Harbaugh’s quest for meaningless record created unnecessary injury risk for Ravens, Broncos players

Baltimore Ravens v Denver Broncos
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John Harbaugh is one of the great coaches of this or any era. He’ll have a bust in Canton; he already has earned it. And his 2012 Super Bowl win could be joined in time by more, whether with the Ravens or (if the Ravens are ever dumb enough to let him get away) another team.

That doesn’t put him above criticism or scrutiny, however. And it’s fair to criticize the decision to put his own players (and Denver’s players) at needless risk on the last snap of Sunday’s game against the Broncos, all in the name of extending a meaningless record about which few were even aware before Sunday’s antics.

The Ravens now have 43 straight games with 100 or more team rushing yards. That matches the 1974-77 Steelers, who did it in an era that was far more conducive to running than passing. And to that we (and surely many others) say, “Whoop-dee-freaking-doo.”

It’s right up their with the franchise’s all-time preseason winning streak. Who cares? Harbaugh does, for some reason.

Of course, the reason that he cares is one of the reasons why he’s great. He’s ultra-competitive. And the drive to rack up things that matter (like winning games that matter) can compel a person to pursue stuff that doesn’t matter. Like an obscure record about which no one — other than Harbaugh — gives a crap.

Watch the video of the reaction by the Denver sideline. Listen to the bleeps. Broncos coach Vic Fangio was pissed. And rightfully so. The game was over. Take a knee. Walk away. Avoid needless contact. Needless contact leads to avoidable injuries.

It’s somewhat similar to the much-criticized tendency of former Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano to aggressively attack victory formation. In those situations, however, there was a strategy rooted in actually trying to win the game. If Schiano’s team had forced a fumble by plowing hard into the line/quarterback, they could have won the game. On Sunday, the Ravens already had won the game.

Indeed, as noted by Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com, the Ravens became one of the rare NFL franchises to actually gain yardage while leading by 10 or more points and snapping the ball in the final five seconds of a game. Via Hensley, the Elias Sports Bureau found a play in 1992, when Oilers tailback Spencer Tillman gained one yard with two seconds left in a game that Houston led, 27-0, over the Chargers. Otherwise, this kind of thing doesn’t happen. And for good reason, especially in an age of unprecedented sensitivity to health and safety.

Harbaugh nevertheless defended the decision to not take a knee for the one play that followed an interception of Broncos quarterback Drew Lock in the end zone, with Baltimore leading, 23-7.

“It’s one of those things that’s meaningful,” Harbaugh said. “It’s a very, very tough record to accomplish. It’s a long-term record. So, I’m not going to say it’s more important than winning the game, for sure. It’s certainly not. But, as a head coach, I think you do that for your players and you do that for your coaches, and that’s something they’ll have for the rest of their lives.”

But what do they have? A trophy? A ring? Anything tangible? When they’re in their rocking chairs, will they mutter to whoever is listening that they matched the 1974-77 Steelers with 43 straight games of 100 or more rushing yards? If they do, will anyone do anything other than roll their eyes and say, “He has his good days, and his bad days”?

No one cares. No one except Harbaugh. Hell, Lamar Jackson — who gained the yardage that put the Ravens over 100 for the game and in so doing exposed himself to unnecessary injury risk while still not having his well-deserved second contract — doesn’t care.

“I’m not going to lie,” Jackson said after the game. “I ain’t really care about the record. I wasn’t thinking about that. I was thinking about winning the game.”

The game was already won. Future games were put in incremental jeopardy by having Jackson run the ball one last time. All because the ultra-competitive Harbaugh wanted to add another meaningless plaque to the wall, right next to the one that commemorates the all-time record winning streak in meaningless games.

Again, that competitive nature is what makes him great. He’d be even a little bit greater if he realized when to turn it off.

94 responses to “Harbaugh’s quest for meaningless record created unnecessary injury risk for Ravens, Broncos players

  1. I’m not gonna fault him for going for a record. I wouldn’t have done it myself though.

    but, if Jackson or someone else gor hurt and blew the season , he better be prepared to own it.

  2. What? Something classless done by someone with the last name of Harbaugh? Shocked, I tell you.

  3. Ok so he went against the norm and didn’t take a knee. So what. The players weren’t any more exposed to possible injury than in any other play in the game. You can question his sportsmanship but other than that, this is just faux outrage.

