CBS-TV's Dan Dierdorf Likes Ravens
Dan Dierdorf knows football.
He's in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the ultimate salute to his 13-season NFL career that included 160 games and many All-Pro and Pro Bowl honors.
Dan will be CBS-TV's analyst for Sunday's broadcast of the Ravens/Texans game. Dierdorf, who became the longest-tenured football broadcast expert after John Madden's retirement, is completing his 27th year of commenting on NFL games. The former voice of Monday Night Football, Dan is broadcasting his fourth Ravens game of the season and fifth of the Texans. He did the color commentary for the Baltimore/Houston game on Oct. 16.
"The Texans are good enough to beat the Ravens, but I think they're in for a rude awakening at M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday," Dierdorf said to me yesterday. "It's one thing to beat Cincinnati at home and quite another to go to Baltimore and play a rested, well-balanced Ravens team. Look, Joe Flacco has played in more playoff games (7) – all on the road – than T.J.Yates (6) has started in his career. … advantage Baltimore.
"I've been in loud stadiums," Dan continued, "at the 'Horseshoe' at Ohio State, at old Mile High with the stands shaking. Your place has got it. I thought Arrowhead was the loudest outdoor stadium I ever experienced. Maybe Seattle is now, but Baltimore is right there. I'm not sure who would be No. 1 or 1A with this group.
"What a fan base you have. They know how to disrupt an opponent. I don't know that T.J. Yates' experience at North Carolina (where he played college ball) prepared him for what he will experience Sunday. Maybe if he played for UNC's basketball team, and he played at Duke, he'd have some idea. Your fans will create a noise that penetrates the body. That's the truth. It's wearing on an opponent. And their tackles are going to be a half-step slow on the count. … Well, it's going to be tough for the Texans' offense. They can run the ball, and you can stop the run pretty well. That will be a fascinating matchup."
Nice, Dan, you like our home-field advantage. What about the Ravens?
"The Ravens might be the most balanced team left in the playoffs. You're playing good football in all three phases," Dierdorf explained. "And, I love the way your team is built. Outstanding players on both sides of the ball with playmakers, guys who can make winning plays in big games.
"You know I love John [Harbaugh]. He is so consistent. That can't be understated. His teams are ready every week. They are battle-tested. We're seeing a case study with another NFL team right now. They are imploding. Teams can easily do that. Your team, with John directing the troops, is built for the long haul. I'd be stunned if the Ravens, under John and the rest of your leadership team, ever have an implosion like the one we're witnessing elsewhere."
Harbs, Dorf And Bo
When Coach Harbaugh met with the CBS crew this morning as part of Dierdorf's crew's preparation for Sunday's game, we had to first endure Harbs and Dorf congratulate each other over Michigan's successful comeback season. Dan played at Michigan under the legendary Bo Schembechler, and John's father, Jack, was an assistant for Bo. John, who hung around the Michigan football team as a kid, and Dan both worship at Bo's altar.
That wasn't always the case for Dierdorf.
As a high school senior at Glenwood High School in Canton, Ohio, Dan was heavily recruited by most major colleges. "I hadn't told anyone officially, but I had made up my mind that I was going to Michigan when my high school coach asked me to meet with the head coach of Miami of Ohio, Bo Schembechler. I said, 'Sure, why not.'
"A few days later, my coach told me that Bo would be there after school that day. I stiffed Bo. I left the school and didn't meet with him, snuck out a back door," Dierdorf said.
Jump to a few years later, and Dierdorf, who had just finished a sophomore campaign at Michigan that earned him All-Big Ten honors, woke up to see this headline on the front of the campus paper: "BO WHO?" In smaller type, it read: "Schembechler Named Wolverines Head Coach."
Dierdorf explained: "I saw that two-word headline 'Bo Who?' and I had a two-word headline in my mind: 'Oh S_!'"
"I decided I would make a preemptive strike and go to the football offices and meet the new head coach," Dierdorf remembered. "Well, I stepped around a corner, and there was Bo coming down the hall. Before I could even extend my hand, Bo was up on me and said: 'Dierdorf!' as he grabbed my midsection, 'You're fat, you're mine, and I never forget anything.' Man, you talk about tough offseason training and Spring ball. Coach was all over me. That's the last time I even thought about skipping an appointment with anyone."
Ray Lewis And Jameel McClain
One of the themes Coach Harbaugh has emphasized this week with the young players on the team is to watch what the veterans do and mimic them. John told the players: "If you're not sure what you should be doing to get ready for this divisional game, pick a veteran and do what he does. If you're a linebacker, follow Ray. If you're a receiver, do what Anquan does. …" and on and on.
Walking through a room on Tuesday, the players' day off this week, Ray Lewis was sitting on a table looking at his iPad and taking notes. Ray saw Jameel McClain go by and called to him: "Come look at this." Ray then showed a play the Texans ran against the Bengals last Saturday. "See, when this guy goes in motion, it's 100 percent run.
"Dean [Pees, linebackers coach] studied a bunch of games, and it's the same every time. I'm going to look at some more tonight and see if it ever changes."
Jameel nodded. "I got it. If we're in [a certain defense], what will I do?" Ray then gave an answer.
Coach, looks like the players heeded your message.
And, we'll be looking for that "Wall of Purple" at M&T Bank Stadium. My sense is that this is the most excited our fans have been for a home game in our history. It should be spectacular. Let's beat the Texans.
Talk with you next week.
Kevin Byrne, a Ravens senior vice president, has worked in the NFL for 32 years. Byrne has been with the Ravens since the start of the franchise in 1996. Earlier in his career, Byrne was the sports information director at Marquette University, his alma mater, when they won the 1977 NCAA basketball championship under coach Al McGuire.