Harbaugh's Unique Perspective On Four Remaining Playoff Coaches
We're down to the NFL's version of the "Final Four," and Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh has a unique perspective on* *the remaining playoff coaches.
While he is not one of them this time around, Harbaugh has either gone to battle with or against each of the last men standing.
SI.com's Don Banks reached out to Harbaugh to get his take on the four remaining playoff coaches.
Bill Belichick? The Patriots' head honcho gave Harbaugh a ringing endorsement when he was one of Baltimore's head-coaching candidates in 2008. Since landing the job, Harbaugh has gone toe-to-toe with Belichick on multiple occasions, including four times in the postseason, where they'vesplit the series down the middle.
Consider Harbaugh impressed with Belichick's longevity and ability to change his game-plan over the years, or even on the fly in the middle of the season. Harbaugh felt prepared for the Patriots in last year's divisional playoff game, but then Belichick threw a curveball when he had receiver Julian Edelman throw his first NFL pass, which turned out to be a 51-yard touchdown that turned the game.
"It's not enough to just say it's [quarterback Tom] Brady," Harbaugh said. "It's not just him. To me it's those two guys. Bill is just so good at everything. Game-planning is a big part of it. But how he puts a roster together, how he manages to put the talent in place, around the salary cap, and somehow still maintain the quality of his team is remarkable. He's always able to re-invent himself, his defense, his offense, from year to year and even week to week. The more you play him against him, the patterns start to emerge somewhat. But then he's good enough to kind of throw curveballs at you.
"But it's not too hard sometimes to figure out what he's going to do. We weren't doing too well in pass defense last year, so we kind of expected him to throw the ball against us. But you better know what your weaknesses are, because whatever your weaknesses are, that's where he's coming after you and he's going to do it in a real creative way. He's got the quarterback to do it, and he's got smart players and smart coaches."
Ron Rivera? Harbaugh's history with the Carolina Panthers' head coach goes back the furthest, as the two served together as Philadelphia Eagles assistants from 1999-2003. But they met back in 1987 when Rivera was a linebacker for the Chicago Bears and Harbaugh's brother, Jim, was the quarterback. Harbaugh shared a hilarious story of Rivera from their Philly days together.
"He doesn't seem like he ever gets too uptight, he kind of goes with the flow," Harbaugh said. "We were playing Chicago in a playoff game, a divisional game, one year, and all us coaches, we were all sitting in the locker room before the game kind of tapping our toes with our heads down. And we look over and Ron is reading a novel, like just before we go on the field. It was that Dan Brown novel, 'The Da Vinci Code,' just ripping the Catholic church. And Ron's kind of a devout Catholic, and he's like, 'You cannot believe this. This is crazy.' [Then Eagles Defensive Coordinator Jim Johnson] and I looked at each other like, 'Are we about to play a game here?'
"Ron's going to be fine no matter what. He respects his players, he respects his coaches, and he lets them do their thing. And they really respond to him."
Bruce Arians? Harbaugh and the Cardinals' head coach faced each other a whopping 10 times (including playoffs) while Arians was the offensive coordinator for the Pittsburgh Steelers from 2007-11. It's safe to say that Harbaugh knows Arians' tendencies well, which is to say he's anything but conservative.
"He's, 'damn the torpedoes.' Just a supremely confident guy," Harbaugh said. "And if you're playing against him, you're going to make certain assumptions, because he's going to make every decision to give his players a chance to make plays. With Bruce, it's kind of Que Sera, Sera. Because when you talk to him, he's been through a lot of things in life, and he's had enough things not go his way, where I just think at this stage, he just doesn't give a damn. And because of it, his guys are filled with confidence."
Gary Kubiak? The two didn't know each other very well until Harbaugh hired Kubiak to be his offensive coordinator in 2014. Kubiak brought with him his West Coast offense and implemented it seamlessly as the Ravens enjoyed their best offensive season in franchise history. Flacco had a career year and the Ravens set a single-season franchise record with 409 points and 364.9 yards per game. Kubiak left to become the Broncos' head coach, and in his first year, has his team in the AFC championship.
