JOHN HARBAUGH MONDAY PRESS CONFERENCE
Opening statement: "Good to see you, guys. Thanks for being here. We're looking forward to this week. Obviously, we're going to play a divisional rival, the Cleveland Browns, coming to our stadium – the start of the division season – and it's a very important game. So, [we are] very much focused on that, and we're looking forward to playing it. We're looking forward to the preparation of it, which begins today, and that's where we're at."
How much work and preparation goes into compiling and analyzing all the analytical information? _(Jamison Hensley) _"Yes, a lot of work goes into it. There's a lot of time that goes into it. It's not just made up stuff. I think if you do your homework online, even, and you pull up how football analytics work, you can dig up a lot of information. And if you're a reporter or you're on the radio or something like that, I would think that would be part of your job to do that and to explain to the fans exactly what the math is and how it works and how much goes into it. It's not hidden. A lot of studies have been done, and a lot of people use it. It's part of what we do. It's not all of what we do. I have a good understanding of the numbers and how it works. I have people in my ear that help with that, as well, which is important, not just with that, but with challenges and things like that. We're very organized in what we do, and we have a method and a process, and it's very detailed and well thought out. I think I was pretty clear about it last night, but we're standing by our decisions. Our decisions gave us the best chance to win the game in that particular game. These are not like league-average choices. These are determined by this game and for this game specifically in that venue. Weather is even factored into it. There are a lot of factors that go into it that are mathematically calculated, and that's why we did it. It wasn't a field position game. It was a possession game, and making the most of each possession was what counted, and that's what we were attempting to do. And for the most part, we did a really good job of it."
Is going for a two-point conversion when you are down by 11 really about trying to maximize win probability in regulation as opposed to playing for overtime? _(Luke Jones) _"No question. Getting it to 9 gives you a much better chance of winning than taking it into overtime, and you still have a chance to do that with the second two- [point conversion]. And if for some reason they happen to kick a field goal or score a touchdown, it also enhances your odds. So, while you may think getting it to 10 is the thing to do, it's the thing to do if you want to go into overtime. It's not the thing to do if you want to win the game in regulation, and that's what we were trying to do."
How do you balance the analytics with your gut and all your coaching experience? _(Jerry Coleman) _"I do it a lot. I do it all the time. The analytics guys will tell you that I don't follow the analytics nearly enough. They'll tell you that I go by my gut way more than I go by the analytics, and I do because of the flow of the game, the feel of the game, situations you've been in, momentum – to use your word. All those things are something as a coach that you have a real sense for. So, I'll go against the analytics a lot more than I'll go with it, in terms of 50-50 close calls. But in a game like that, those were definitely decisions that gave us the best chance to win and put us in position to win the game, without question. If we hadn't made those decisions, especially the fourth-down decisions, we wouldn't have been within a score at the end of the game, period, and that's borne out by looking back. If we get the two-point conversions, we win the game just by doing what we did without executing some other things. So, like I said last night, we stand by our decisions."
Does having a mobile quarterback like QB Lamar Jackson increase the likelihood that you'll choose to go for two? _(Jamison Hensley) _"Yes, that's the gut part of it. The gut part for me is I like Lamar [Jackson], and I believe in Lamar as a quarterback. I believe in all of our guys' ability to make a play. We didn't make those plays in this game. We'll study those from a football standpoint – what we could have executed better, plays we called, the defenses we got. You have to give the Chiefs credit. They came up and made plays. They stopped us three times, so that's why they won the game at the end, you could say. But as far as the decision to go for it, it was the right thing to do. Getting in there? Yeah, heck yeah. Lamar is a big part of that. Our running backs are a big part of that, [and] our offensive line. He's going to make a lot more of those over the course of his career than he's not."
