I remember the night Baltimore learned who would be their next head coach.
I was getting off plane, fresh off a two-week stint in Belize with some classmates, when I got the news. Interestingly enough, while I was soaking up the sun in paradise, my beloved Ravens’ front office was deep in a search for the man who would bring them back to prominence after a disastrous 5-11 campaign under the recently-dismissed Brian Billick.
I still managed to check into the local Baltimore sports web sites at times to check on the status of the search. The candidates had been narrowed down to six. Jason Garrett had been hired; but then he turned the job down in favor of remaining in Dallas.
The night I returned, I called my father upon landing back in Baltimore, who was waiting for me at baggage claim at BWI. After confirming where and when to meet, he ended the conversation by casually saying, “By the way, the Ravens have hired their new head coach. John Harbaugh.”
The closet Wolverine fan in me perked up, but for the wrong reasons. “You mean the old Michigan QB? I thought he was coaching Stanford.”
Such an anecdote illustrates how little Baltimore knew about the man who was chosen to lead the Ravens. And like many, I was a little, well, confused. Who in the heck is John Harbaugh?
It was January 18, 2008. Harbaugh was formally introduced in a press conference the next day. On January 18, 2009, one year to the day after that I and the rest of the Baltimore faithful were wondering what this hiring would mean, the Ravens were playing in the AFC Championship game. With a rookie quarterback, no less.
They lost a close one. But there was no more confusion. Harbaugh was the man for the job.
It’s funny to look back on the team this time last year. There were so many questions. And no one truly knew what to expect, not even the Ravens organization I bet.
But Harbaugh wasn’t shy about what his team was going to accomplish. He made it clear from the beginning.
He was going to make the Ravens a dynasty.
“We’re trying to create something that the NFL’s never seen before,” Harbaugh said in a recent interview. “People are going to look back and say, ‘That’s the standard. We want to be what the Ravens were for that period of time.’ ”
Building a team to win one championship is difficult enough, let alone several over the course of a few seasons. In today’s free agency period, and with an uncapped year, and potential lockout on the horizon, such an ambitious goal may seem unreasonable.
But Harbaugh’s team has responded to his upbeat attitude and desire to create something special. The Ravens had as strong a training camp this summer as they’ve ever had, and optimism hasn’t been higher in Charm City since the 2001 season, right after the Ravens won their first Super Bowl.
Harbaugh’s attitude has carried over to the team almost completely. Case-in-point: Ray Lewis.
“We got our eye on something, and everybody sees that. When one guy wants to take a day off from practice, there’s 10 to 15 guys picking him up and saying you can’t, Lewis told The Baltimore Sun as training camp ended last week. “The vibe is different this year because everybody has this taste in their mouth.”
When the face and voice of your franchise is endorsing the vibes your second-year head coach is spreading, you know you’re doing the right thing.
If Harbaugh succeeds, I’ll likely remember the Ravens’ 2008 season for years to come.
I suspect many will.
Because it will go down in history as a precursor to what John Harbaugh and the Baltimore Ravens would accomplish. Something that had never been done before.
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