Michael Silver’s piece on Yahoo Sports about the Baltimore Ravens “mutiny” during an October practice has received a lot of different opinions here in Charm City. I’ve read through the article a few times and am encouraged by John Harbaugh’s ability to unite his players during their most difficult part of the 2012 season, but I can’t help but be a tad worried about the players turning on their head coach — even if it was for just a few minutes.
Harbaugh told the team they would be practicing in full pads on Halloween before breaking for their bye week. The Ravens had been beaten 43-13 by the Houston Texans 10 days earlier, and narrowly defeated the Dallas Cowboys and Kansas City Chiefs in the two weeks prior.
“Practicing in pads did not go over well with some of Baltimore’s other veterans, including safeties Ed Reed and Bernard Pollard, and several of them openly challenged Harbaugh’s edict,” Silver writes.
“It was practically a mutiny,” one Ravens player recalled. “It came very close to getting out of control. But the way Coach Harbaugh handled it was amazing. He let people have their say, and he listened, and he explained himself, and pretty soon it was like a big group-therapy session. In the end, a lot of positive things were said. We didn’t practice in pads, but we came out of there stronger as a group.”
Silver adds that Harbaugh “welcomed the dialogue and solicited additional criticism” and that the “subject shifted to Harbaugh’s treatment of his players and perceived mood swings.”
“I’ve never seen a head coach handle anything like that as well as he did,” said a Ravens assistant who attended the meeting. “There were some things said where we were like, Damn.
“A lot of coaches would have acted like dictators and been very sensitive about the way their authority was being questioned. John said, ‘Hey, let’s talk about this.’ He showed great leadership. Instead of worrying that it would make him seem weak, he turned it into a strength.”
Players questioned Harbaugh’s demeanor and challenged him for being “brusque and negative on certain occasions”.
“He said, ‘I don’t remember saying that, but if I did I apologize,’ ” the Ravens assistant said. “He said, ‘Hey, you know what? That was in the heat of the moment, and I was wrong.’
“John’s great quality is that even if he goes down the wrong street, he’s willing to say, ‘I went down the wrong street’ and correct it with the team. Whereas other coaches are so damn stubborn, they won’t admit they were wrong, and it splinters the team.”
Harbaugh said he wasn’t threatened by the criticisms and wanted to his players to speak freely so that they weren’t “sneaking around talking behind corners”.
It all seems fine and dandy now. The Ravens are 9-2, could sweep the Pittsburgh Steelers for the second consecutive season and have a good chance of grabbing a second seed in the AFC. But I can’t help but be worried about this divide. Hearing a story about the veterans questioning the leadership of their head coach reminds me of the end of the Brian Billick days. Wasn’t “losing the locker room” an excuse used by the local media for Billick’s firing?
And speaking of the local media, somehow this story never got reported here in Baltimore by the radio stations, news channels, newspapers and online publications that follow the team everyday. If not for Silver — who wrote about it a month after the fact — fans would have never heard about this little meeting.
It makes you wonder if this isn’t the first time something like this happened behind closed doors at The Castle.