Byrne Identity: Coach Harbaugh Loses Control Of Meeting


Coach Harbaugh Loses Control Of Meeting

It was chaos.

Players were shouting at the head coach, at each other.

Some players stood when they were told to sit.

John Harbaugh, always a commanding presence in front of his team, was failing to be heard.

"I lost control," Harbs said. "I was trying, but it wasn't working."

It was last Monday near the end of the team meeting that reviewed key plays from the victory over the Chiefs. (The Monday meeting is when the head coach closes the door on the previous game and sends a key message for that week's work.)

Apollo 13

The Ravens' head coach was doing so well at the beginning of the session. He referenced the space mission and movie "Apollo 13," and the valor displayed by the U.S. astronauts on that historic voyage. He talked about how those heroes found a way to get back to earth by using their intelligence, courage, resolve and the assets on the ship to return safely to earth.

"Those astronauts found a way, just like you did yesterday in Kansas City and like we will have to every game for the rest of the season," Harbaugh said to a roomful of Ravens, who, at that time, were listening intently.

After showing a couple of videos, John stood in front of that august group, and holding an envelope above his head, said: "I have something from Steve Bisciotti. These are his four tickets to tonight's Orioles' playoff game against the New York Yankees. They are great seats. Who wants them?"

Quickly, a number of players started pleading for these coveted tickets. "I'm from Maryland, Coach, how about me?" Torrey Smith shouted. Ed Reed, who had purchased a suite to take all the defensive backs to the game, yelled: "Coach, I got a suite. Whoever you give the tickets, they can come sit with us." Jacoby Jones stood: "Coach, you know I should have those tickets. I know you like me."

Coach Harbaugh got their attention: "Listen, listen! I'm going to give you a trivia question. If you give the right answer, the tickets are yours.

"OK, the year is 1961." Groans are heard throughout the room. "That's too long ago," Ray Rice exclaimed.

John continued: "1961, four players won MVP honors, one in the American League, one in the National League, two in football, one in the NFL and one in the AFL. All four winners wore number 32. Give the answer and the tickets are yours."

"Jim Brown!" shouted Matt Birk. (And, no, Matt did not play with Brown. Matt's old, but not that old.)

Names were blurted all over the room.

"Bo Jackson."

"Lou Gehrig."

"Pete Rose."

"O.J. Simpson."

"Mickey Mantle. Roberto Clemente. Earl Campbell. Jackie Robinson."

CB Chykie Brown yelled: "Cookie Gilchrist."

"That's right, very good," Harbaugh said – and then noticed a phone in Chykie's hand. "No cheating! Put phones and iPads away.

"Okay, we have Jim Brown, Cookie Gilchrist. We need the baseball players. One is a Yankee," Harbs continued.

Brown shouted: "Elston Howard."

"Put your phone down. But, that's right. The last one is a Dodger." Assistant head coach Jerry Rosburg blasted: "Koufax, Sandy Koufax." Harbaugh laughed: "That's right, but Jerry, you can't go. We're meeting tonight."

New Game

Brendon Ayanbadejo pleaded for another contest: "Coach, Coach!" as Brendon tried to get Harbs' attention over the din. "Try something else. Give us another one. No one won that."

"OK, OK, let's do this," Harbaugh said. "Anyone who wants the tickets stand up." John then turned his back to this loud mob and wrote a number on a piece of paper. Shifting back around, he said: "Give me a number between one and 1,000." Going from his right to left, John then wrote each player's number on his sheet. "Everybody sit down. Who picked number 726?"

About 15 players stood up. "Seriously, who picked that?" Brown said he picked 725. Jacoby Jones claimed 727. (They both must be fans of "The Price Is Right" game.) "No, it came from over there, who said '726?'" Jameel McClain and Torrey Smith, both laughing and pointing fingers at each other said: "I did. I did."

Someone shouted: "Rock, paper, scissors!"

"You two," the head coach pointed to Torrey and Jameel, "in front of the room. Rock, paper, scissors –  best of three. Winner gets the tickets."

Cary Williams stepped in as a referee. … And Jameel swept him in two. The video of the match is embedded below.

Tension, Scrutiny

With all the scrutiny that comes from media and fans, there is certainly pressure coaching and playing in the NFL. As former Chiefs' head coach Hank Stram said in a famous sideline rant: "You know what NFL stands for: 'Not For Long.'"

It was good to see the players and coaches let loose in that Monday meeting. They had a lot of fun with each other. Good teams do that. And, we have a good team.

One Note On The Cowboys

The last time we played the Cowboys was in Coach Harbaugh's first season in 2008 (Dec. 14). The game was played on a Saturday night and televised nationally. It was the last NFL game played at Texas Stadium. We were the Homecoming opponent … at least that's what we thought.

We had convinced ourselves that Jerry Jones had asked the NFL to have us as the opponent for that last game. We were 5-11 the season before, we had a rookie head coach, but we had some TV star power with players like Ray Lewis and Ed Reed. But, we didn't arrive with slumped shoulders and the team that was expected when the schedule was made that spring. We were 9-5, fighting for the playoffs.

Many of you remember what happened. With the history of the glorious Cowboys history standing along the sidelines, plus celebrities from across the country, we beat Dallas up. Ravens 33, Cowboys 24. One of the best regular-season memories in Ravens lore.

Let's beat those Cowboys again this Sunday. Talk with you next week.


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