Harbaugh And Tomlin Find New Competition
The competitive juices pulsate through their bodies.
John Harbaugh and Mike Tomlin might be two of the most competitive men on the planet, who happen to be in the same division. And we are the beneficiaries of it. We get to watch their teams in knock-down, grind-it-out, bruising battles at least twice a year.
The Ravens and Steelers head coaches found a new way to compete … off the field … and they didn't even know it.
Remember when Harbaugh was the guest analyst on NBC's pregame, halftime and postgame show of the Super Bowl last February? Well, before he accepted the gig, he asked if he was the first choice.
Turns out, he wasn't. It was his Steelers archrival Tomlin, but there's a backstory to how it all went down.
Fred Gaudelli, who is the coordinating producer of NBC's "Sunday Night Football" and credited for making it the No. 1 show in America, told that backstory this week on a podcast hosted by Sports Illustrated's Richard Deitsch.
Gaudelli was trying to decide who to have in studio on Super Bowl Sunday, and at first, he only wanted Tomlin until he met with Harbaugh leading into the wild-card round.
"We're getting ready for the wild-card game, and it's Pittsburgh and Baltimore, and I love Mike Tomlin [as a television analyst]," Gaudelli said. "I just think Mike Tomlin has a way of phrasing things, has an energy about him that would make him great on television. No doubt. He probably would be my No. 1 guy.
"But then the Ravens come in and we meet with Harbaugh, and I've known Harbaugh for years, but now I've got this TV thing in my mind because we're trying to hire a coach for the Super Bowl … so we go meet the Ravens and then we sit down with Harbaugh and I'm listening and I'm like, 'God, Harbaugh, he'd be great, too.'"
So the NBC producers decided that whichever head coach lost to the other in the Ravens-Steelers wild-card game would be the person they invited on the show. As we know, Tomlin lost, so he got the invitation.
The following Monday morning, Gaudelli called the Steelers' head PR man, but he said that Tomlin wasn't interested. Gaudelli pleaded that Tomlin at least give him a call so he could make his sales pitch.
"I said, 'Please ask him to call me,'" Gaudelli recalled. "Well, he never really called me back, so I'm like, 'Alight, he's not going to do it.'"
The next week, while Ravens Nation was devastated by the loss in the divisional playoff game to the New England Patriots, Gaudelli wasn't too sad because another one of his top candidates became available for the studio.
He called Ravens Senior Vice President of Public and Community Relations Kevin Byrne, who talked to Harbaugh about the opportunity. And he did return the phone call.
"[Byrne] said, 'Hey, John's interested. He wants to know if he's the first choice,'" Gaudelli related. "I started laughing. I said, 'Look, I'm going to tell you exactly what happened. We decided it would be the loser of that wild-card game, Mike didn't want to do it. We think John would be great.
"Then John came on, and I think you would agree, John was fantastic on the Super Bowl."
Gaudelli was asked which current NFL coach and player could walk into the broadcasting studio tomorrow, hit it out of the ball park and have a long career. He said both AFC North coaches could do just that.
He struggled to come up with a player, and ultimately landed on Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
"I don't have any conviction about a player that I have about Tomlin and Harbaugh," Gaudelli said.
Zrebiec Hands Out Ravens Superlatives
Training camp is in the rearview mirror, so The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec handed out 10 Ravens superlatives. I'll give the first six, but you can check out all 10 here.
Most Impressive Offensive Player: WR Kamar Aiken
"There are a few candidates, but nobody was as consistent as Kamar Aiken, who left the other competitors for the No. 2 wide receiver job in the dust. It certainly helped Aiken's cause that first-round NFL draft pick Breshad Perriman essentially missed all of training camp and Marlon Brown missed most of it."
Most Impressive Defensive Player: S Will Hill
"No Raven was as physical or more active than safety Will Hill, who looks so much more comfortable in year two with the team. Hill probably crossed the training camp line between being aggressive and overzealous a few times, but the Ravens badly need a safety who can communicate, tackle, go sideline-to-sideline and make plays on the ball. If he stays healthy and out of trouble, Hill could be that guy."
