Tuesday, January 22, 2008

You're Hired! Now What?

In the words of newly named Head Coach John Harbaugh, “Let’s go baby.”

Harbaugh was appointed king of the castle last Saturday and before the ink had time to dry on his contract, the third leading man in Ravens franchise history appeared just as ready to move on to the 2008 season as his new flock of fans as he told Ravens President Dick Cass, “Can’t wait to get started,” followed by a moment of honest enthusiasm as he quipped, “Let’s go baby.”

And who could blame him? After spending 21 years on the sidelines, he has finally been handed the reigns to run things as he sees fit. He will get to pick his own coaching staff. Pick his own plays. Pick which players play for him, rather those relegated to special teams. And he will probably be allowed to pick the meals on our team flights (Note to coach: please keep the crab claws and warm cookies on the menu, but feel free to add cheese steaks to make you feel more at home).

Other than slightly higher cholesterol levels amongst Ravens employees, what can Ravens fans expect now that the Harbaugh era has begun? No one knows. Consider Brian Billick’s offensive prowess before donning the purple and black. Consider Marvin Lewis’ legendary defensive distinction before becoming a head coach himself. And now, with Harbaugh, even the most speculative spectators have only special teams tapes to scour. So, if we can’t predict the brand of product scheduled for release this fall, what can we expect from the company’s new spokesman?

First of all, he can handle the pressure. And not just from the throng of media members that awaited him at his first press conference as a Raven. Before he was thrown to the wolves, Harbaugh showed his resolve under fire while signing his contract in triplicate. About to make his life long dream official, the pen he was using failed him, or as he remarked, ran out of “juice”. Not to worry; calm, cool and collected, Harbaugh took a second offering from Mr. Cass and finished the job in black ink.

Second, not only does John come across as genuine, but his relationships with his parents appear as common as those amongst the Barone’s on Everybody Loves Raymond. When John first saw his mother and father on signing day, his first words to his Mom Jackie summoned the mama’s boy inside all of us as he asked, “Still disappointed I’m not a lawyer?” The joke evoked laughter from all of the men in the room, including Steve Biscotti and Ozzie Newsome. To complete the too-good-to-be-true circle of life, John greeted his father with two strong man-to-man hugs and whispered sincerely as he pulled away from his dad, “Because of you. Because of you.”

Third, he’s a sports fan. A loyal sports fan. As Jim was introduced to Art Modell, he unabashedly informed him that he was a Browns fan. He didn’t say, “I grew up a Browns fan,” or, “I used to be a Browns fan.” No, his first words after taking a seat in Mr. Modell’s office was, “I’m a Browns fan.” He went on to recall memorable moments in Browns history under Modell, including a near victory over the Dolphins’ during Miami’s 1972 undefeated season. Not to worry Ravens fans, John certainly knows which color he’ll be wearing come September, but his commitment to his hometown team, and the passion he displayed while discussing days gone by, should prove positive for those in purple.

Fourth, he’s got connections. Not only did his father Jack coach for 41-years, but John’s brother Jim is the current head football coach at Stanford. John made reference to the fact that Jim was on a recruiting trip over the weekend and gave a little encouragement to the high schooler in question to head west to join the Cardinal. Maybe Jim will return the favor by promoting the Ravens to the Pac-10’s most promising players. John also has connections with the Big East, albeit on the hardwood. His brother-in-law, Tom Crean, is the head basketball coach at Marquette. Not only do the Golden Eagles now play up and down the Eastern Seaboard, but they also represent the alma mater of Kevin Byrne, the Ravens VP of Public Relations. Although considering Marquette does not have a football program, I think the best use of those connections would be to help this blogger’s alma mater pick up an extra win or two this season (after witnessing first-hand Monday night’s nail-biting loss to Georgetown in overtime, Syracuse could use it).

Fifth, no matter how you analyze, dissect, scrutinize, study, or review him, John Harbaugh is the head coach of the Baltimore Ravens. Consider that less than 30 minutes into his first press conference, Harbaugh was asked about the Ravens struggles on offense. Remember that he not only coached the two other phases of the game while in Philadelphia, but when he thinks Ravens QB, his first thought is still probably his brother, circa 1996. Of course, this is Baltimore. These are our Ravens. And we haven’t had a consistent quarterback from Harbaugh to, well, Harbaugh. So he’ll have to excuse our eagerness and inquiry. RavensNation is equal parts distressed and delighted. Fearful and fired up. Petrified and passionate. But we must be patient. “The process begins today.” said Harbaugh during his press conference and then later on WBAL, “The euphoria wears off quickly. You realize it’s time to go to work.”

Let’s go.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Harbaugh seems to be a great choice..but he will not have the full run of the ship. The owner made it clear that the middle linebacker position belongs to Ray (Linebacker Emeritus) Lewis for the next five years. Harbaugh comes handcuffed already.