Someone needs to remind the football coach in town that he’s been really good over the last five-plus seasons here in Baltimore.
In fact, one of the PR guys – or gals – should walk John Harbaugh out to the lobby of The Castle – brought to you by the company that dumped the Baltimore Marathon – and show him the shiny trophy that reads SUPER BOWL CHAMPIONS 2012 and remind him he was the coach of that winning team.
A couple of qualifiers before I offer John some friendly advice: First, as anyone who listens to my show or reads this space knows, I’m a John Harbaugh fan. That’s non-negotiable. He’s an outstanding NFL coach. Second, I completely understand how redundant it must be to have meet with the media four times a week – in season – and basically enter each of those discussions with the mindset that you’re not going to reveal anything of substance about the game you’re about to play or the one you just finished playing. Asking the coach to address the media after the game on Sunday and then, again, 24 hours later at the team’s facility is just plain dumb. I’m not sure why the NFL feels like that sort of availability is mandatory, but they do, so teams comply. That doesn’t mean it makes sense. Third, I completely realize that some media members are there on Monday just to be there. And, with that, I’ll concede some of the questions Harbaugh receives really aren’t worth answering at all. Asking the coach how it felt to have all of those fans in (insert visiting city here) is, of course, about the dumbest thing you can ask (“Gee, you know, I was actually kind of pissed off that all those people showed up, to be honest…), yet it qualifies as a question that got asked on Monday when Harbaugh put on his moody hat and snapped a few unpleasant answers in the direction of people who didn’t deserve it.
Fast forward to the aforementioned Monday presser, yesterday, at Owings Mills. John, for reasons unknown, turned what otherwise should have been a light, easy 15 minutes into a brief gathering with the media that shifted to tense and almost laughable by the time it ended.
It started off with a question from Joe Platania of PressBox that went like this:
“Each team presents a different set of circumstances as each game unfolds, but would it be too blunt to say that you will never ever give up on the run game again — that the Buffalo scenario will never happen again?”
Here’s what John said on Monday: ”Come on…what else do you have?”
And that was the end of his exchange with Platania. John dismissed the question and moved on.
Hold on, though.
The biggest story of Sunday’s game with the Dolphins – as far as the Ravens were concerned – was the fact that Baltimore’s running game, completely DEAD seven days earlier in Buffalo, came alive in the second half of a 26-23 win.
John’s answer on Monday should have been this:
“Well, Joe, you’re right. Each game does present its own set of circumstances. And, yes, we use every game as a learning tool, whether it’s on offense, defense or special teams. I don’t know that I’ll say we’ll never abandon the run game again, because, like you mentioned, every game is different, but yesterday’s performance on the ground reinforces to all of us that we can run the ball well when necessary.”
No need to snap off a two-second answer to Platania and put everyone else on the defensive for the rest of the session.
It got better, though.
Mark Zinno asked a completely legitimate question about the differences between the Buffalo and Miami game and he, too, got put on blast.
“Going back to the run game, (vs. Buffalo) it was 15 yards at halftime for a 2.1 average. (vs. Miami) it was 33 yards for a 2.2 average. Was there anything specific you saw that made you say, ‘We could still go down the road of running the football and be successful at it.?’
The coach sort-of answered the question: ”Yes. I thought we could be successful at it in the second half, whereas last week, I didn’t think we’d be successful at it in the second half with the way we were blocking.”
Not really getting an answer to his question, Zinno pressed the coach a wee bit more: ”What gave you that inclination?”
And then the coach got the fireworks lit — “Well, we’ll go through the tape later if you want. I’ll sit down and go through every play with you later. We blocked better — that’s what we did better. But you know, they have that thing now — 11 on 11. Take a look at it, and you tell me what you think.”
To borrow one of the coach’s lines: ”Come on…what else you got?”
Really, Coach? You want Mark Zinno or any media member to watch the game film and have him/her tell YOU what THEY think about YOUR team?
That’s not how it works.
First, you wouldn’t value their opinion, and rightfully so, since you’re the football coach and we’re just the people who report on the games.
Second, we gather around you to ask questions on behalf of the fans and hope you’ll give an answer that THEY would be satisfied with…or at least, happy to get an answer from you.
If you were at a function involving Ravens sponsors on Monday night, and someone asked you a question about the differences between running the ball vs. Buffalo and Miami, would you have said to that sponsor — “Take a look at the film and get back to me with what YOU think…”??
Of course not.
John later on offered a short, snappy answer to a question from Gerry Sandusky.
He did, however, discuss at length how great it was to see all of those fans down in Miami wearing purple and rooting on his football team.
I understand that lay-up questions like “how did it feel to have all of those fans down there?” are easy to answer, but a caveman could answer that question.
In response to Zinno’s question, John could have told the truth and just said this: ”Well, Mark, without giving away our competitive secrets, I’ll just say we made a couple of schematic changes at halftime of the Dolphins game based on some stuff we picked up in the first half…plus, I felt like our fitness was going to win out in the final two quarters and that we’d be able to run the ball effectively once conditioning became part of it.”
I assume the coach felt like any question relating to the Buffalo game was either, a) old news – or, b) a slap at him, personally, over a loss to an inferior team like the Bills.
As I say over and over, coaches are my favorite people in sports because they’re the ones with a record. When the Ravens lost to the Bills, that loss went on John Harbaugh’s coaching record…forever. So, in that regard, I do understand how John takes any question about a game – win or lose – personally.
But, telling the media to watch game film and “get back to me” isn’t the way to attack a question that the coach feels might be calling him out.
Teach us, John.
You’re the expert.
The trophy in the lobby proves that.