravens were a top-10 defense in 10 of Harbaugh’s 14 seasons as head coach while also finishing among the NFL’s top 10 scoring offenses six times.
While Lamar Jackson is obviously the catalyst for the Ravens’ recent offensive success, Harbaugh deserves credit for embracing Jackson’s unique skillset and completely overhauling Baltimore’s offense to best fit his young quarterback.
That adaptability has allowed Harbaugh to consistently field competitive teams during his career, including nine playoff appearances and a Super Bowl victory in 2012.
McQuiston’s calculations estimated that Harbaugh’s coaching would add 90 points to an average offense across a season while reducing the points allowed by an average defense by 11. That’s the second-best offensive and fourth-best defensive mark among the 26 coaches ranked, placing Harbaugh ahead of offensive gurus like Sean McVay and defensive-minded coaches like Brandon Staley.
Harbaugh Key to Ravens’ Success
It’s clear, then, why the Ravens extended Harbaugh’s contract by three years back in March to keep him in Baltimore through 2025, despite a disappointing 2021 season.
Even through a brutal stretch of injuries robbed Harbaugh of several of his top players, he still kept the Ravens in the playoff hunt with backup quarterback Tyler Huntley – and even journeyman veteran Josh Johnson – under center.
Had the Ravens managed to make the postseason, Harbaugh likely would have been in contention for the NFL’s Coach of the Year award, which ultimately went to Mike Vrabel, whose Tennessee Titans dealt with similar health struggles.
Ravens Continue to Sign Draft Picks
Harbaugh will be hoping the Ravens’ 11 draft picks will help the Ravens get back to the playoffs in 2022, including a pair of fourth-round picks in tight end Isaiah Likely and cornerback Demarion Williams.
Likely signed his four-year rookie contract on June 6, though he has been participating in the Ravens’ voluntary OTAs since they began in May.
Williams put pen to paper on June 7, with the Ravens hoping the former Houston slot corner can take up the spot left vacant by the departure of Tavon Young.