  4. “John Harbaugh is one of the great coaches of this or any era. He’ll have a bust in Canton; he already has earned it.”
    ===============

    Highly debatable

  5. All the arguments against this move make sense, but who gives a damn how pissed Fangio and the Broncos were? If you don’t want them to rush for a ridiculous record, stop them. You play to win the game.

  6. The point is the inherent risk is taken at a time not needed. Didn’t think it needed to be explained but here we are

  7. legionofzoom says:
    The players weren’t any more exposed to possible injury than in any other play in the game. You can question his sportsmanship but other than that, this is just faux outrage.
    ==

    The difference between that play and any other in the game is that all those other plays are a necessary part of the game, whereas that last one was utterly unnecessary.
    It’s easy for you and others to cry “faux outage” the morning after because nobody did get hurt. But we both know that if a key player had gotten hurt on that silly play the same people now defending it would be front and center crucifying John Harbaugh — not just today, or next month, but for years to come.

  8. This rushing “accomplishment” is meaningless to just about everyone. But maybe it’s not meaningless to the players and coaches of the Baltimore Ravens. As far as Harbaugh is concerned that is the only opinion that matters. Harbaugh has a read on the pulse of his group. If he feels that stuff makes them tick, then more power to him and them.

  9. He’s honestly not that great of a coach. The organization is sound and he reaps the benefits. Outside of Flacco playing ridiculously crazy for 4 games, he’s never really won much of anything. He’s a 10-6 coach that will win you the wild card playoff game. Hardly a HoF’er or great coach of any era. To say he’s more than that is a disservice to the actual great coaches of previous eras.

  10. I’m one of the last people to usually defend Harbaugh, but I suspect this has less to do with having the record than with taking something from the Steelers.

  11. I don’t have any problem with it. If that’s the way Harbaugh wants to run his team, so be it. I don’t think he teaches blocking techniques that are potentially harmful, but other coaches do. The only negative for me is it sort of taints the record. I think records should be earned during battle, but I’m still not losing any sleep over this. Harbaugh grew up in a coaching family, so he understands the positives and the negatives involved better than most people. I don’t like unwritten rules. If the league wants to outlaw it, they can. But they haven’t. What about throwing a deep pass late in the game with a big lead? We don’t want to go there, do we? I think unwritten rules are one of the things that are a big turnoff for baseball fans. It’s why football has taken over as the great American pastime.

  12. They are paid professionals, no participation trophies. If they, stop them. No crying on Monday from players coaches or media.

  13. Much ado about nothing here. For some players, they may look back at this record and own it proudly. Nobody was going to get any more hurt than they would have already.

  14. This is the first time I’ve EVER seen JH’s name connected with Canton.

    Seriously.

    If winning a SB means you are HOF, then I guess Billick gets in too?

  15. It’s football! Same thing can be said when a team tries to score a TD in the final minutes even tho they’re down 4 scores. Let people enjoy things.

  16. No one was injured in the two instances of last second rushes. By the logic presented, the likelhood of inury is extremely low too.

    A player must be prepared to play at every instance while on the field. They can relax when on the sideline.

  17. patsfan says:
    October 4, 2021 at 10:53 am
    In fairness, Flutie’s drop kick was every bit the taunt that was…
    —————

    No way, that was just awesome. This was a nothing run nobody expected.

  18. It was completely unnecessary. I don’t blame the Broncos for being ticked off . It was bad enough that they lost the game AND Teddy Bridgewater to a concussion from a nasty helmet to helmet hit. Literally insult to injury…

  19. Whatever, this is the same team whose game host DC had a conniption last year because the Bengals dated to kick a field goal to ruin his shutout

  20. The game was already over when Denver used all of their timeouts on the last drive trying to score a meaningless TD in game where they were down 16 points. Was Denver not subjecting players from both side to unnecessary risk?

  21. This helps explain why Harbaugh is regularly confused by the rulebook — he’s too focused on obscure items in the record book.

    Pro tip, coach: Rulebook > Record Book.

  22. granadafans says:
    October 4, 2021 at 10:52 am
    “John Harbaugh is one of the great coaches of this or any era. He’ll have a bust in Canton; he already has earned it.”
    ===============

    Highly debatable

    ———

    Hes done enough in his career, he will get in.

