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Fan's Voice: Give Coach Some Space


I am intrigued by the piece on the Baltimore Ravens web site reporting on the impressions of some local media about new head coach John Harbaugh. He is described as "genuine," "down-to-earth," "disciplined," "passionate," and someone with an "upbeat personality." I would hope those attributes would apply to each of us no matter whether we are coaches, lawyers, construction workers, or news media. What makes the article so interesting is that this is being discussed at all.

Imagine if every one of us was under the same microscopic scrutiny coach Harbaugh is under. If every time we made a move someone was passing judgment on us, analyzing us, opining in the press about us, how much more difficult would achieving success be for any of us?

I understand that such careful dissecting of his job performance will come with the turf as a head coach in the NFL, and I can appreciate the argument that this is why NFL head coaches get paid the big bucks. But, NFL head coaches put their pants on the same way we do. They're human like us and they have the same emotions, sensitivities and human frailties as we all do. They have families and kids in local schools and what is written or said about them has a human impact.

The point is, as the Ravens move through mini camps, into training camp, and into the new season, for the news media and fans to cut this guy some slack. Give him some space.

It will take time for coach Harbaugh to put his imprint on this team. A change in head coaches was made because it was felt that success required a new direction for this team. Whether in the corporate world or in sports, change is never easy. Some people embrace change while others resist it. Change can never be achieved successfully in a vacuum. The key to successful change is everyone buying into the new philosophy being introduced by the new leadership. To achieve buy in, coach Harbaugh needs to demonstrate that his approach to the game, his way of conducting business, will ultimately lead to more success for his players individually—and the team collectively—than how things were done previously. That takes time and patience by everyone – management, coaches, players, fans, and the mass media. Typically, patience is not what the media bring to the equation.

We can all appreciate the demands of today's "new" media. It is a 24/7/365 race to get the story, get it on the air or in print as quickly as possible, and sometimes worry about the facts or the impact of a story later. That competitive requirement of the media and the patience and understanding needed by a new head coach to successfully implement change isn't by nature compatible. I recall when Joe Gibbs was first hired to coach the Redskins, he lost his first five games and everyone questioned the wisdom of his hiring. He finished that first season 8-8 then went on to win three Super Bowls. When Brian Billick was hired in Baltimore, he also went 8-8 in his first season then won the Super Bowl. Much is expected of coach Harbaugh but success is never easy and usually is not achieved overnight and turning a 5-11 team into a consistent winner will likely take some time.

As a former TV sports broadcaster, I can sympathize with the difficult job the sports media has. I was there once. But, as a Ravens fan and PSL owner, I want coach Harbaugh to have all of the time and space he needs to do his job without reporters always looking over his shoulder and analyzing his every move. So, here is my request to all of the reporters in Baltimore who cover the Ravens. Report the "news" as you must, but withhold judgment and opinion for another day. Give Coach Harbaugh, his staff and his players some additional breathing room during this time of change, transition and adjustment. And recognize that every move and decision the owner, general manager, senior staff, and entire Ravens' organization has made is designed to do only one thing – win football games and return the Baltimore Ravens to the Super Bowl.

There will be plenty of time for opinion and analysis later. Just not today.

Steve Bassett, a Baltimore Ravens PSL owner and fan, is chairman and CEO of The Communications Workshop, LLC. He is an instrument-rated pilot, NTSB-trained aviation accident investigator, and provides consulting and training in crisis management, disaster response, communications and media relations. He is a former television broadcaster and worked in the Baltimore, Washington, DC, St. Louis, and Columbia, SC markets, served as the TV play-by-play announcer for University of Maryland football and basketball and University of Missouri football and basketball, was the radio voice for George Washington University basketball, served on the broadcast team for University of South Carolina basketball and Washington Redskins Pre-Season football, and called college basketball for TVS/NBC Sports.

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