Joe Flacco Opens Up About 2.5-Hour Love/Hate Team Meeting
Joe Flacco and the players knew it was coming.
"We were on the train coming back from New York saying, 'Man, what the hell did we just get ourselves into?'" the Ravens quarterback said last night on 97.5 The Fanatic's "Ron Jaworski Show."
"I heard it was pretty intense and passionate," ESPN's Sal Paolantonio said.
"I compared it to high school. Going back, sitting in the class room and just letting your coach rip you apart for two hours and 45 minutes," Flacco jokingly replied. "No, not all that. It wasn't all him getting on us and telling us to play better and all that."
The three were referring to the marathon team meeting the Ravens had Monday morning following their 24-16 loss to the New York Jets. It was Baltimore's fourth-consecutive defeat – a first under Head Coach John Harbaugh.
It wasn't your typical Ravens team meeting.
The Ravens don't usually meet as a full team on Mondays, but the bye schedule moved it up. The sessions don't usually last nearly three hours either. Per Flacco, Harbaugh usually has just a handful of clips to review – both good and bad.
This time, however, the entire team reviewed every single offensive and defensive snap together, in order of the game, dissecting mistakes and pinpointing where to improve. They didn't review the special teams plays together. The special teams unit actually met as a group for 45 minutes first, and then continued with the rest of the team for the longer two-and-a-half-hour session.
Was there some hard coaching taking place?
"Yeah. Oh, of course," Flacco said. "Guys feelings get involved and all those things. You have a lot of men in that locker room – a lot of prideful men in coaches and players. Listen, I think that's the great thing about John. He sees his way of doing it, he wants it his way, and he's got a lot of confidence getting up there and doing that.
"He doesn't want anyone taking it personally, which, at the end of the day, it happens a little bit. Coaches take things personally; players take things personally."
Harbaugh is aware of the delicate balance between critiquing players while also maintaining a strong foundation in their relationship. Both are necessary in motivating the team through a difficult losing stretch.
The head coach was transparent in explaining a "love the player, despise the play" approach during Monday's meeting.
"It starts with relationships; we have great relationships. I do like and love our guys," Harbaugh told the media Monday. "I told one of the guys in the meeting today, 'I love you, but I despise you right now on that play.'
"The guys get it; they are OK. It is all about just pushing them and coaching them and trying to teach better football. That, really, is where we are at. We are not going to have a problem for one second of our guys doing everything possible to play the kind of football we need to play. What we do need to do, is get it there. Really, we do not need to wait. I have been impatient for quite a long time, and they know it. They have been impatient for quite a long time. But you know what? We do not get to control everything in life. So, we just have to keep digging."
If history is an indicator, tough meetings like this can help turn teams around. Reports of a near "mutiny" surfaced in an October 2012 Ravens team meeting, but Harbaugh welcomed the feedback and it eventually turned into a spark for the season. The Ravens went on to win the Super Bowl that year.
The 2016 meeting doesn't sound as intense, but the goal is the same. The Ravens know all their goals are still achievable as they sit one game behind the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC North race. They will battle it out for the top spot after the bye.
"Everything is still right there for us to go capture," safety Eric Weddle said. "Our goals are simple: win the division, win the AFC and win the Super Bowl. That's all attainable.
Does Devin Hester Have One More Game To Prove Himself?
The Ravens aren't happy about returner Devin Hester's penchant for fumbles recently. Injuries are having an effect, but one wonders how much longer the Ravens can risk turnovers in their own territory.
They could have another option in a couple of weeks if the streak continues.
"Given the tepid endorsement that return man Devin Hester Sr. got this week, it's probably worth reminding folks that the Ravens will be able to sign Michael Campanaro on Nov. 7, the day after they play the Steelers," wrote The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec.
The ideal scenario would be for Hester's health to improve with the extra time off over the bye and the muffed kicks stop. The future Hall of Famer is still explosive and threatens to score when he secures the ball.
But it's good to have options.
"Campanaro has had plenty of interest elsewhere, but there seems to be an interest in making it work with his hometown Ravens," wrote Zrebiec. "His return ability would help, but the Ravens also need some receivers who will win their individual matchups and hold onto the ball."
Has AFC North Gone From Best To Worst NFL Division?
How quickly the AFC North's reputation has fallen.
Usually known for being one of the toughest divisions in the league with the Steelers, Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals, some are already asking if the AFC North is now one of the weakest in the league.
The question is not without merit. The AFC North is tied for the lowest combined win total with just 10 between the four teams. The NFC South (Atlanta Falcons, Tampa Bay Bucs, New Orleans Saints and Carolina Panthers) also have just 10 combined wins.
In the NFL Network video below, Dave Dameshek, Handsome Hank and Ike Taylor discuss how badly the AFC North has played, but the group still believes that the AFC South (12 combined wins) is the worst.
Kamar Aiken Not Likely To Be Traded
ESPN named one person from each team that would make the most sense to trade away before the Nov. 1 trade deadline.
Jamison Hensley named wide receiver Kamar Aiken, but was quick to explain why it's extremely unlikely to happen.
"Aiken has gone from the Ravens' leading receiver last season to basically a special teams player, especially when Steve Smith Sr. is healthy enough to play," Hensley wrote.
"Still, this is a deal that probably won't happen. Aiken, who is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, could re-sign with Baltimore in the offseason because he'll regain a larger role in the offense next season after Smith retires. Aiken's skill set is similar to Smith's, and he could fill his void in the passing game."