    But hes still lucky no one got hurt.

    **********************************************
    patsfan says:
    October 4, 2021 at 10:53 am
    In fairness, Flutie’s drop kick was every bit the taunt that was…

    ———————-

    Sure was. If someone had gotten hurt on that play it would have been just as bad.

  23. I do believe that many players, fans, and the media like the records, and do remember things like this. It is an endurance record that once its broken, its gone. They will not get back there for a long long time. So I understand why he did it.

  24. To be fair…. They probably will sit in their rocking chairs all old and talk about the record..

  25. He didn’t just tie the Steelers, he made it possible for the Ravens to extend the record. They’ll eventually be held below 100 yards rushing in a game and the record will end. But it will be a record held by the Ravens, not their rivals the Steelers. As noted above, the odds of being hurt on that carry aren’t any greater than any other carry.

  26. I don’t really care as a Broncos fan of trying to get the record, I sort of get it. I just like when records are organic, and not done in this kind of fashion. Every play counts, but it kinda reminds me of when Ricky Davis for the Cleveland Cavaliers missed a shot on his own net to get, and got a rebound for a triple double. Would have been impressive if he did it during the flow of the game. Same with the Ravens here… they didn’t need to run when they were up and big and dominated the whole game. But these guys are paid to play every play and to stop the other team. Just seems a bit desperate.

  27. They went for an additional 5 yards. It’s not like they took a shot at the endzone. It was essentially the same thing as a kneel down. Why are they so upset? Because they lost? It happens. Move on to next week.

  28. They put 60 minutes on the clock. If there is time remaining it’s time to play football.

    If the Broncos were so upset they should have stuffed the run play.

  29. OR It’s his team and he coaches it however he wants to. If Denver doesn’t like it then stop them from getting the yardage. If fans don’t like it then change the channel.

  30. I remember when Seattle did this with Shaun Alexander. He was downhill the season after that.

  31. This is absolutely NOTHING like Doug’s Flutie’s drop kick. The Flutie kick happened with 6 minutes left in the game, with the Patriots leading 25-19. Hardly a “meaningless play with game in hand”. People just cant let anything happen without complaining about the Patriots.

  32. “Harbaugh’s quest for meaningless record created unnecessary injury risk for Ravens, Broncos players”

    Honestly as an extreme Die Hard Bleeding Orange and Blue no matter what if they’re 0-16 , or 16-0 Broncos fan !!

    I found no offence to this.. as soon as you put on the helmet you are accepting any risk, that can happen on any play.. when they wound up with a few seconds left. I myself said hey they have a chance to break a 40 year old record, especially from a division rival like Pittsburgh . Go for it..

    People are way too sensitive.

  33. Girth Brooks says:
    October 4, 2021 at 12:03 pm
    This is absolutely NOTHING like Doug’s Flutie’s drop kick. The Flutie kick happened with 6 minutes left in the game, with the Patriots leading 25-19. Hardly a “meaningless play with game in hand”. People just cant let anything happen without complaining about the Patriots.
    =========================================================================================
    To add to my point, it was on an Extra Point try. So the Patriots would have kicked the point after either way. They just happened to line up like they were going for 2, and then Flutie dropped back to do the drop kick. If he misses the kick the Dolphins had 6 minutes to try to win the game with a TD and point after.

  34. HOF for Harbaugh??? That is borderline at the very best.
    The man that put the team together deserves all that credit.

  35. How is it we were told the game is played until the last whistle blows but now there’s this unwritten rule you must take a knee? If you don’t want a team doing this, you stop them and make them regret it. If the Ravens were held to less then 90 yards rushing during the game, do you think Harbaugh would have still run the play? Sounds more like the Broncos were upset cause they lost the game and allowed the Ravens to get to 100 yards rushing.

  36. Just watched the Broncos sideline video. Hardly an “enraged sideline”. I saw one old dude reacting like a child and should have been penalized for standing on the field during the play.

  37. Actually, it is the media that constantly tracks and throws lunchpail stats at its audience as if they are ‘significant’. TV announcers are salivating to ‘educate’ the audience on stats that are otherwise ‘so what’ info – as if they preping us for ‘Sports Jeopardy’.

  38. If the game’s over, no one’s required to defend that play. Denver could have just stayed still. Jackson could have just run a few yards and slid with no threat of contact.

