ESPN.com's AFC North reporters voted on five awards for the division (Coach of the Year, Offensive Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player), and one will be handed out each day throughout the week. Consider this our version of the NFL Honors show.
For Monday, it's the 2014 AFC North Coach of the Year ...
No AFC North team endured more challenges than the Baltimore Ravens, and no division team advanced further in the playoffs than them. That's a credit to the leadership of John Harbaugh, who narrowly beat out the Pittsburgh Steelers' Mike Tomlin for AFC North Coach of the Year.
Harbaugh directed the Ravens to a 10-6 record and the divisional round of the playoffs despite the Ray Rice scandal, 19 players on injured reserve and defensive tackle Haloti Ngata's month-long suspension. Quarterback Joe Flacco was asked about why the Ravens can handle adversity so well and he pointed immediately to Harbaugh.
"It starts with John and his attitude that he brings to the team meeting room ... and it filters throughout the rest of us," Flacco said. "So, we are able to keep that levelheadedness and keep the same mentality no matter what's happened the previous week."
It was more than Harbaugh's guidance that helped the Ravens reach the playoffs for the sixth time in his seven seasons. It was also his aggressiveness.
In early December, Harbaugh established a a must-win mentality by going for it on fourth-and-1 in Miami. It was a gamble considering the Ravens were trailing in the third quarter and they were at their own 34-yard line. But Flacco converted it with a quarterback sneak, and the Ravens were celebrating the go-ahead touchdown seven plays later.
"It was there for us to take. That was the message that was sent to us," tight end Owen Daniels said. "They were putting it on [the offense]. Our defense is playing great, but we had to do something offensively to knock the door down."
Harbaugh is at his best when the Ravens are facing adversity, and he proved that time and time again in 2014.
As far as the balloting went, Harbaugh received three of the five first-place votes to win the award in what was a good showing for all of the AFC North coaches this season. Tomlin, who took the other two first-place votes, led the Steelers back into the playoffs for the first time since 2011. Marvin Lewis recorded his fourth-straight playoff season (the Cincinnati Bengals didn't make the playoffs in the 12 seasons before Lewis arrived). And, despite a rough finish, first-year coach Mike Pettine helped the Cleveland Browns to their best season since 2007.
AFC North Coach of the Year voting: John Harbaugh, 17 points; Mike Tomlin, 16; Marvin Lewis, 10; Mike Pettine, 7.
Panel of voters: Scott Brown, Jeremy Fowler, Coley Harvey, Jamison Hensley and Pat McManamon.