When John Harbaugh looks at the New England Patriots, he sees what he envisions his team to be one day.
With four Super Bowl appearances and three championships this decade, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has set the bar high for coaches around the NFL. Every team wants to establish a dynasty. Baltimore’s head coach is no exception.
Except unlike most coaches, he made it clear from day on that was his goal.
"We're going to be a dynasty. If you're not willing to say it out loud, how do you expect to get there?” Harbaugh said last season. It’s that sort of bravado that helped Harbaugh get the Ravens' head coaching job 21 months ago.
But a phone call from the man who set such standards didn’t hurt either.
When Baltimore was searching for its next head coach, Belichick made a call to Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti to recommend Harbaugh. The two have known each other for years, a respect stemming from their special teams backgrounds.
Belichick was a special teams coach for the Detroit Lions and New York Giants early in his career, while Harbaugh was regarded as one of the top special teams coaches in the league for years while an assistant in Philadelphia.
Harbaugh appreciated the gesture, especially who it came from.
“You’ve got to admire everything about what the Patriots have done and what Bill Belichick has done there, and really, the whole organization,” Harbaugh said. “They’ve been able to have success and sustain it for a long number of years, and we’ll keep trying to make that not happen for them, at least when we play them. That’s the competitiveness of the NFL.”
Belichick reciprocated that respect this week leading up to the two coaches’ meeting this weekend in Foxborough. With the Ravens 3-0 and the Patriots 2-1, it’s one of the premier games of Week Four, pitting one of the elite teams of the decade against a team hoping to emulate that success; a team that many believe could do just that.
A win over the Patriots would tie a franchise-record best start of 4-0 and secure the Ravens' spot at the top of the AFC and perhaps the NFL—and it would be another step toward the lofty goal John Harbaugh has set for his squad.