"He's got a unique combination of being staunch in what he believes, especially offensively, and yet he's very open to people, can relate to people and is just a good guy," Harbaugh said. "He's going to do what he believes, but he's never going to push anything on anybody. He's got a way about him. He sticks to his guns, but he does it in a way that's kind of non-combative. He'll talk you through it and kind of explain it. But he's not going to be swayed by the wind too much.
"When I look at Denver's offense, it's Gary's offense. You can see where there are some pieces, O.K., Peyton's given him some ideas and he's been able to incorporate them into what he does and so he's accepted that. But I think he's done a brilliant job of tying Peyton into what he believes and how he believes in doing it. Pass protection-wise, running game-wise, play-action passes. Those kind of things. It's all Gary. I'm really impressed with the fact he's been able to tie that all together. To me it's because he's a good guy, with a down-to-earth easy personality."
Torrey Smith Announces Baltimore Charity Basketball Game
Torrey Smith will be back in town this offseason.
Despite signing with the San Francisco 49ers last year, the Ravens' 2011 second-round pick will return to Baltimore for his annual charity basketball game on April 2 at Royal Farms Arena.
Smith hosted three basketball games during his four-year Baltimore tenure to benefit the Torrey Smith Foundation. He also returned during his bye week this fall to do charity work.
Ravens players are expected to participate in the basketball game, just like in years past. Smith organized Redskins vs. Ravens contests the last two years at Maryland's Xfinity Center in 2014 and Stafford Senior High in Fredericksburg, Va. in 2013.
Ray Rice To Coach Running Backs In NFLPA Collegiate Bowl
If Ray Rice isn't picked up by an NFL team as a player, perhaps he can turn to a coaching career.
Rice will get a taste of coaching life as he serves as a co-running backs coach for the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl to be played Saturday in Carson City, Calif. He will join former Kansas City Chiefs and Ravens running back Priest Holmes to lead the unit.
The game features the National Team vs. American Team, which are comprised of draft eligible players, to showcase their talents to league scouts leading up to the 2016 NFL Draft.
Rice, who turns 29 later this month, has missed two consecutive seasons after a domestic violence incident led to his release from the Ravens.
"Today's high school, college, and pro players are familiar with Rice's story, and coaching is certainly an avenue for Rice to stay close to football," wrote CSNMidatlantic.com's Clifton Brown. "Rice has continued to express optimism that his playing career has not ended. But a future in coaching, if he wants it, might offer Rice more opportunities."
Ed Reed Details Decision To Coach For Bills
Former Ravens safety and future Hall of Famer Ed Reed revealed how he became the assistant defensive backs coach for the Buffalo Bills.
Reed detailed the story on Showtime's "Inside the NFL," where he is a regular guest analyst.
"I was making some nachos for my son, man," Reed said. "Some turkey nachos. I saw the phone ringing and it said, 'Rex Ryan.' I was like, 'Whoa, Rex Ryan, what's going on?' And he's like, 'Eddddy Reeeed!' He's like, 'How would you like to come coach?'
"I was like, 'I wouldn't mind it, Coach, I'll think about that.' He was like – we started talking some football talk and I told him I would get back to him. [I said] 'I'd have to talk to my son and his mother about the transition if I was going to make that and how would that fare with the family and everything.' And he was like, 'OK, take your time, I'll call you back this weekend.'
"Well two days later – it wasn't the weekend – he called me and he was like, 'So what you thinking?' My son, he wasn't for it at first. He's actually a Patriots fan. So I was like, 'Coach, we got to sell my son a little bit more, man. You got to get him some gear.' And he was like, 'He can get whatever he wants.'"
Wait, his son is a Patriots fan? How did that happen?