Ravens, John Harbaugh making progress on extension

John Harbaugh's future, once murky and seemingly less troublesome in the last few weeks, could become perfectly clear soon.

Talks between the Ravens and Harbaugh are progressing, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported. Both sides are encouraged by where things stand, and though nothing is done yet, Harbaugh is expected to remain in Baltimore going forward, Rapoport added.

Harbaugh's seat became rather hot in the middle of the season, when the Ravens were mired in a losing streak and seemed ready to turn the page toward a new era in Baltimore, beyond that of Harbaugh, Joe Flacco and Ozzie Newsome. But then, a joint effort between Harbaugh's staff and rookie Lamar Jackson swung Baltimore's fortunes in the positive direction, leading them to a 6-1 finish and an AFC North title.

Harbaugh went from nearing a pink slip to deserving an extension with the way he and his staff completely shifted offensive identities to fit the style of Jackson. While some coaches attempt to squeeze a square peg in a round hole, Harbaugh bought a whole new playset for his budding star.

The result was a dramatic improvement in rushing. After the bye week, Baltimore rushed for 200-plus yards in all but two of its final seven games. The Ravens, a team that averaged 92.6 rushing yards per game in Weeks 1-9, averaged 229.6 rushing yards per game in Weeks 11-17.

And of course, there was the league's No. 1 defense suffocating opponents. Combined, the Ravens morphed into one of the league's most fearsome teams in less than half a season.

Perhaps his most important long-term move was Sunday's decision to stick with Jackson when the offense couldn't muster anything. Sure, Baltimore lost the game, but Jackson and his teammates eventually figured things out, scoring two touchdowns in the fourth. And Harbaugh probably scored trust points with Jackson by sticking with his rookie when facing adversity and scores of fans (and media members) calling for Flacco to replace him.

The offensive transformation and retention of Baltimore's collective focus was a masterful job on the part of Harbaugh. He'll avoid losing a job (and likely being scooped almost immediately) and instead find himself with significant leverage in extension talks with just one year left on his existing contract.

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