His first ‘Dear John’ letter…

January 19, 2008 | Drew Forrester


Congratulations on your hiring as the Head Coach of the Ravens.

Your first order of business?  Go in to Bisciotti’s office today and ask for a raise.  I’m serious.  You’re gonna need it.

Now that the process is over and your cellphone voicemail is full with congratulatory phone calls, it’s time to get down to business.

Here’s the good news.  You’re going to make a lot of money.  You can now afford the $125 bottle of Silver Oak Cabernet instead of the $25 bottle of Joel Gott.

Here’s the bad news. This garden you’ll be working in has A LOT of rose bushes.  But they have a lot of thorns.  In fact, no pun intended, you’ll probably be dealing with more pricks than you’d like.  Buy yourself a nice pair of gardening gloves, John. 

You’re inheriting a team with an enormous amount of infrastructure friction.

You have a wildly popular middle linebacker who thinks he runs the team.  It probably won’t take long for you to see it.  Sure, the first couple of weeks he’ll be on his best behavior and you’ll probably say to yourself, “what’s the deal with 52?  He’s been nothing but a pleasure to deal with…”  Give it time, John, give it time.

You’re also coming in to a potentially combustible situation with Terrell Suggs, who’s due to cash in on that first big pay unless the team slaps the franchise tag on him.  And, if that happens, Suggs goes from collecting somewhere in the neighborhood of $18-$20 million in a signing bonus to $8 million in salary for one season from the Ravens.  Oh, by the way, Terrell openly campaigned for Rex Ryan to be the new Coach.  Good luck with that one, John.

You’re also coming in to a team that basically got the last coach fired, then started complaining about imminent changes with the new regime – and that’s BEFORE you got hired.  Odd, huh?  “We want THIS guy OUT…but the next guy that comes in better not change things up or we’ll be pissed.”  Confused?  Yeah, me too.  You’ll find this out rather quickly.  You’ll be dealing with A LOT of great football players – but a large portion of them care only about themselves.  I shouldn’t have to tell you that, though, you’ve worked in the NFL before, so you know the drill.

Lastly, the team you’ve just joined has serious issues at Quarterback.  You have an aging veteran who appears as if he’s on his last legs.  In fact, there’s a decent chance he might not even be on the roster when your new team convenes for training camp in July.  Your other QB is a kid they drafted in the first round in 2003 who is still trying to find his way and has been the subject of ridicule, turmoil and downright meanness from the fans in the last five years.  Oh, yeah, did I mention he’s never really blossomed into a great player?  And, lastly, you have a young man who just completed his first year in the league and in the second game he ever played in – at Miami – he drew the ire of veterans and his now-expigated Head Coach by openly defying him on the game’s final play of regulation by trying to keep the team on the field instead of coming off as directed by the coaching staff.  Oddly enough, he MIGHT be the guy who winds up starting for your new team next season.  And he might be decent enough to win you some games too.

I don’t know how you’re going to corral Ray Lewis and make him understand he’s not in charge.  I’m not really sure how you keep Chris McAlister in line.  I have no idea how you’ll pacify Terrell Suggs when the club gives him what amounts to a $10 million paycut.  You’re the guy making $2.5 million a year now, so you figure it out.  After all, as they say, “that’s why you get paid the big bucks.”

You’ll hear from a lot of people in the facility over the next few months and I’m sure they’ll all outline for you just who belongs to the “disgruntled club”. 

Oh, one more thing.  You also have a lot of really GOOD things going on right now.  You have a handful of young, eager, professional players (Jason Brown, Kelly Gregg, Haloti Ngata, Mark Clayton, Marshal Yanda…to name five) and another group of returning veterans (Trevor Pryce, Derrick Mason, Jarrett Johnson, Justin Bannan, Gary Stills, Corey Ivy…to name six) who will run through a brick wall for you. 

Your task will be add to that “brick wall” list and reduce the members of the “disgruntled club”.

If everything I’m hearing about you is true, I’m gonna bet a couple of Chinese lunches that you wind up having a long list of guys in the “brick wall club”.

Just make sure you invest in several pairs of gardening gloves.

With the thorny-issues you’ll be dealing with, you might go through a pair or two between now and July.