Thursday Thoughts

January 24, 2008 |

If you’re familiar with my work here, then you know I was the lone “voice in the wilderness” calling for Brian Billick’s ouster. And lo and behold, it actually occurred. My reasoning for Billick’s dismissal was quite simple: His methods and message were clearly stale, and his players had lacked discipline and focus throughout the course of the ’07 season. It was time to re-energize the franchise with a new voice, a new vision and new energy.

Enter John Harbaugh.

Whether or not he was truly the organization’s first choice was obviously questionable, especially following the Jason Garrett soap opera. But as opposed to Garrett, Harbaugh truly wanted the job. In the long run, that desire will benefit the Ravens more than any other attribute of his. Because no matter the business, if employees don’t have the desire to work for the company, that attitude will manifest itself in the behavior of all the employees. Which is ultimately what the root of the problem was under Brian Billick. His employees lost their desire to perform under his direction after nine years. That’s really more about human nature and relationships in the workplace than X’s and O’s.

So why does it seem to me as if John Harbaugh’s hiring is being greeted more with indifference and skepticism than excitement among Ravens fans? This is a man who has spent the past decade coaching in the NFL for one of the most stable franchises in the game. He was highly respected and admired by his former players. His former boss, Andy Reid, had nothing but positive things to say about his dedication and work ethic. He couldn’t recommend him enough. Yet, both here and on other media outlets around town, it feels as if this change is unwarranted and unwanted.

Which couldn’t be further from the truth.

The Baltimore Ravens had become the most predictable franchise in the league over the course of the past five years or so. They’ve been defined by an excellent defense and less-than-mediocre offense. The offensive (pun intended) play-calling was so predictable that most die-hard followers could have told you what was coming on every third down situation, not to mention the fact that each of those plays would likely fail. This disconnect on opposite sides of the football fractured the spirit of the team and divided the public opinion. Yet when Billick was fired, everyone expressed shock and outrage? Really? You couldn’t see the handwriting on the wall?

People are afraid of change. Change represents uncertainty, an uncomfortable truth that the future is going to be different in ways you cannot predict or control. But ultimately, this change that the Ravens have made, and continue to undergo, will be beneficial. It had to happen, because it was clear that the team was dysfunctional and the future was less than bright.

I welcome this change. I look forward to watching John Harbaugh’s new energy, new ideas and new systems. I believed last year, and through this turnover in the coaching ranks, that this is just the first step in major changes in the organization. It’s not all about the coaching. The players will be changing too. And if it takes a new coach to begin overseeing the uncertain future and the changes on the roster that have to be made, then I’m going to support that coach. And John Harbaugh is the coach that Steve Bisciotti has selected to guide the Ravens through the inevitable changes that are certain to come (maybe sooner than a lot of us realize).

So welcome to Baltimore, Coach Harbaugh. I wish you incredible success, good health and the courage of your convictions. Even if the general public seems less than enthusiastic about your arrival, who cares. They’ll be very enthusiastic when you return this team to the elite status in the league that we all so passionately crave. You’ve got the experience, the background and the knowledge to make this happen. And coming from Philadelphia, you’ve got the thick skin you’ll need to ignore your detractors.

I, for one, have got your back.

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I have one question about the Baltimore Orioles: Where’s Mike Flanagan these days? Actually, I have another question: Can I have your job, Flanny?

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I’m not going to spend any time here dissecting the matchups for Super Bowl XLII. I’ll just say that looking at this matchup, I get flashbacks to that San Francisco – Denver debacle from about twenty years ago. It’s too lopsided to bother with overanalysis.

New England 47, New York Giants 20.

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I want to take a moment and wish my wonderful mother Ginger a Happy Birthday! This one is a milestone birthday (no, Mom, I’d never tell!). Thinking about my Mom made me realize that all of us who have played sports growing up owe our mothers a tremendous “Thank You”! My Mom was the unsung hero of my sporting youth, and my little brother’s too. She was ALWAYS there, driving us to practices, going to games near and far, and giving us unconditional love and support. My Mom never discouraged our athletic aspirations. She knew the value and guidance that sports provided, though she was never really a “jock”, per se. I would not be the person I am today were it not for you, Mom. So thank you a billion times over. You are the greatest! And the greatest Grammy to my boys too! I love you.

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