This is part-3 of a 4-part interview I did last month with a Baltimore student, Robert Limgallon. The final installment runs tomorrow and focuses on the lawsuit that was filed against WNST (and me) last spring.
Today’s part-3 centers on “Sports in Baltimore” and covers a wide range of topics, as you’ll see.
I hope you enjoy it.
RL — Despite their loss a couple of days ago in San Diego, this Ravens team is putting together a special season. Do you think they can make it to the Super Bowl? Even a better question, I guess, is this: What’s the key to the Ravens making it to Indianapolis?
DF — They have to get at least the 1 or the 2 seed. There’s no way they can go through the field if they wind up the 5 or the 6. I’m guessing they probably can’t even finish as the #6, so it’s either #1, #2 or #5. If they finish as the 1 or the 2, they definitely have a chance to go to Indy. If they don’t win the division, they’re not going anywhere, except home early. From a player standpoint, they need Flacco to play well. He doesn’t have to throw for 350 yards in every game, but he can’t turn the ball over. That’s the key for Joe. If he keeps the ball on his side of the field, he’ll do fine.
RL — Care to make a prediction?
DF — I can’t do that, Luke will get mad. OK, well, it’s tough to do not knowing exactly who makes it and what injuries come around between now and January, but I’m going to say this: I think the Ravens will finish as the 2 seed. They’ll win the AFC North and New England will be the #1. The Ravens will go to New England for the AFC Championship game and win there.
RL — Really? You’re confident.
DF — I know it’s hard to fathom the Ravens going to the Super Bowl after what we saw from them Sunday night in San Diego, but that wasn’t the real Ravens or the real Chargers. The Chargers are 7-7 for a reason, they’re not very good. They just had a good night and that kid Rivers is much better than people give him credit for. The Ravens will bounce back from that. But they have to get the 1 or the 2 seed in the playoffs. That’s a must.
RL — Most underrated guy on the team this year has been who?
DF — No doubt, Vonta Leach. The fullback is sort of a lost, dying art in the NFL. If you get a really good one, he can help your offense out a lot, even though there aren’t any real tangible statistics to support what he’s doing. I think Leach has been terrific, not only for Ray Rice but for the team in general, in the locker room. He’s the kind of guy you get on your team and after about a month you say, “Damn, why didn’t we have this guy here before this?”
RL — You’re a John Harbaugh fan, aren’t you?
DF — Big time.
RL — Why? What stands out the most about him for you?
DF — He only cares about one thing. Winning. He doesn’t care about anything else. We (in the media) get aggravated with him sometimes for not sharing injury information or maybe being evasive on questions we ask, but that’s all because he’s trying to protect his team.
RL — From what?
DF — Losing. We’re in the age where information goes from Baltimore to Pittsburgh in 3 minutes. Or Baltimore to San Diego in 3 minutes. Nothing is secret anymore. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep it secret, or try to as long as you can. And in John’s mind, any information he has to share that could possibly assist the team the Ravens are playing this week is information he shouldn’t share. And he usually doesn’t. But in the end I’m OK with that because I know what coaches go through. They’re the only people in sports who have a career record across the board.
RL — What do you mean by that?
DF — Every coach in every sport has a won/loss record. Ray Lewis doesn’t have one. Nick Markakis doesn’t have one. Pitchers and goaltenders in hockey have a record – which is why I think they’re very special people. When you don’t have a win/loss record attached to your season or your career, it’s easy for you, as a player, to say, “well, I did my part, but the team wasn’t any good.” Coaches can never say that. It’s not in their make-up. They’re the only people in sports who are usually willing to stand up after a game and say, “I’ll take the blame for that” even though more times than not, it’s probably not their fault.
RL — You were very outspoken when Brian Billick was fired a few years ago.
DF — I thought the way they did it was horrible. The end of the road had come for Brian and I think somewhere deep in his heart, he probably knew that too. I wasn’t that critical of the actual decision to fire him. But to tell him – twice in a four week period – that he would be back and that his assistant coaches would return – and then to change your mind and fire him…after what he and his staff had done. I thought that was wrong. And I said so. But that doesn’t mean the Ravens didn’t make the right decision to fire him. It just means it could have and should have gone down differently.
RL — What was the one thing that did him in, in your opinion?
DF — Two things, actually. And both are connected, I guess. The playoff loss to the Colts was devastating. I think it’s probably safe to say the team didn’t recover from that in 2007. And Steve McNair’s play, starting with that Colts game, and flowing over to the next season, was ultimately the final straw, in my opinion. The Ravens brought McNair in to get them to the next level and in the biggest game of the season against the Colts, he looked like Kyle Boller. Then he showed up out of shape the following season, got hurt on the 2nd play of the season in Cincinnati and that, for the most part, finished him off for the year. And it ultimately finished off Brian too. Without good quarterback play in the NFL, you, as a coach, are always one season away from getting fired. (Please see next page)