If Harbs making it “his” team, the Super Bowl honeymoon is already over

Concerned John Harbaugh

For most teams, winning the Super Bowl (or whatever championship in the respective sport) should give a front office and head coach a few years of leeway from feeling ridiculous heat from the fan base.

Even in today’s “give me what I want and give it to me now” society, teams that win it all can sit back and take a breath, at least for a little while. However, with the 24-hour news cycle and constant social media interaction, praise and scrutiny (and more scrutiny) are pretty much constant.

Personally, I take the view that the Ravens have rewarded my fandom more than I could ever realistically ask for, with two Super Bowl championships in 13 years. We’re incredibly spoiled as Baltimore fans. I’ll do my best to remember this next fall – I’ll celebrate wins over the likes of the Browns and Bills, and if the Ravens struggle to their first non-playoff season since 2007, I’ll console myself on Sunday nights by watching my Super Bowl XLVII DVDs.

But despite being spoiled, some Ravens fans will demand nothing but the best, and will consider anything short of a championship repeat a failure. Those fans would have liked to see the team go all in and bring as many players from the 2012 roster back in 2013 as possible, for the best chance to repeat.

Basically, what the Ravens did in 2001 – a mistake that the front office admits they have learned from and vowed not to duplicate.

Now that it’s clear that the 2013 version of the Ravens will look vastly different from the 2012 version, many in Ravens Nation find themselves – once again – looking for the nearest bridge.

There have been plenty of pieces written on this site trying to talk those fans back from the ledge; I’ll save the perspective for those blogs.

This one is directed at the way the team is currently being dismantled, as opposed to the mere fact that the dismantling is occurring.

The departures of Anquan Boldin, Paul Kruger, and Dannell Ellerbe all made sense – to varying degrees – for the team from a financial standpoint.

However, the release of safety Bernard Pollard on Wednesday made no such financial sense (saving the team only $1M in cap space for 2013), especially given Pollard’s relatively young age. Even fans who had made peace with the roster turnover were left scratching their heads.

Local conspiracy theorists and sports talkers alike began to connect a few dots and some came to the conclusion that something entirely different was happening – the old guard of the Ravens was being completely ushered out the door. Specifically, those veterans with whom head coach John Harbaugh had “clashed” in the past – Pollard, remember, was said to be at the forefront of the “mutiny” that took place within the team following the loss to Houston in Week 7.

Also in that group?

Ed Reed, who is scheduled to start making his free agent visits on Thursday.

Then there are the players who have, at various times, been said to be in Harbaugh’s “dog house.”

Dannell Ellerbe. Gone.

Bryant McKinnie. We’ve heard nothing about McKinnie being close to re-signing with the team.

And so, if you buy in to the line of thinking that Harbaugh is using this opportunity to rid the locker room of players who he doesn’t deem “his guys,” you can start to see the logic.

It makes sense.

Despite spending five years as the head coach, Harbaugh knew that many still considered the Ravens “Ray Lewis’s team.” Well, Ray retired. So why not seize the opportunity to make it “John Harbaugh’s team?”

If this is indeed what is happening at 1 Winning Drive, it’s way too early to deem it a “good” or a “bad” thing.

What is clear though, is that Harbaugh will not win any goodwill with the fan base by jettisoning popular players to bring in new ones he approves of…unless he keeps winning, and very soon.

I’m a John Harbaugh guy. I think he deserves plenty of credit for taking his team to the playoffs every year, winning a playoff game every year, and for ultimately winning a Super Bowl.

That said, he isn’t above reproach.

His “dog house” probably cost the team a win or two along the way.

His clock management has been perplexing at times.

And his stubbornness in not firing friend Cam Cameron sooner…well, we won’t go there. All’s well that ends well, right?

A particularly concerning point for me, though, is this – I heard through the grapevine that Harbs was none too happy with Ray Lewis for announcing his retirement publicly at the practice facility back in January.

You know, that announcement that every Ravens fan will remember for the rest of our lives, the words that still send chills down our spine (“today…I told my team…”), the words that start countless Ravens playoff highlight videos on YouTube, the words that – at least to some degree – sparked a 10-6 team that nobody gave a chance to an improbable Super Bowl victory…those words. John Harbaugh wasn’t happy about those words.

Something about causing a distraction.

