As meaningless football games go, the Ravens stand on the brink of tying a meaningful record.
With a win on Saturday night at Carolina, the Ravens will tie the all-time record for consecutive preseason victories. Vince Lombardi’s Packers set the current record of nineteen straight wins, from 1959 through 1962.
“It means a lot,” coach John Harbaugh said before the team’s 2021 preseason opener, a 17-14 win over the Saints, via SI.com. “Whether it’s a winning streak or just the idea of how you approach the games. . . . We play our starters less than most teams, usually. . . . We just run our installs, so it’s not like we’re game-planning for anybody. We don’t practice against our opponents at all in the preseason ever. We might walkthrough. That’s all we would do just to have an idea of what plays they’d run, that’s it.
“So, I just think it’s a credit to the players in terms of preparation and the coaches over the years in terms of we run a good training camp, offseason program, and guys are ready to play good fundamental football. That’s what wins, whether it’s preseason, the [regular] season or whatever it might be.”
It helps if a team truly wants to win a preseason game. Often, new coaches of bad teams prioritize winning preseason games in order to get the players to believe that the new approach will work. For the Ravens, one factor could be the intensely competitive nature of Harbaugh and his brother, Jim, as detailed more than a decade ago by Sports Illustrated.
Sure, it doesn’t count. But it’s still a game. A winner and a loser are declared. Why not be the winner?
There are plenty of reasons to resist that temptation, as former Jets coach Rex Ryan once learned when re-inserting quarterback Mark Sanchez into a preseason game against the Giants. Sanchez suffered a shoulder injury. But if it’s backups who are taking the reps, there’s no reason not to try to win the game. The Ravens, with a win tonight, will match the greatest run of preseason success in league history.