*Biggest Disappointment: WR Breshad Perriman *"Though it's no fault of his own, Perriman's knee injury, which occurred in the first full-team practice of training camp, was a major downer. The Ravens, who lack top-end speed on the outside, badly needed the receiver on the field, gaining chemistry with Joe Flacco and working through rookie growing pains."
*Top Rookie: DT Carl Davis *"You could go in a number of directions here, but third-round defensive tackle Carl Davis has probably been the most consistent of the Ravens' first-year players."
*Top Veteran Addition: S Kendrick Lewis *"The Ravens needed a steady and respected presence in the back end of the secondary, and safety Kendrick Lewis has been that guy."
Most Improved Player: TE Crockett Gilmore *"At this time last year, the game just looked like it was moving way too fast for then-rookie tight end Crockett Gillmore. However, he reported to this year's training camp as a stronger, quicker and more self-assured player and he clearly distanced himself in the competition to win the starting tight end job." *
Meoli: Not If, But When, Melvin Overtakes Webb
The Baltimore Sun's Jon Meoli is driving the Melvin Island train.
With starter Lardarius Webb's training camp getting off to a rough start after a failed conditioning test (that he passed the next day), and a hamstring injury that has sidelined him for both preseason games, former undrafted rookie Rashaan Melvin has looked good in his place.
"It's slowly becoming a matter of when, not if, Rashaan Melvin officially overtakes Lardarius Webb as the starter opposite Jimmy Smith," wrote Meoli.
Meoli made the strong declaration even before Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees said he is "absolutely" concerned that Webb has missed extended time. It was also before Melvin missed Tuesday's practice with an undisclosed injury (Harbaugh said he didn't think it was serious).
"Melvin was one of the best Ravens during the joint practices with the Eagles, and as the first-team defense was getting run around the field Saturday in Philadelphia, Melvin was making plays," wrote Meoli. "He allowed four catches on six throws for 28 yards, according to Pro Football Focus, but was always close in coverage."
Flacco Jokes 'Steve Smith Is Scared Of Me'
When Joe Flacco first sat down with Jay Glazer on his Draft Kings bus, the Fox Sports reporter told the quarterback to not be his "normal boring self."
Flacco laughed and explained that he's never going to be on camera or on social media the same guy he is when hanging out with his buddies because he would come across as an "idiot."
But Flacco was more loose and joked that Steve Smith Sr. is "scared of me" when Glazer asked if the retiring wide receiver could get annoying during his farewell tour. Will Smith wear Flacco out by the end of the season?
"Well, Steve's scared of me," Flacco joked. "If he's scared of anybody, it's me. So I don't worry about him. I know how to handle him. He likes Starbucks, he likes Dunkin Donuts, we make little bets like that and I always win them. I let him be him and he's a great guy. He works as hard as anybody. He's as good a player as anybody. So I let him be him and he doesn't bother me. He doesn't scare me. I scare him."
The full six-minute interview is below.
- "Move over, Cal," wrote Meoli. "There's a new Ironman in town. [Guard Ryan] Jensen played all 92 offensive snaps on Saturday, playing two positions and doing lots to solidify his roster spot come September. Jensen is likely up against rookie guard Robert Myers for the ninth offensive line spot, but if the coaching staff liked what it saw on tape Saturday, he might be a candidate to replace one of the reserve tackles, too." [The Baltimore Sun]
- This training camp, Ravens tackle Jah Reid is finally looking like things are clicking after being selected in the third round of the 2011 draft. What's different? He stopped putting so much pressure on himself and is playing free. "If I said it wasn't tough, I'd be lying," Reid said. "It's very stressful. I've been very stressed for a long time. This is the first time in a long time I haven't been stressed. I'm trying to take things as they come. … There's always expectations to perform when you're drafted high, that you're going to come in and play. I put a lot of stress on myself. … It'll keep you awake at night worrying. You feel this constant pressure just to prove yourself every day." [The Baltimore Sun]