Think that's something we can all agree on.
Losing an NFL game sucks even more.
Let's equate it to baseball. We play 16 regular-season games in the NFL. The Orioles and all other Major League teams play 162 games that count. That means that when we lose a game, 1/16 of our schedule, it's like losing 10 in a row in baseball (1/16 of 162). Lose three straight, our current situation, it's comparable to dropping 30 consecutive in baseball.
That's how much it hurts. Our food doesn't taste right. We like each other less. Sleep is hard. … And we can't wait until the next game to get the taste out of our mouths.
Part of the intrigue and popularity of the NFL is that one game means so much, and it's why the 32 teams are closely evaluated every single week.
And, when we lose, we are held accountable by you, the fans, and, of course, members of the media. In fact, the first thing we do after a loss is face the music with reporters. It's mandatory. We are required to open our locker room to reporters within 10-12 minutes of the game ending.
Hey, that's what we sign up for when we join the NFL. ("They make all that money. They deserve all the scrutiny and second-guessing.") One of my post-game tasks is to grab John Harbaugh immediately after he speaks with our team and take him to the post-game interview room. Others from our media relations staff alert players, who will have to go to that same room, and try to calm and/or alert any other Raven who is likely to be targeted by the media.
I remember after a late-season loss to the Steelers when Brian Billick, then our head coach, looked at me and said: "Whoever invented this meeting with the media 10 minutes after pouring your heart and soul into a game that you lose, has never had to do this."
No doubt, it is hard. Look, if you're fortunate to play or coach in the NFL, it means you are very good, elite in many ways. To get to this level, you are driven. Winning means something. That's part of why you reached the pros. Losing is startling. It's not what you expect. You can't get a loss back.
And, you have to talk about that defeat with people whose job it is to serve as a conduit between us and you, the fans. Reporters ask some of the same questions you would ask: "What's the deal with all the penalties? What were you thinking going for it on fourth-and-goal? It looked like so-and-so and so-and-so got beat on the Odell Beckham winning touchdown, right?"
Dealing with reporters immediately after a loss is always delicate. Emotions and frustrations are high. But, on the whole, athletes and coaches handle it well. For most reporters, covering a losing locker room is uncomfortable for them, too. They are just doing their jobs. Most do it respectfully and with tact.
There are some reporters who purposely ask "bait and gotcha" questions. There are a few, very few, who glorify themselves by asking the "hard questions" and then brag on the air or other places that "I'm the only one who asks the tough questions. Here I am asking, listen to his answers," they will proclaim.
(By the way, criticism of the media seems at an all-time high. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is brutal. He said, "Reporters are the lowest form of life. Don't believe these people. They are bloodsuckers. They are lying, disgusting people with media bias rigging the election." Yikes! What will his reaction be when his game is really played – on election day? If he doesn't win, it will be interesting to hear him, won't it?)
A number of people have asked me this week about what the Ravens would do with Cam Newton. The reigning NFL MVP spoke with the media for 90 seconds last Sunday after the defending NFC champions dropped to a 1-5 mark with a loss at New Orleans.
Frankly, I think Newton expresses, both with his answers and his demeanor, how much he hates losing and strives to win. He reflects what many coaches and players think about when answering questions after a loss. He shows how much it hurts. He even expressed this truth when he was criticized for his post-Super Bowl presser: "I'm on record as being a sore loser."
Look, I'm pretty sure the Panthers wish Newton wouldn't create more news with his post-loss press conferences. But, my bet is they greatly admire that losing hurts him that much. And, I know that if personnel people – the scouts – in the NFL had a test for discovering great athletes who are deeply bothered by losing, they would use it in every evaluation. Players who have indicated that winning and losing mean a great deal to them are graded higher. They should be. Fear of losing is a motivator. I've heard Harbs tell the team after a loss: "Let's remember this, how badly it feels. We don't want to feel this again, right?"
We've had Ravens so upset after losses that they've asked us to help "buy them some time," or said things like, "You don't want me talking to the media right now." We respect that, work with the player and try to seek a middle ground that is within the NFL rules and gives proper respect to reporters trying to do their jobs. Immediately, I think of outstanding cornerback Duane Starks, a starter on our Super Bowl XXXV championship team. He was so upset after giving up a touchdown pass to Jacksonville's Jimmy Smith that he was teary eyed. After the close loss, he showered and went to his locker where a horde of reporters waited. Starks dressed first, turned to face the group and said, "Guys, I hope you respect this. I'm so upset with the way I played and this loss, I can't answer your questions right now. I will come back later this week and answer everything."
It was a good way to handle that. Reporters used his quotes. TV and radio included his audio and video comments in their broadcasts. And then, he met with the reporters on Wednesday and was able to explain how much losing that game hurt him.
We talk to our players, coaches and some staff about working with the media. We've covered everything from handling a loss, to victory, to protests during the national anthem, to the importance of fans, to the "Black Lives Matter" movement. We try to prepare them so that they are not surprised. We never say, "You should say this…" We do suggest, and we do say things like, "When Coach Harbaugh or Ozzie Newsome is asked this, this is what they have said or will say."
We do remind the team that most reporters are responsible workers and "They are trying to feed their families just like you and me. It's not that hard to be respectful and nice to them. They are doing their jobs."
We also have fun. Here are two videos we have used when discussing media relations in team meetings:
Our goal this week is to win up at MetLife Stadium and not have reporters come into a "losing locker room." Let's end this streak. Let's beat the Jets.
Talk with you next Friday,