Ravens fans bashing Harbaugh are off base

December 09, 2010|By Kevin Cowherd

Boy, things sure are getting testy in Ravens Nation.

First you have fans howling that the Ravens offense is too timid and unimaginative, a predictable reaction to the tough 13-10 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers last Sunday.

And now John Harbaugh's getting ripped for calling out a fan on his weekly radio show, which somehow got interpreted as the Ravens head coach taking a shot at all Ravens fans.

Is this a tough town or what?

OK, it's not New York, where they filet their NFL coaches in the tabloids every day. And it's not Philadelphia, where they'd boo a cure for cancer.

But Baltimore fans get a little wound up about their football, too, don't they?

Let's go over what happened Tuesday when Harbaugh and WBAL-Radio's Gerry Sandusky sat down to do the "The John Harbaugh Show."

From the outset, Harbaugh appeared to be a little more subdued than usual. On the other hand, if I coached the Ravens, I wouldn't be clapping people on the back and firing off one-liners after losing to the Steelers, either.

Then "Jim" called on his cell.

"Jim" opened by saying that Harbaugh had remarked a couple weeks earlier that rookie defensive tackle Terrence Cody wasn't getting off his blocks, wasn't getting his pads level and still runs around blocks.

Then "Jim" got to his point.

"Can you tell me why Clarence Brooks still has his job?" he demanded, referring to the Ravens' defensive line coach. "If in five months, Terrence couldn't be taught these basics of defensive play?"

Well.

On the other end of the line, you could feel Harbaugh doing a slow burn.

"I'm not even going there with this guy," was his initial response.

And like a good soldier, Sandusky got rid of the caller and changed the subject.

But a minute later, it was clear Harbaugh was still steaming over "Jim's" remarks.

"I'm proud of this football team," Harbaugh said. "I'm proud of our defense. I'm proud of our offense. We will fight our tails off to be the best team we can be every single week.

"If that's not enough for you," he continued, "find another team to cheer for. If you're not proud of this team, then you don't know football."

Personally, I didn't think what Harbaugh said was any big deal.

The guy was just defending his assistant coach. Any NFL head coach worth his headset would have done the same thing. And, again, this was less than 48 hours after the bitter loss to the Steelers.

Are you kidding? A crazy-intense coach like Tom Coughlin of the Giants or Bill Belichick of the Patriots might have tracked "Jim" down and strangled him.

Nevertheless, Harbaugh's remarks went viral almost immediately.

By Wednesday, he was getting killed on message boards and sports-talk shows.

Now the spin was: That Harbaugh, who does he think he is?

Where does he get off dissing the fans? And telling them if they don't like it, go cheer for another team?

What's he doing, getting all touchy because his offense stinks?

Uh-uh, says Harbaugh, who appeared surprised at the firestorm his remarks had created.

"I was directing my answer to the caller who suggested that one of the NFL's best assistant coaches -- and that's not just our opinion -- should be fired," he told me Wednesday in a statement delivered by Ravens PR guru Kevin Byrne.

"I fully understand that fans will not agree with everything we do," he continued. "And they have every right to voice their opinion. My comment was directed at the one caller, and not all fans."

If you think about it, the idea of Harbaugh ripping the fans is ridiculous on the face of it.

Here's a guy who always talks up Ravens fans to the media, going on and on about the "purple wall of noise" at home games and how much it helps his team.

At away games, he's been known to jog along the stands after a win to high-five Ravens fans and thank them for coming.

Does that sound like a guy who's going to start dissing the fan base now?

No way.

"I've said over and over again how much we appreciate the fans, their passion, the energy they bring to training camp," he said Wednesday. "I think we have the best fans."

This time, I don't think it was John Harbaugh who got a little touchy.

No, this time it was Ravens fans.

It wasn't their finest moment.

kevin.cowherd@baltsun.com

Listen to Kevin Cowherd Tuesdays from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. with Jerry Coleman on Fox 1370 AM Sports.

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