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John Harbaugh: Faith, focus and football

Turron Davenport | 1/16/2015, 6 a.m.
The Baltimore Ravens concluded the 2014 season with a loss to the New England Patriots in the Divisional Round of ...
Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh looks on from the sideline in the second half of the 2015 AFC Divisional Playoffs game against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts on January 10, 2015. (Photo: Courtesy Baltimore Ravens)

The Baltimore Ravens concluded the 2014 season with a loss to the New England Patriots in the Divisional Round of the AFC playoffs. John Harbaugh has referenced faith many times when he talks about his team. The Ravens have been faced with a lot of distractions this season but they always stuck together and kept the focus on remaining in the hunt for a Super Bowl Title.

Harbaugh gave a moving speech to his team in the locker room after the game.

“You guys didn’t let anything affect you. We have a bunch of men in here that care about one another. You have faith in God above. You guys will fight for each other against anything.” Harbaugh said. “Any kind of adversity that we had, any challenges that we faced, and there were many, you guys kept your head down and your eyes forward all year round. I couldn’t be more proud of a group of guys.”

The Ravens head coach is well respected by his players and around the NFL. It’s rare that another team’s head coach calls a franchise to suggest that they hire a candidate but that is exactly what happened for Harbaugh. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick reached out to Ozzie Newsome to endorse Harbaugh as a candidate. That decision turned out to be a detrimental one as Harbaugh’s Ravens kept the Belichick’s Patriots from advancing to the Super Bowl in 2012.

Coaching is in John Harbaugh’s blood. His brother Jim Harbaugh is now the head coach at the University of Michigan and his father Jack is a former head coach at Western Michigan and Western Kentucky University. John actually got his start in coaching by following his father’s footsteps to Western Michigan University. He worked his way up the ladder and became an NFL head coach after 23 years of coaching.

Harbaugh is known for his intense work ethic and ability to motivate men. His motivational skill-set is something that many veterans appreciate. He tries to get players to not only be better players; he tries to inspire them to be better men. Harbaugh connects with his players. That is something that many of the players mention when describing Harbaugh.

“Coaching is about relationships,” said Steve Smith Sr. “John has one on ones with everybody on the team, all the time. Breakfasts, lunches, dinners, on the practice field.”

There is a reason that Harbaugh will often times refer to faith when during his press conferences. Harbaugh is a devout Roman Catholic. A belief in a higher being is very important to him. He will not hesitate to mention that.

The thing that seems to affect his players the most is Harbaugh’s confidence. The confidence becomes contagious to the players. Joe Flacco talked about the confidence recently.

“A lot of times the coach might not have a big impact. I’ve been on teams where the players basically are the ones with the biggest impact. The thing with John is, he’s there every day in the team meeting, so confident, and I think we feed off him.”

That confidence is what allowed the Ravens to walk into Pittsburgh and smoke the rival Steelers in the Wildcard round of the playoffs. It’s what drove the Ravens to jump out to a 14-0 lead against the Patriots. That’s what makes the Ravens so dangerous and it’s what makes Harbaugh one of the best all time playoff coaches.

Even in a loss, he finds a way to talk positively about his players. “I am very proud of our guys. They have been overcoming adversity and competing all year. I have never been around a team that has handled distractions with minimal drag. They were focused on being the best team that they can be.”

Harbaugh is proud to be the Ravens coach. There is one way to strive for longevity and that’s to have the mentality to in his own words “survive by thinking one second, one play, one minute at a time.”