Coach made it happen

faceoff: who gets more credit for the ravens' success: joe flacco or john harbaugh?

December 31, 2008|By BILL ORDINE

The old adage goes: Victory has a hundred fathers, but defeat is an orphan.

Last season, when the Ravens went 5-11, that little bundle of disappointment was left on former coach Brian Billick's doorstep. No one wants to claim defeat solely as his own, but in sports, the head guy almost always pays the bill.

Conversely, as the Ravens pack for their playoff trip to Miami, there is a lot of credit to pass around for their reversal, with precocious rookie quarterback Joe Flacco near the top of the list. You could also toss in offensive coordinator Cam Cameron and defensive mastermind Rex Ryan.

But if responsibility for failure largely rests with the guy in charge, so should credit for such a stunning turnaround.

Without first-year head coach John Harbaugh making the thousands of decisions, small and large, and without his dogged week-to-week focus, this would not have happened.

Harbaugh created the atmosphere that allowed his two capable lieutenants, Cameron and Ryan, to direct their respective units. Harbaugh had to manage and massage a locker room filled with skeptical veterans into accepting an approach that was more authoritarian than that of his predecessor.

Ultimately, Harbaugh had to take the leap of faith to put the ball in Flacco's hands and keep it there rather than scramble for a retread when, near the end of training camp, calamity struck the two quarterbacks ahead of the rookie and again when the young signal-caller's performance briefly slipped.

And when the season was on the verge of unraveling as the Ravens dropped to 2-3 after being stomped by the Indianapolis Colts, 31-3, Harbaugh remained calm, called it a learning experience and kept the team focused, and now the congratulatory cigars being handed out have a paper band that says "victory."

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