After the game, a couple of the defensive backs talked about breakdowns in communication. That makes two weeks in a row. Is that something that's easily correctable? And is it almost a positive because it can be corrected? _(David Ginsburg) _"Communication is a buzzword, kind of. Just the way we play the coverage and playing it correctly in certain situations against certain routes [is what's especially important]. You never know the exact route you're going to get, but there are principles involved in those coverages, and we've had breakdowns two weeks in a row in different coverages. And that's not good. That's what costs you big gains when you're playing good teams who are explosive as [the Chiefs] are and can make those plays. We just can't have it. Our guys know it. Now, you're not going to be perfect. The game is played, it's competitive, it's tough. In the heat of battle, there are a lot of things going on. If these guys were computers, they would probably get everything right in the heat of battle, but they're not. That's the way the game is played, but that's why we chase perfection as much as we can. And we work hard at it – try to put guys in position and teach them in a way that they can learn it – and also set it up in a way that when the bullets are flying, they're able to make good choices. So, that's on us as coaches. We work really hard at that, and we have to do a better job of that to not have those big plays. Big plays are bad. They shouldn't happen to our football team. We're not the type of team that gives up big plays, and we're not happy about that at all. And that will get fixed. There's no question, period. It will get fixed."
Not using it as an excuse, but does not having CB Tavon Young and CB Jimmy Smith make communication a little bit more difficult in the secondary? _(David Ginsburg) _"We're not going to have Tavon [Young] back this year, so that's not something we can really think about. But it's a big factor. Tavon is a heck of a nickel, but he's not here. But, we have other guys that can play the nickel spot and do a good job, and they have to come through for us. Not having Jimmy [Smith] hurts us. So, we're down two really good players, but as you said, it's not an excuse. We have to overcome it."
Did you consider challenging the pass interference call on S Tony Jefferson? _(Jeff Zrebiec) _"I did. I wanted to. It's no question – it was a bad call in the heat of battle, in my opinion, but that's not what gets it overturned. I can tell you that even if you think it's a bad call as a coach – which is the only reason I say, 'I thought it was a bad call,' so you can understand the context of challenging it – they make the call they make, and you live with it. That's the way it has always been with judgment calls. But if I don't think it should be called, I know by every single one of those that has been challenged so far in the preseason and regular season that it will not get overturned, 100 percent. Not one of those when there's been contact – whether you think he's playing the ball or not, whether you think the contact impacts the receiver or not – not one of those has been overturned by New York. So, what we would have been doing by challenging that is throwing away 40 seconds, and those 40 seconds were going to be important in that game."
I don't want to put words in your mouth. So, unless it's so blatant, you don't think … _(Jeff Zrebiec) _"Unless it's going to get overturned, and we have enough information now to know it's not going to get overturned. It would have been a wasted challenge, 100 percent proven by the record to date."
You've definitely explained why you feel comfortable with all the two-point conversion attempts. Going back to the fourth-and-2, are you still comfortable with that decision? The other fourth-down attempts worked. The one that didn't work, they came right back down and scored. _(Jerry Coleman) _"Anybody can second-guess you. A kid could second-guess and say, 'Well, you shouldn't have done it, because it didn't work.' So, if that's the level of conversation that we're having, I don't know how we can even have a conversation about it. You don't know going into making a decision that you're not going to make it. That's first of all. Secondly, as I just said before, it's not a field position game against that team. It's a possession game. So, the opportunity to maintain the possession is more important than 30 or 40 yards of field position against a team that makes big plays."
I guess the question was asked because it seemed like you were more aggressive yesterday than you had been in the past, and that's why the question was asked in that frame. Why did you decide to do it at that point of the game? (Jerry Coleman) _"I guess you're not hearing me very well, because I've been clear. That was the game we were playing. _That game was against that team. It was not a field position game. It was a possession game, so that's why we went for it. Even if you don't get it, the harm is less than … Punting is not risk free either. You're assuming that punting is risk free, which was proven in the game not to be true, right? How did it turn out when we punted to them?"(Reporter: "The 83-yard touchdown.")"So, you see what I'm saying? You following? OK, I'm not trying to be arrogant here or sound arrogant. I'm just saying I've explained it really clearly, so I think it's pretty clear, the logic behind it."
QB Lamar Jackson got off to a slow start throwing the football early in the game, and the Chiefs were doubling WR Marquise Brown. Was that just a case of them really focusing on stopping that part of Jackson's game at that point? (Peter Schmuck)"The downfield stuff?" (Reporter: "Yes.") "Yes, that was a big part of their plan to take away the downfield shots. They did a good job of it. The way they played their coverages, they weren't going to let the ball get thrown over top."