    But they chose to earn the yards on a legit, routine play. I can understand Denver’s annoyance and the sportsmanship question, but no one forced Denver to put any players at risk.

  39. toasteddonkey says:
    October 4, 2021 at 11:18 am
    This is the first time I’ve EVER seen JH’s name connected with Canton.

    Seriously.

    If winning a SB means you are HOF, then I guess Billick gets in too?
    ***********
    It worked for Bill Cowher.

  40. The fact that the Ravens could tie the record was brought up on many social media sites, as well as by the networks broadcasting the game. It was no secret. If anything blame Denver’s coaching staff for not being prepared and preparing their team to stop the Ravens.

  41. sounds about right for him. probably whined about his own decision afterwards. this guy is classless and is a major league whiner.

  42. If harbaugh was so detail orientated, he wouldn’t have had to cry to the league about who was an eligible receiver, and then cry even more to get the rules changed, because he couldn’t figure it out on his own.

  43. Frankly, I never liked the kneel down, but whatever, its not like we threw a 80yd bomb for a touchdown to rub it in – who cares about a 5 yard run – get over it Ravens/Harbaugh/Lamar haters!

  44. Maybe players could have gotten injured when Tucker booted the 66 yard FG last week? I mean, nobody’s ever kicked a 66 yard FG before?

  45. Just shows all the coaches before him were more concerned with class and comradeship than they were about a meaningless record. Otherwise the record would be far more than 44 or whatever it is, the game is in hand, you won, move on. He’s just like his childish brother, karma is coming…

  46. Harbaugh went for a fake field up 24 points late in the 3rd vs the Raiders. He just doesn’t care.

  47. This isn’t such a big deal since no one got hurt. But it kind of makes you wonder, if this is part of his mindset in this game, what part has it played in decisions he made in past games? And did forcing runs to keep the streak alive ever backfire in close games? Are there any games with questionable calls near the end and the Ravens hovering around the 100 yd mark that resulted in a loss? Can’t imagine he’d take the risk intentionally, but if this nonsense is in the back of his mine, it could have factored into many other games too. Is it really much of a record, if you’re the only one going for it? Like the Guinness Record for lifetime accumulation of toenail clippings. Or Favre laying down for Strahan.

  48. Why wouldn’t they go for it? 1 Yard short, any other team would have gone for it too. But to get it and match a record the teams arch rival has held since the 70’s is sweet. Maybe had the Bronco’s not blown thru 3 time outs, maybe had they gotten a first down, maybe, maybe, maybe.

  49. Do you know who envies the record? The Detroit Lions. Their inability to run the ball has haunted them for decades. Hell, they celebrated getting a 100 yard rusher in 2018 after a 5 season drought. A successful rushing attack is not a given in this league. Unfortunately, the emphasis on passing has cheapened the rush game.

  50. Why don’t you ask the roster of the Baltimore Ravens, top to bottom, if they felt the record was meaningless and their coach had needlessly put them at risk?

    It’s much more likely that they would have resented not being given the opportunity to prolong the streak.

  51. Players don’t really engage during a QB Knee. They may put their hands on one another but the play is rarely at full strength/speed.

    Doing a QB run with Jackson unquestionably exposed players to meaningless risk for a stat that just doesn’t mean much. If Jackson was hurt, everyone would be asking for Harbaugh’s head.

  52. “It’s one of those things that’s meaningful,” Harbaugh said…”

    Not really.

  53. Shocking that Jim Harbaugh would do something that made other people think he’s a jerk…..

  54. Perhaps the NFL should stop the players from running down to the end zone to be on camera after they did there job to grab a TD. Afterall its a show boating’run and they could get hurt giving high fives.Bill

  55. You can use that same logic to criticize a meaningless pass into the end zone with seconds on the clock. Hypocritical at best.

  56. This is the first time I’ve EVER seen JH’s name connected with Canton.
    ==========

    Harbaugh (132 wins) will surpass Cowher (149) and Dungy (148) They have the same number of Titles, with Harbaugh being in a decent spot to get another.

    If Cowher and Dungy are in, how can you argue against Harbaugh?

  57. I guess he wasn’t happy just having the pre-season win record. This dude is ruthless. Plays starters in pre-season to win every game and runs the ball with the game over to get the rushing record. He won’t be happy until he has a butt fumble at the end of the game.