That makes me worry that Harbaugh has trouble gauging the pulse of his team.

What will he do without a strong locker room leader like Lewis? Or Boldin, or Reed, for that matter?

Can John become “the man” that every player in the locker room looks up to and respects?

Or will he need another like Terrell Suggs or Ray Rice or Joe Flacco to emerge as a buffer between players and head coach?

John Harbaugh seems to be betting that he can, in fact, become the new “Godfather” of the Ravens. In enabling the roster turnover that we are seeing (again, IF you buy into the “conspiracy theory”), the front office – owner Steve Bisciotti, GM Ozzie Newsome, Assistant GM Eric DeCosta – must obviously agree.

And why not? As we all know by now, Harbaugh has been around coaches and football players his whole life. He’s been a very successful NFL head coach for five years now. There’s no reason he can’t continue his success with a locker room full of “approved” personalities.

But if he doesn’t…hoo boy. The reaction from the fans in Baltimore will be swift and unforgiving.

As a fan myself, I’m eager to see how it all plays out, but I’m going to continue to enjoy the ride.

Now, excuse me while I go stock up on tissues in preparation for the departure of my favorite player of all-time, Ed Reed.

This entry was posted in Blog View, Featured by Derek Arnold. Bookmark the permalink.

About Derek Arnold

Derek Arnold
RSR/ESR Senior Editor. Derek is originally from and a current resident of Pasadena, MD. He’s a graduate of UMBC and has been a lifelong Baltimore sports fan. In 2007 he founded B’More Birds’ Nest, where he wrote about the Ravens and Orioles before joining RSR in 2012. Derek’s work has...more

30 Raves on “If Harbs making it “his” team, the Super Bowl honeymoon is already over

  1. Football Ed on said:

    Sorry Derek, I don’t buy the conclusion for a minute. The makeup of the team is Ozzie’s domain at least as much as Harbs’.

    I think the Ravens weren’t going to match whatever Kruger or Ellerbe could get on the open market. I happen to think those numbers were greatly influenced by the post season success of the team and that both Cleveland and Miami vastly overpaid for them. Neither seemed willing to take less to continue playing here.

    Reed is over the hill, maybe as far now as Ray was at the end. If any team thinks he’ll be able to come in and be “Ed Reed of the Ravens” they are going to be sadly mistaken.

    Boldin wasn’t going to be worth $7 million.

    Pollard I’m not sure about. He didn’t cover well during the post season and rebreaking his ribs might be a sign of a medical problem, plus the penalties he drew (whether earned or not) didn’t help and neither did the missed tackles between him and Reed all season.

    The true history shows that the Ravens almost always contend and this year they will go into the season with as strong an offense and offensive philosophy as they have ever had…why not take that opportunity to rebuild and restock a defense that has been slipping over the past few years?

    • Derek ArnoldDerek Arnold on said:

      Thanks for reading, Ed.

      I don’t know that I 100% buy into the conspiracy theory either, but it got me thinking.

      I’ve been banging the “Trust in Ozzie” drum as loud as possible through this whole thing. To the point where some have now been accusing me of carrying the team’s water and being an apologist (LOL).

      I’m confident that the team will “retool” effectively.

      • Kayode on said:

        I agree with you Ed about Ozzie being in control of personnel. I’d like to point out that the team did try to bring back Ellerbe, but not at that inflated price.

        The Pollard cut is a little puzzling, but lets all remember that this defense was not one we could be proud of this year. It took a superhuman effort on their part in the postseason to bring it all home. Keeping that in mind I am all for the change. Lets remember that this team was often frustrating during the season, this change is due.

      • Jerry on said:

        Cutting Pollard doesn’t save much cap this season, but it completely rids the team of his cap hit for 2014, assuming he isn’t given the post- June 1st designation. As of right now, the Ravens’ top-six cap hits for 2014 (Ngata, Flacco, Suggs, Webb, Rice, Yanda) total a cool $70.9 million. As is the case for nearly any business, I’m sure the Ravens are discounting the future to some extent, but maybe not to the same extent as other teams, namely those with decision-makers on the hot seat or a track record of limited success in recent years. The Pollard cut still seems odd, but it makes a little bit more sense if you believe (as I do) that the Ravens are focused on 2014 and 2015 almost as much as 2013.

