The good news came in the curious form of a Friday evening bad-news dump. Out of the blue, just before 7:00 p.m. ET, the Ravens let the world know that their coach who is under contract through 2019 is under contract through 2019 and he will remain under contract through 2019.
The statement was received by most as a definitive indication that John Harbaugh ain’t going anywhere, and that anyone who already had launched a back-channel chase for his services should check themselves, lest they wreck themselves with a tampering allegation.
But the confirmation of Harbaugh’s status nevertheless can be interpreted as an invitation. To make a call. To make an offer. To give the Ravens something of significant value for the coach whose name had emerged already as the most desirable horse in the looming carousel, even though he is under contract.
“John Harbaugh will continue as our head coach for the 2019 season,” the statement announces, “and he and we are working on an extension to his existing contract, which expires after the 2019 season.”
That’s not celebratory; it’s perfunctory. It’s less proclamation and more admonition to not assume that Harbaugh will be available automatically, or that he’ll be easy to obtain.
It’s also designed to end the discussion and speculation, and in turn potential distraction, arising from Harbaugh’s uncertain status. Tonight against the Chargers, next week against the Browns, and into the postseason (if they make it) it will be repeated over and over again that Harbaugh will be back. Even if, in the end, he isn’t.
So what would another team give up for a coach who is under contract for only one more year? Well, remember when the Raiders got two first-round picks, two second-round picks, and $8 million in cash for Jon Gruden? Like Harbaugh, Gruden was under contract for only one more year.
So here’s what Friday night’s statement really means: (1) Harbaugh won’t be fired, regardless of the outcome of the balance of the season; (2) Harbaugh may or may not sign an extension with the Ravens beyond 2019, the terms of which likely will be determined by the outcome of the season; and (3) call us if you’re interested in perhaps offering him better terms than we will, if you’re also willing to compensate us handsomely for the rights to a coach who is under contract.