  58. Fake news. The outrage here about sportsmanship from people who’ve never played football is ridiculous. Go cry about something else.

  59. So when the Broncos were seeking a meaningless touchdown at the end of the game, calling unnecessary timeouts, did the Ravens whine? How come it’s okay for Denver to keep playing, but not the Ravens?

  60. The Ravens are about to break a record from the 70’s and you make it sound like it was easy. The next closest team only has 5 consecutive 100 yard games. It ain’t easy.

  61. If you are on the field be ready to play, I don’t like teams that run up the score, but I have no problem with the Ravens trying for three yards. The player safety issue in this case is B.S. players can get hurt at any time, even during practice.

  62. The Lamar Jackson Ravens are the greatest rushing teams ever. Might as well make it official.

  63. How many of those record 80,000 passing yard that Brady accrued were gained late in a game while the Patriots were obviously going to win? More than a few.

  64. How many of those record 80,000 passing yard that Brady accrued were gained late in a game while the Patriots were obviously going to win? More than a few

    he also holds the record for whining

    ============================================

    Aaron Rodgers is a distant second.

  65. Refreshing to see a coach who cares about the little things. We have enough snow flakes in other areas of business. Whining and being soft has no place in the NFL.

    I applaud his stance.

    It’s becoming more difficult, but I vaguely remember a time when men were men.

  66. I’m sure if the Ravens didn’t try the Broncos would of said they stop the rushing dynasty in Baltimore and Fangio would want to take all the credit, so I say there is 2 sides of a coin on to go for or not

  67. I’m with the Ravens on this. Pick up the record, slide to a stop, call it a day. If it were truly meaningless and “nobody cared,” then they wouldn’t have done it! Obviously, somebody does care. I would expect the entire team cares.

  68. Ask his players how they feel about it. They’re the only opinions that matter. Risked an injury, won positive team morale.

  69. I’m one of the last people to usually defend Harbaugh, but I suspect this has less to do with having the record than with taking something from the Steelers.
    ——————————-
    I doubt the 1970s Steelers feel threatened by the 2020 Ravens

  70. Since when was it a foregone conclusion that Harbaugh is a HOF coach?? I think at this point of his unfinished career, he’d be lucky. Only won once in well over a decade.

  71. I hated the move. Like you said, it was an unnecessary injury risk. And I don’t think Lamar Jackson knew anything about the record. This was all about Harbaugh. I actually cld see them doing this for an individual record, but for this team record nope. It felt cheap what he did. It reminded me of Favre taking a dive to give Strahan the sack record.

  72. azcm2511 says:
    October 4, 2021 at 12:37 pm
    sounds about right for him. probably whined about his own decision afterwards. this guy is classless and is a major league whiner.
    ______________________

    “Classless” huh?! This same coach in his second year with the Ravens lost a one-sided playoff game to Peyton Manning and the Colts, and took the time the following Monday and sent a autographed picture with a note to my ill mother (I had written seeking something that might be a pick me up for my Mom), who was one of the biggest football fans I have ever known. He personally addressed the envelope.

    He was headed to coach the East-West shrine game and still took that time.

    You can call him a bad coach, a poor decision maker, and bad guy, but classless, he is not.

  73. I was not even a Harbaugh fan until this, especially when MF’s panties get bunched up…..

  74. Oh, please, if we’re going to talk about player safety, maybe focus on the limited game day rosters that forces starters to play deep into blow outs or going for a TD, down by 16, with 10 seconds left in the game. Points are meaningless, may as well take a knee in that situation too.

  75. patsfan says:
    October 4, 2021 at 10:53 am

    In fairness, Flutie’s drop kick was every bit the taunt that was…

    *****************************************
    Nobody said anything about “Taunting”. And it wasn’t. The point trying to be made was that it put his players at unnecessary risk. But he did it FOR the players (or so he said)
    And BB I’m sure also allowed Flutie (who had begged him to do it) execute the Drop Kick. Don’t see why it’s such a big deal anyway. It was a very common play back in the day. Just because nobody does it anymore doesn’t mean it’s like running up the score or anything like that. And NOTE – the PATS were DOWN 25-19 when he executed it.

  76. Is a team losing 30-0 with 2 minutes left taking an unnecessary risk by playing hard right to the end, knowing they have no chance of winning?

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