        By the same logic, I’d like to see Sam Koch released. I believe that the cut would only free up about 700k in cap (so basically nothing once you factor in his replacement), but it would also completely wipe his 2014 and 2015 cap hits off the books. It’s debatable if even the best punter is worth the money Koch makes, and it’s pretty clear that he isn’t the best punter, even if he is pretty good.

        Jameel McClain is another guy who could be released if the team is looking to free up cap in future years. I believe that the Ravens could save 1.8 million against the 2013 cap (so about 1.3 after his Rule of 51 replacement) by releasing him, and would also be free of his $4.4 million 2014 cap number. McClain’s release seems less likely now that Ellerbe is officially gone, but I think it’s still worth taking a look at. You may be able to find an approximately equal player on a one-year $1.8 million deal, and nobody would argue that McClain is worth his $4.4 million cap hit in 2014.

        I may be focused on 2014 and 2015 to a greater extent than most fans, but I don’t necessarily believe that the Ravens need to sacrifice 2013 for future years. The free agent market is deep with solid veterans, and a slew of one-year deals for capable, unexciting players could keep the team in contention without committing any more money to the 2014 and 2015 cap.

        • ravensean509@gmail.com on said:

          really well thought out stuff that i agree with. I’ve been bashing mcclain all offseason, actually including last offseason. Did anyone else notice he drew no interest elsewhere? To me, he was never more than “a guy”. I love his personal story that fits into the ravens lineage at LB of finding and developing from within. I wish we had beaten cinci to burfict. I’d like to scoop up karlos dansby who WAS a superior player to ellerbe but word is it was his outspoken ways that clashed with a new coach.

          Hopefully an injury settlement can be reached with jameel. I just basically gave him the same grade as the film analyst here did; i.e. D for play, D- for value.

          Just be paitient folks, the ravens know how to mine the free agency area and have 12 picks this year to retool. A lot of fans, basically the same ones that espouse negativity, will be ready to blast no LT, no replacement for boldin, essentially going backward but the ravens are near the top in the playing the modern NFL game in all areas. It isn’t about a repeat or even doing what the steelers have done in terms of aging ungracefully. It’s about looking to adapt to actually not having a bargain at QB anymore although even this might be modified by a jump in the cap when the tv money hits.

          Look at what the bengals are doing. Identify a young core and sign them early. Yes they have a ton of money but it will go to atkins, johnson, andre smith and shortly, to AJ green.

    • Boldin Raver on said:

      Spot on Football Ed. This conspiracy fencepost gossip is pointless. Bottom line is the Ravens D gave you a lot to feel good and/or sentimental about, but it was below Ravens standards and the guys who left were not build-a-team-around guys. I feel good about our corners. Upshaw, Jones, Tyson and McLellen, Bynes and Brown will be solid role players at worst, will be sidelined by stars or they might emerge as stars. They need a chance. There are holes, but I bet Ozzy finds a berzerker or two to fill them. Ray Lewis leaving and winning a Super Bowl provides an opportunity to cook up a new batch of brew. If we don’t do that, then we’d be really sorry. Face it, what we Ravens fans really want is to match a 2000-like D with the 2012 O. There would be soooooo much purple confetti. Go for it Ozzy!

  2. Keith on said:

    Excellent synopsis of the “offseason heard round the world” When Ozzie,John and Steve spoke about “building for the future, not for a repeat” we all probably thought that meant we were going to try and stay young with right players with right price tags in right positions, but not even Nostradamus saw this coming- Pollard?! Ellerbe, without a price match and a retiring Ray Lewis? Boldin expresses loyalty and team doesn’t want to reward that? We knew Kruger would demand too much for too little a body of work so that’s a pill we can swallow but this is either pure genius or stupidity, we won’t know until September or later. As a die hard, I’ll never bash my team, will always question decisions but find peace knowing we have one of the class A organizations in the NFL- I’m just going along for the ride hoping it all makes sense one day, got a weird feeling that it just might- Go Champs!

