Mike Preston: Timing of Ravens' John Harbaugh announcement curious with huge game looming Saturday

The Ravens announced Friday night that John Harbaugh will be the head coach in 2019 and the team is working on a contract extension for the future.

The announcement came at 7 p.m. and apparently caught a number of coaches and team officials off guard. Maybe it would have been better if owner Steve Bisciotti would have tweeted it out.

It’s such an unprecedented announcement the night before a big game. The Ravens play the Los Angeles Chargers on Saturday in a game that will help determine if they make the playoffs this season. The Ravens have been to the postseason only one time in the previous five seasons under Harbaugh, who has been the head coach since 2008.

It’s hard to figure out why the Ravens made the announcement at this time with two games remaining in the 2018 regular season. It’s apparent the owner and head coach had been talking. Maybe Bisciotti wanted to take some pressure off the players and his coaching staff, letting them know they weren’t playing for Harbaugh’s job Saturday.

Maybe Harbaugh already had some feelers from other teams and Bisciotti wanted to squash any of those concerns. Or maybe the statement was in response to a recent Baltimore Sun column that suggested Harbaugh’s status might be in jeopardy if he didn’t advance deep into the playoffs.

Because the deal isn’t finished, there is speculation that the negotiations might break down if the Ravens lose the final two games and don’t make the playoffs. Who knows? Everything is still open to speculation.

Harbaugh has only one year left on his current deal, which ends after the 2019 season. An extension could be for one or two more years, which would avoid putting Harbaugh in a lame-duck situation for 2019.

Overall, it’s a logical decision by the Ravens to keep Harbaugh. He is one of the top 10 head coaches in the NFL even though his team has only gone 48-46 since winning the Super Bowl at the end of the 2012 season.

His teams are always well-coached and organized, they play hard and he emphasizes team chemistry. Yet at the same time, the Ravens have been stuck in mediocrity ever since the team parted ways with top performers such as middle linebacker Ray Lewis, safeties Ed Reed and Bernard Pollard, and receiver Anquan Boldin.

If the Ravens had fired Harbaugh, they would have been making a fresh start. Veteran quarterback Joe Flacco isn’t expected to play in Baltimore next season and assistant general manager Eric DeCosta will replace Ozzie Newsome as general manager at the end of this season.

But Bisciotti is a firm believer in loyalty and has been a strong supporter of rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson. Maybe he believes Jackson is the future of this franchise and the Ravens have a lot of young players to build around.

But the Ravens are taking a gamble by making the announcement at this point. They are still struggling in attendance with nearly 10,000 no-shows at each of the past two games.

Harbaugh has a lot of critics in Baltimore who believe the team is in need of change and a new direction. If they don’t get into the playoffs, they will suffer again in ticket sales regardless of Jackson.

There are some who believe there weren’t any strong candidates out there to replace Harbaugh, but that’s false. The same thing was said about replacing former Ravens head coach Brian Billick after the 2007 season and the Ravens came up with Harbaugh.

There are always good candidates available. Only this time the Ravens decided to stay the course and keep Harbaugh around longer.

It’s inconceivable that Bisciotti would make the same mistake he made in 2007, when he signed Billick to a four-year deal and then fired him a season later having to pay him $15 million for the remaining three years.

mike.preston@baltsun.com

twitter.com/MikePrestonSun

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