Teddy's bears stuffed with suggestions

December 28, 1998|By KEN ROSENTHAL

Losers' refrains never change, regardless of the situation, regardless of the sport. If the coach is too nice, the players want someone tougher. If the coach is too tough, the players want someone nicer.

Ted Marchibroda was too nice -- that much was obvious in his three seasons with the Ravens. But will the players respond to a stricter coach -- if one is even available -- or will they simply register opposite complaints the next time around?

The debate strikes at the core of this team's questionable character. Even the players are divided on the type of coach that this team needs to produce its first winning season, much less a playoff run.

Pro Bowl players Jonathan Ogden and Bennie Thompson said after yesterday's season finale that the Ravens should hire a hard-nosed coach who will command respect, particularly from younger players.

Jim Harbaugh, Jeff Blackshear, Stevon Moore and James Jones were among those who said that the personality of the coach shouldn't matter, that the players should motivate themselves.

Oddly enough, both sides are right.

There's no excuse for players who take a less-than-professional approach, be they veterans like Wally Williams, Orlando Brown and Eric Green, or youngsters like Ralph Staten and Cornell Brown.

But these are the '90s, and players often are immature. The Ravens' losing culture only exacerbates the problem. The players need to be threatened, even intimidated. They need a firmer hand than Marchibroda.

"We need a guy who will be tough yet fair," Ogden said. "I know people who play for [Tampa Bay's] Tony Dungy. He's not a tough guy, but players respect him, listen to him. They know if they mess up, he's going to get on them.

"Do we need a Jimmy Johnson type? You hear the rumors, how he's supposed to be a dictator. Do we need that? Probably not. But do we need a little something? Yeah."

Thompson, the old-school special teams ace, went even farther.

"We need a coach that is going to come in here and get mad at players when they mess up and congratulate them when they do well. A hard-nosed type of coach. The type of coach I'm used to playing for," Thompson said.

"I'm not used to nice-type coaches who don't swear. We need someone to come in and get on these guys. We've got a bunch of young guys. If you consider yourself mad but talk nice, those guys don't take it seriously."

Marchibroda rarely pushed motivational buttons. He never cut any player of significance. And he didn't coach very well, further eroding his standing in the locker room.

Still, many of these players were Cleveland Browns under the anti-Ted, Bill Belichick. How did they respond to Belichick's iron fist? By losing to first-year Jacksonville at home in 1995, even before the move to Baltimore was announced.

Harbaugh raised the issue of accountability, saying too many players were content to let Marchibroda twist. Blackshear said the team is not good enough to talk playoffs at the start of next season; it must first learn to play week to week.

Then there was Jones, the veteran defensive tackle who started every game despite knee, thigh and hamstring injuries, refusing to cut his season short even though he will be an unrestricted free agent.

"I don't see how you can't respond to a coach like Ted Marchibroda, because of the way he treats you. He treats you like a man," Jones said.

"You need to step up and be a man when it comes to your job. It's one of the greatest things you can do in your life, playing this game. Each person has to take responsibility for himself."

What about the young players who require more discipline?

Jones shook his head.

"When I was young, I didn't need that. A guy like Bennie, when he was young, he didn't need that. [Michael] McCrary, [Rob] Burnett, Ray Lewis, they didn't need that.

"Look at the guys who are successful in the NFL. To me, if you need someone to push you to be a better player, you need help."

Well, some of the Ravens need help. If certain veterans can't get with the program, then get them out of here. If the young and the clueless won't snap out of it, then cut them loose, too.

The Ravens' problems extend far beyond discipline. The offense NTC needs to be overhauled. A young quarterback could take years to develop. And the organization will be spinning its wheels if it doesn't hire a strong general manager to coordinate the football operation.

Still, so much starts with the coach.

"We need a guy who understands how to motivate this type of team," Ogden said. "If we bring in an offensive-minded guy, he needs to have a defensive guy. If we bring in a defensive guy, he needs to have an offensive coordinator.

"We were a little bit fragmented," Ogden continued, referring to Marchibroda's lack of an offensive coordinator. "They need to bring someone here who has a system, a proven system that will work."

Is such a coach out there? Will owner Art Modell hire him?

Those questions are only part of the equation.

The Ravens don't just need a tougher, better coach.

They need tougher, better players, too.

Pub Date: 12/28/98

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