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Late For Work 7/22: The Birth Of Lil' John Harbaugh


The Birth Of Lil' John Harbaugh

Remember Lil’ Penny'?

You know, the loudmouthed, wee-sized sidekick voiced by Chris Rock in those popular 1990s Nike ads for NBA All-Star Penny Hardaway.

Now, meet Lil' John Harbaugh.

He's a miniature replica of the John Harbaugh statue that was erected in the "Cradle of Coaches" at Miami University in April. But instead of bringing in a hilarious Hollywood comedian, Harbaugh himself provides the voiceover for his mini-me.

And it's pretty funny.

In an effort to sell RedHawks season tickets, Harbaugh teamed up with his alma-mater in an ad campaign that offers the miniature statue of himself as a season ticket holder gift.

The commercial opens with shots of the actual towering statues with birds chirping in the background. Then Lil' John's voice is heard off screen, trying to grab the attention of the camera. We find the lil' guy at the foot of the big Harbaugh statue.

"Psssst. Over here. No, down here," Lil' Harbaugh says. "Have you bought your Miami football season tickets yet? If not, you're missing out on an opportunity to bring me, Lil' John Harbaugh, into your home."

I can safely say I will not buy Miami tickets, but I sure hope Lil' John Harbaugh takes off. He's just too entertaining not to have around.

Older, Wiser Harbaugh Setting New Tone

On a more serious note, The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec published a feature story on Harbaugh as he prepares for a bounce-back 2014 season.

As expected, Harbaugh has been the same hard-nosed guy that doesn't offer any excuses and simply wants to get better. Nobody worked harder than Harbaugh this offseason as he set out to address the issues of last year's 8-8 season and re-configure his coaching staff.

But people around him noticed some subtle changes heading into his seventh year as the Ravens head coach. They say he seems to be carrying himself differently and has changed the way he communicates with his players.

"Shoot, I've been here the whole time he's been here, from the time where he came in and tried to force his way, probably in some ways being more of a hard [nose] and stuff like that, " Flacco said, per Zrebiec. "He's still like that, but you can see the comfort level, the way he takes input from players, the way he's done some studies on all the ways to get us healthy and the best ways to do this and that. He's been able to put his thumbprint on it because he's comfortable and confident in what he's doing."

Added former Ravens linebacker Jameel McClain: "You can definitely see the growth from him, coming in and being a strict, rigid guy who was straight to the point and [becoming] so relaxed, so calm, so cool, so wise. I have the ultimate respect for him."

Harbaugh said that he still holds the same principles and standards he had when he came to Baltimore in 2008, but he's learned how to pick his battles more based on priorities.

With Ray Lewis and Ed Reed gone, coupled with a rough outing from Flacco and Ray Rice in 2013, many see Harbaugh as the new face of the franchise.

But he doesn't care about those labels.

"I don't want or need to be the face of anything," Harbaugh told Zrebiec. "I just want to do a really good job of being the head coach."

Flacco 'Plummets' In Jaws' QB Rankings

Last year at about this time, ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski shocked the football world by listing Joe Flacco above Drew Brees in his well-respected quarterback rankings.

Coming off his Super Bowl MVP performance, Flacco was rated No. 4, only trailing Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning.

But Jaws released his 2014 QB big board, and Flacco "plummeted" down the list to No. 10.

The drop was partly a result of being the second-most intercepted quarterback in the league in 2013, and missing the playoffs for the first time in his career. Jaws put some of the blame on a bad Ravens running game and a porous offensive line, but said Flacco "can't make the kinds of silly mistakes he did last season."

One could argue that Flacco should be higher than Matt Ryan (No. 8) and Russell Wilson (No. 9), as EPSN's Jamison Hensley did, but he's also ahead of Eli Manning (No. 11), Tony Romo (No. 12), Colin Kaepernick (No. 13) and Cam Newton (No. 14). 

"That's why being ranked No. 10 is very fair for Flacco," Hensley wrote.

And even though Jaws pushed Flacco down his list, the former Philadelphia Eagles signal-caller is not only predicting a bounce-back season, but believes Flacco showed he has what it takes for a loooong career in the NFL.

"No, he’s not on his way out," Jaws said on the Scott Van Pelt & Ryen Russillo ESPN radio show. "[H]e showed me something that I think is very important for longevity in the NFL. That's a toughness that you have to have. To hang in the pocket with bodies flying around you. He played the end of the season severely injured. I'm not sure many guys would have played and led their team, guided their team under the circumstances Joe Flacco played in.

"I think Joe is a very talented player. He's a top-10 player, a top-10 talent, only a year removed from a Super Bowl MVP. I like the fact that Gary Kubiak comes to the Baltimore Ravens. He believes in the stretch running game, which means effective play action passing game. And nobody throws the ball to the outside better than Joe Flacco. He's going to get those isolation routes, working the edge of the defense."

Below is Jaworski's top 10 quarterbacks: 

1. Peyton Manning
2. Tom Brady
3. Aaron Rodgers
4. Drew Brees
5. Andrew Luck
6. Ben Roethlisberger
7. Philip Rivers
8. Matt Ryan
9. Russell Wilson
10. Joe Flacco

No Ravens In Top 25 Jersey Sales

The NFL shop released its top 25 jersey sales since the draft, and there currently aren't any Ravens jerseys that people have an itch to buy.

Lewis and Reed jerseys used to be hot items, and Flacco and Rice enjoyed their days on this list too. The Ravens' newest top-draft pick C.J. Mosely didn't move the needle either.

Is there any surprise as to who topped the sales list? He's the newest division rival.

"You think Cleveland isn't hungry for a winning fball team? Johnny Manziel has the top selling jersey in the NFL right now," tweeted WBAL's Gerry Sandusky.

Here's the rest of the list.

1. Browns QB Johnny Manziel   14. Vikings RB Adrian Peterson
2. Seahawks QB Russell Wilson   15. Cowboys WR Dez Bryant
3. 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick   16. Texans OLB Jadeveon Clowney
4. Broncos QB Peyton Manning   17. Redskins QB Robert Griffin III
5. Seahawks CB Richard Sherman  

  1. Jaguars QB Blake Bortles
6. Rams DE Michael Sam   19. Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill
7. Patriots QB Tom Brady   20. Seahawks S Earl Thomas
8. Saints QB Drew Brees   21. Texans DL J.J. Watt
9. Packers QB Aaron Rodgers   22. 49ers ILB Patrick Willis
10. Seahawks "12th Fan"   23. Panthers QB Cam Newton
11. Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch   24. Lions WR Calvin Johnson
12. Eagles RB LeSean McCoy   25. Colts QB Andrew Luck
13. Vikings QB Teddy Bridgewater    

Quick Hits

  • @coffeeon3rd [Josh Lukin]: A must have, right? #ravens [Twitter]
  • Madden 15 released ratings for their top 10 rookies (it turned out to be 13 because of ties), and Mosley did not make the cut. [EA Sports]
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