Ravens owner considered firing John Harbaugh, refuses to issue 2018 ultimatum

John Harbaugh has failed to get the Ravens into the playoffs for the past three seasons. Since winning a Super Bowl in 2012, the Ravens have averaged eight wins per season. They're stuck in mediocrity.

Apparently, their struggles were enough to get the Ravens to consider ending the Harbaugh era in Baltimore.

On Friday, Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti admitted that he thought about firing Harbaugh after the 2017 season. Ultimately, though, he decided to retain Harbaugh for what will be his 11th year as the Ravens' coach. 

"It was certainly a consideration, but not one that I was inclined to make this year," Bisciotti said, per ESPN's Jamison Hensley.

"Certainly, it was a thought," Bisciotti also said. "I was very proud of the way John kept fighting, held the team together when we were losing in the middle of the year. Joe [Flacco, quarterback] was obviously producing at substandard with his back injury and after the first couple of weeks, obviously, we were very encouraged by our defense and thought that could hold us together. We didn't perform very well in the middle of the year. I was proud of the way we fought back as a team."

Bisciotti declined to issue a playoff ultimatum to Harbaugh, but he did acknowledge that the situation has likely put more pressure on Harbaugh than he's ever had in his life.

"He's under as much pressure than probably he's ever been in his life, and I expect him to keep his chin up and take his positivity and his talents and make the most of the season," Bisciotti said. "I may as well replace him now if I tell him to make the playoffs or you're out of town next year. That's not the way we run business here."

Since getting hired by the Ravens in 2008, Harbaugh has been one of the better coaches in football. He's gone 94-66 for a winning percentage of .650. He's been to the playoffs in six of his 10 seasons. He's won a Super Bowl.

But success has been fleeting in recent years. In his first five years, Harbaugh won 54 games and made the playoffs every season. In the past five years, Harbaugh's won 40 games and made the playoffs just once. 

Last month, CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora wrote about how Harbaugh might be nearing his last stand in Baltimore:

It's hard to look at what's going on in Baltimore – or what's not going on, to be more to the point – and not see it as, potentially, John Harbaugh's last stand.

The former Super Bowl-winning coach has two years on his deal, and his status, like the very franchise he is a part of, appears to be stuck perilously in the middle. The Ravens are too old in some key roster spots, with not enough young talent on the rise. They're not good enough to truly compete with the better teams in the NFL (1-5 against winning teams in 2017 while facing primarily back-up quarterbacks all season) and they are just .500 since winning it all five years ago. They have just enough talent to finish ahead of the dregs of the AFC (a deep list in this weak season) and not bad enough to secure a top-10 pick.

It's not where you want to be.

As La Canfora later noted in his story, it's not all coaching. The team hasn't effectively evaluated talent in recent drafts, which has hampered a team that's saddled with Joe Flacco's mega contract. On Friday, Bisciotti also revealed that 2018 will be Ozzie Newsome's final season as the general manager. Assistant general manager Eric DeCosta will replace him.

But regardless of the role the front office has played in the Ravens' decline to mediocrity, it's always tough for a coach to hang around in one city for more than a decade without seeing constant playoff success (see: Andy Reid in Philadelphia). That's why it wouldn't be surprising to see Harbaugh on his way out if he fails to get the Ravens back to the playoffs in 2018.

Harbaugh's contract runs through the 2019 season. If he does move on from Baltimore in the near future, he'll likely have plenty of suitors.

CBS Sports Writer

Sean Wagner-McGough joined CBS Sports in 2015 after graduating from UC Berkeley. A native of Seattle, Sean now resides in the Bay Area. He spends his spare time defending Jay Cutler on Twitter. Full Bio

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