  3. billy on said:

    Harbs wants control of the locker room so everyone must leave!!! That’s why Harbs dumped Pollard because he feels he runs his mouth to much … to vocal…. to much of a leader …. and Harbs can’t have that, so he blows up the team , Ozzy goes along with it , and Steve well .. he can still raise prices on tickets, get a bunch of new young cheap players ” KACHANG” , and run up the old bank account. He knows all the Kool Aid drinkers in Baltimore would go see the Ravens play if they didn’t win any games. A win win for him, but you won’t see too many win wins next year in Ravens land or the year after with this bunch. Alabama will have a better defense then the Ravens next year. This destruction is unbelievable!
    Reply ↓

    • g money on said:

      this is a ridiculous response. if you think that they are cutting players to save money and increase profit, you are really off base.

  4. Craig on said:

    I don’t agree with any of this. EVERY single player released is a one-trick pony. Reed ONLY played center field, Pollard could play the run and blitz but couldn’t cover, Boldin was only a possession receiver, Kruger was only a 1 or 2 down linebacker at best and disappears on running plays, and Ellerbe just plain misses too much time to command that salary. McKinney doesn’t run block well. Put all of that on the field at the same time and what you get is ALOT of holes. People forget the defense was absolutely awful this year – I was sickened on more than 1 occasion watching teams do whatever they wanted whenever they wanted. Remember Denver? In our own house? In the playoffs, we beat Denver because of the offense. We beat New England because the offense got up and made them 1 dimensional, and we almost blew a 21 point lead in the freakin Super Bowl – that’s defense folks – and it needs an overhaul. Bravo Ozzie and Harbs.

    • g money on said:

      Thank you Craig! Glad someone finally said something that makes sense. Our defense was terrible last year. We are going to fill some holes with players that work in our system and draft young players to be our future. Please also don’t forget how Kirk Cousins let a game winning drive against us during the regular season. We NEED to get better on defense.

    • Chris on said:

      “Pollard could play the run and blitz but couldn’t cover”

      The Ravens coaching staff and front office watched and evaluated Pollard for a full year (2011-12) and then extended him three years. So everyone is speculating that only one year after extending him, in a move that has next to no salary cap benefit, they cut him strictly because he was a one trick pony that is poor in coverage. They didn’t see this in his first season with the Ravens? They suddenly felt this way right after a Super Bowl season in which he was their best defensive player and basically won the AFC Championship? I don’t buy it. If it was about the personal fouls then why in the world are they talking to James Harrison’s agent right now? That would be the ultimate hypocrisy to cut Pollard for personal fouls only to sign Harrison. This move had to be either the Ravens unhappy with his locker room presence or is medically related.

      • ravensean509@gmail.com on said:

        its basically the only thing that makes sense. I was skeptical about him coming in, associating him as a thumper on horrible pass defenses but he won me over beginning in his first game by basically mugging hines ward to set an “AFC north” physical tone the same way leach does on offense. It cant really be about anything else, not when you’re essentially paying him to leave. It is telling that we’re the 3rd team to let him go. I’m certainly not a fan of overly stubborn or autocratic coaching (cam, anyone?) so i don’t know how it will play out. Just very wierd to identify a player and extend him, just to cut him one year later. It virtually has to be internal.

        • ravensean509@gmail.com on said:

          I advanced the theory about his body possibly breaking down, being an “old 30″. Look at troy polamalu’s striking decline. To chip in on harrison. Yeah it’s hypocritical but harrison is a vastly better player even at 75% of what he was.

  5. GG on said:

    I read that Pollard crossed way over the line in criticizing a fellow player during the Redskins game. There are other reasons (cap space not really one of them but cover skills, penalties, and yes, conflict with the head coach possibly being some) but that could have been the straw that broke the camel’s back kind of thing.

  6. Stevan Ridley on said:

    Ravens tried to sign Ellerbe, he took more money elsewhere. So there goes that theory about harbaugh trying to get rid of doghouse guys. Saying Pollard was released because Harbaugh wanted him gone based on some hearsay is a bit ridiculous.

  7. Bmore Finest on said:

    i think Harbaugh is up for the challenge, he has a Great Gm who will build another great D. Having two Born HOFer Ravens leave, is a tough pill to swallow. But Harbs is getting better along with the team. Harbs, has a Mvp QB. First time in Ravens history.

    The Harbaugh Brothers Are the NFL New Era. For the last two years, you have to beat one to get to Superbowl. I see no change in that this season. John has Flacco and we will be fine. Jim has Kaepernick. I’m looking forward to this era started year two ago.

