IF YOU THINK LOSING IS BETTER THAN WINNING, I THINK YOU KNOW WHAT THAT MAKES YOU…
I don’t know how many of you really paid attention on Monday night, but that win in Cleveland was something special.
Not because the Ravens won. Hell, McDonogh or Gilman might have taken the Browns to overtime on Monday evening. It was special because of the way the Ravens played. Perfect? Hardly. High quality? In some phases, yes, in others, no. Coaching blunders? I’d call them lapses in sound judgment, but we’re splitting hairs now.
It was special because John Harbaugh always figures out a way to make this game and this moment mean something to the guys who run through the tunnel.
Yes, as a pre-qualifier to this, I’m an unabashed John Harbaugh fan. I have been since his first season here back in 2008. I know him personally; that’s true. I don’t let that guide me when I’m evaluating his performance on the sidelines, though. I thought challenging that 3rd and 1 “spot” was silly; not because it was a bad challenge, per-se, but because they were always going to for it on 4th and 1 no matter what the result of the challenge was…so why throw the red flag in the first place? But he’s not perfect – not a coach in the league is, by the way – and I’m able to pick at his mistakes and point them out even though I admire him professionally and personally.
But week in and week out, the Ravens show up. Sometimes they don’t start off that well (games vs. Denver, Oakland, San Francisco and St. Louis featured awful offensive production in the first half) and they end with a bang. Sometimes they get out of the gate OK (Cleveland – both games – and Pittsburgh) and throw a shoe in the final few minutes. There’s always a problem, somewhere, which is why the team is 4-7 and not 7-4. But one thing that ISN’T an issue is the team’s willingness to compete. They’re fighters. They’re willing to stick it out. And they’re doing that because Harbaugh forces it out of them, even when late November rolls around and the playoff picture is all but officially dark for them in 2015.
If you watched that game on Monday night and were HOPING the Ravens would lose, you couldn’t play for John Harbaugh. Frankly, you couldn’t play for any of the other 31 coaches in the league, either, because not one of them would ever go into a week of preparation softening their approach with a sliver of hope that the club might not win the next game in order to better position themselves for the draft in 2016.
Do you really think, honestly, that it’s better to go 3-13 than it is to go 5-11 or 6-10? If so, you’re not an athlete. You’re a ballgame watcher. And that’s fine, because that’s how the league makes money, but you certainly don’t have an athletic mind if you think losing is EVER better than winning.
And do you also believe that just because you’re going to finish 3-13 that you’re automatically going to make the RIGHT pick next spring when you’re handed the 2nd overall selection in the draft? Really, it’s a guarantee? Remember back in 2013 when the Chiefs had the first pick? They took a great player named Eric Fisher out of Central Michigan. Guess who beat him out of a job this season? Jah Reid. In 2012, the Redskins traded up to get that coveted 2nd pick and they took a quarterback named Robert Griffin III. Cleveland, perennial losers, selected Trent Richardson, a running back, with the 3rd pick. Should I go on? Right. I made my point.
If the Ravens finish at 6-10, they’ll get themselves an excellent football player with the 9th pick and the 41st pick and so on. If they finish 4-12, they’ll have access to a few more players than they would, say, at #9, but all in all, there are plenty of fish in the sea of college football from which to choose. Losing a game now, or next week, or in week seventeen isn’t BETTER than winning any of those games. It’s just not.
So, that’s why the Ravens came out with their hair on fire on Monday night in Cleveland…because they have no interest in losing. And that’s all about Harbaugh and his weekly message to the team. “Don’t look back, don’t look ahead. Look to now. Right now. What’s important now? And the answer is: Winning the next game.”
Every coach is flawed. Power struggles, internal strife, job insecurity…you name it, they’re dealing with it. Some of it, yes, is probably created by the coaches themselves, mainly because they’re relying on 53 other people to help keep them employed. I’d be nervous as a burglar, too, if I had to count on 53 men (and/or women) to help feed my family every year, particularly when I don’t directly control their work environment, salary, benefits and passion for their job.
I’ll take John Harbaugh as my coach every day.
I’d also like to have a healthy, high quality quarterback, a better offensive left tackle, a few receivers who can get open and catch the ball, a linebacker or two who can cover Gary Barnidge and anyone who can stop hitting an opposing player after the whistle has blown.
But if I can’t have those guys – and right now, the Ravens don’t have them – I’ll just take John Harbaugh and we’ll fight you wherever you want to fight. One thing I know for sure: we’re going to show up at the appointed time and you’ll have to knock us out to beat us.
Drew Forrester is the creator and publisher of www.drewsmorningdish.com, a daily sports blog that focuses mainly on the Ravens, Orioles and Terps, with the occasional smattering of professional golf, hockey and basketball thrown in as well.