John Harbaugh got in trouble again this week. The Ravens did things at a practice they shouldn’t have, and so the coach lost money, the Ravens lost practice time and money, and now team officials face questions about how this can happen over and over.
This week’s infraction was the the third of its kind in Harbaugh’s career. All have stemmed from what the NFL sees as obliviousness to or disregard of offseason rules regarding live contact. Harbaugh has been in charge since 2008, the sixth-longest tenure among active NFL coaches. Even in a sport of perfectionists, coaches often err, especially those who’ve been on the job for a decade. But Harbaugh is in rare company for how often he’s run afoul of the league.
A strong majority of current head coaches, according to a review of news accounts, have never faced public disciplinary action from the NFL. Money and practice time are valuable, after all, and 21 of the 25 of those who haven’t had offenses aired publicly were hired in 2014 or later. A few coaches have been punished once or twice, to varying degrees of severity (on the extreme side, Sean Payton).
In the upper tier, though, are three boldface names: Harbaugh, New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick and Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, the league leader in coaching sanctions. Together they account for two-thirds of reported NFL penalties among current coaches — and four of the past six Super Bowl winners.
No-timers club (25)
— Mike McCarthy, Green Bay Packers (2006)
— Ron Rivera, Carolina Panthers (2011)
— Mike Zimmer, Minnesota Vikings (2014)
— Jay Gruden, Washington Redskins (2014)
— Todd Bowles, New York Jets (2015)
— Doug Marrone, Jacksonville Jaguars (2016)
— Adam Gase, Miami Dolphins (2016)
— Doug Pederson, Philadelphia Eagles (2016)
— Dirk Koetter, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2016)
— Sean McDermott, Buffalo Bills (2017)
— Vance Joseph, Denver Broncos (2017)
— Anthony Lynn, Los Angeles Chargers (2017)
— Sean McVay, Los Angeles Rams (2017)
— Kyle Shanahan, San Francisco 49ers (2017)
— Steve Wilks, Arizona Cardinals (2018)
— Matt Nagy, Chicago Bears (2018)
— Matt Patricia, Detroit Lions (2018)
— Frank Reich, Indianapolis Colts (2018)
— Jon Gruden, Oakland Raiders (2018)
— Mike Vrabel, Tennessee Titans (2018)
One-timers club (3)
— Andy Reid, Kansas City Chiefs (2013): Two years ago, the Chiefs lost a 2016 third-round and 2017 sixth-round draft pick for violating the league’s anti-tampering policy. The team had improper contact in 2015 with Jeremy Maclin before the start of free agency, and later signed him to a five-year, $55 million deal. (Kansas City later cut Maclin, who signed with the Ravens last year.) The Chiefs were fined $250,000, and Reid was fined $75,000.
— Dan Quinn, Atlanta Falcons (2015): Last year, the Falcons had to forfeit the first three days of organized team activities for violating rules prohibiting excessive contact during workouts the previous offseason.
Two-timers club (1)
— Sean Payton, New Orleans Saints (2006): Payton was suspended without pay for the entire 2012 season for his role in failing to stop and then attempting to cover up the Saints’ bounty system that rewarded the team’s players for hits that injured opponents. He’s believed to be the first head coach ever suspended by the NFL.
Last year, Payton was fined $10,000 for improperly entering the playing field during a game.
Three-timers club (2)
— Bill Belichick, New England Patriots (2000): In 2007, Belichick was fined the NFL maximum of $500,000 and the Patriots were fined $250,000 for spying on the New York Jets’ play signals during a game. The team also had to give up its first-round pick the following year.
In 2012, Belichick was fined $50,000 for grabbing the arm of an official after a loss to the Ravens.
In 2015, the Patriots were fined a record $1 million and stripped of their 2016 first-round pick and 2017 fourth-round pick for illegally deflating footballs in the AFC championship game against the Indianapolis Colts. Quarterback Tom Brady also was suspended four games.
— John Harbaugh, Ravens (2008): In 2010, the Ravens had to cancel an offseason camp after the NFL Players Association lodged a complaint over the intensity and tempo of drills conducted at their offseason workouts, as well as the length of time players spent at the team’s facility.
Two years ago, Harbaugh was fined $137,223 and the Ravens were docked $343,057 and three OTAs for having rookies in full pads for the start of a minicamp practice. The Ravens maintained they didn’t believe the rules governing OTAs — no full pads, no live contact — also applied to rookie minicamps.
On Wednesday, Harbaugh was fined $50,000 and the Ravens were fined $100,000 and had to forfeit their final two OTAs this week for violating offseason workout rules about contact. Harbaugh said in a statement that the team had been “singled out” for pass coverage contact during OTAs.
Four-timers club (1)
— Pete Carroll, Seattle Seahawks (2010): Carroll and the Seahawks have been been penalized three times for improper contact during offseason workouts. In 2012, the team was fined an undisclosed amount and forfeited two OTAs. Two years later, Carroll reportedly was fined over $100,000, the Seahawks were fined over $200,000, and the team was docked two mandatory-minicamp practices the following year. In 2016, the penalties escalated to a $200,000 fine for Carroll, a $400,000 fine for the Seahawks, and the loss of one week of OTAs the following year and a 2017 fifth-round pick.
Last year, Carroll also was fined $10,000 for improperly entering the playing field during a game.