    It going to be Interesting to see the Ravens as Joe and John Team. The legends have left and now Harbs has his name at the top. Ozzie will build another 10+ years Great Ravens D. But the future is bright for me with Harbs and Flacco.

  8. bruce romo on said:

    … Pollard was a piece-of-work (… and a helmet-to-helmet pop away from a league suspension); besides the draft is flush with hard hitting strong safeties (e.g. Swearinger, say, 3rd round)
    … hey, Middle Linebacker: Rolando McLain from Oakland, he’s available — yes, he’s a thug, but he went to Alabama, so maybe Ozzie knows something we don’t, we could get him for a late round draft pick and probably absorb the remaining portion of his rookie deal; he plays at a pro-bowl caliber — there might be second life for him here.

  9. TK on said:

    Nice read. I don’t think Pollard is as easily replaced as many do. With Lewis, Pollard and Reed (presumably) gone, so too goes much of the attitude and fire that made the Ravens defense fearsome for so many years. Pollard is in his prime and was one of the defense’s few play makers the past two years. If Harbaugh’s arrogance/personality clash is a factor in his release, that’s a bad sign. Derek is exactly right.

  10. Steve on said:

    I don’t understand the Pollard and mutiny stuff. I read the Yahoo article, if you read the whole article it actually points this mutiny as a good thing for the team. It opened discussion and brought the team together. If Harbaugh did such a good job or of accepting the mutiny and using it for the team why does everyone think he is trying to remove it now? It just doesn’t make any sense, Harbaugh is not Stalin. He wants the family feel in the locker room and he wants his players to speak up and be family. Family fight, I can’t imagine he got rid of Pollard just for that.

    Truth probably is it removes Pollard’s cap for 2014 and they felt comfortable with Ighedigbo (sp). The youth movement is in place on defense just like it has been on offense for the past few years. Don’t be surprised to see 75% defensive picks come April 28th.

  11. Greg on said:

    The Pollard deal is especially puzzling considering that Leach is still on the team for now. Suggs has proven to be a leader especially with his willingness to play injured the last two years. I think while yes Reed’s best days are behind him, two first ballot Hall of Famers refused to even look his way in the playoffs. I think that at least deserves an offer to be brought back. Also in my mind Reed is just as worthy of retiring as a Raven as Ogden or Lewis. I sincerely hope Harbaugh’s ego isn’t slowly poisoning the future of this team. We were extremely lucky last year that Jah Reed “injured” his toe making way for the change at O line..lol. We can only wait and see.

  12. jason on said:

    If you think about it you have 3 players that have contracts coming up next year.Oher,Pitta,Smith all are coming up next year so they have to make adjustments to account for there salary.Also if you look at all the great linebackers that left Baltimore (Sharper,Scott, Johnson and Thomas)how many have succeed at the next stop? Not many so Ozzie knows what he is doing, our team drafts really well so I believe that we will be strong again next year.

  13. Colper on said:

    Good read.

    First let me say, I would only hope that every fan should expect their team to get to the playoffs, if not, what fun is football? I dont pay 10% increased season ticket prices to watch a team that’s not a playoff contender.

    Boldin and Pollard should have stayed. Financially, physically, and emotionally what they offer to the team; there is no reason NOT to keep them.

    Football is an emotional and physical sport. We weren’t the best team in the NFL last year, but the emotionally and physically uplifting players ARE a major part of what won us the games when we needed to most. And these players are now getting the boot.

    If Ozzie doesn’t find a rebuttal in this off-season, and we dont make the playoffs, Harbs is going to have everyone “after his head”.

  14. ravensean509@gmail.com on said:

    To make an example about the modern NFL, i was always amazed the colts were so good for so long because they tied up so much money in so few players basically refusing to pay a LB or CB, even a RB with very limited exceptions like Gary Brackett who replaced a superior Mike Peterson. Even both faulk and E. James were jettisoned. Two ace pass rushers, one DB (bob sanders, then bethea) no guards (only tackle or center) and everything invested into the passing game.

    I always thought they had holes as a dome team that refused to invest in stopping the run but they deserve credit for consistently finding, developing and plugging in low cost players at a ton of positions to fit their philosophy, not rewarding good players for performance at positions they devalued.

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