There were about 10 plays at the end of the first half when CB Marlon Humphrey was on the sideline when the defense was on the field. He didn't have his helmet on. Was there a reason for that, or was there an injury or any other issue with him? (Jamison Hensley) "It was a physical reason."
That's obviously a difficult offense for linebackers to account for backs coming out of the backfield catching passes, and TE Travis Kelce, of course. In general, what are you seeing from the young inside linebackers in coverage? Are guys being too aggressive? Are they maybe not as sure of themselves as they need to be on certain plays? (Luke Jones) "Every play is a little bit different, but we have not been great in man coverage all the time. We've had some really good moments, and then we've had some not good moments. We had one situation where it was a half-roll pass in a certain zone coverage that we didn't get back to the spot where we want to be, and they hit [Travis] Kelce over the middle one time. So, it's [about] different issues. We can be better there. We've had good moments, but not consistent enough."
We talked a lot about the young pass rushers coming out of training camp. Are you still satisfied with their progress? (Childs Walker) "Who?" (Reporter: "OLB Tyus Bowser and OLB Tim Williams.") "No, they need to be better. We need to get more pressure, more sacks from those guys. They'll probably tell you they need more reps. I would say earn more reps by doing something about it."
OLB Jaylon Ferguson didn't play a whole lot, but what did you think of his first action? (Luke Jones) _"_He was OK. He had a couple of mistakes, like he jumped inside on a run that ran around the edge. It really hurt us. Tim [Williams] did the same thing one time. Those are things that, as a young guy, you just can't do. You have to do the right things. Now, I cut him [Jaylon Ferguson] some slack because he's a rookie. We'll see how fast he learns. But those reps are definitely up for grabs. We'll see who takes them. In my mind, those young guys, the reps are there. We need to give our older guys a break. They can't be playing all those snaps all year. We want to play fast defense. We want to be rested and healthy. But none of those guys have stepped up, in my mind, and taken the reps, yet. That's disappointing, so we'll see who's the man for the job. The ball is in their court."
You lost by five points to a team that a lot of people are picking to win the Super Bowl. Is there a positive takeaway from the competition and how your guys played in that environment under the pressure they played under to come back and all that? (Peter Schmuck)"There is. I appreciate a local guy bringing that up. That's nice to look at some of the positives. The thing about our team – and I've said this before – is I trust these guys. I really do. I really believe in these guys as a group. It's a young group, and I love the way they play and the way they compete. That's probably why I get a little … I'll defend them. And if some don't like that, if some guys want to get on the radio and be snarky about it or whatever, what do we care? I believe in my guys. I believe that they have big hearts. They have spirit. They fight. They compete. That's why the Ravens fans love this team. Can we play better? We will play better, and we'll learn a lot from that experience. That team is no better than us, but they played better than us. So, let's get better. Let's play better. Let's coach better. Let's get ourselves to the point where we can go into a game like that and win. And we weren't good enough on Sunday based on the way we played. But we will be, because these guys aren't backing down. They're going to come out every day, and they're going to work, and they're going to fight, and they're going to compete. And it's a long season, and that's one game in a long season. That's why I love these guys."
I'm not trying to get you fined or anything, but was that call blown on the WR Miles Boykin offensive pass interference because it was a backwards lateral, or did you guys see that as an accurate call? (Jeff Zrebiec)"All I know is that there was not a camera angle that would have been overturned in New York. That's all I can tell you. When you watch it on film, you might say it looks like a backward lateral. It would have been nice if one of the officials had noticed that, but they didn't see it, and it's close. So, I'm not criticizing them for it. They call it the way they call it, and it wouldn't have been overturned, so you have to overcome it. And that's just the way it goes. That was a big play. The other one was the holding on Willie Snead. Will that be called that way on that play all season, consistently? No. That's just a fact. So, you have to overcome it. Those are tough things. You like to see them called both ways. That's what you're looking for. You like to see consistency, as a coach."
You are honoring Brian Billick this week, and he's spoken very warmly of the way that you've treated him when he's come back in the building. Was that a conscious choice that you made when he started to come here, or did you find an easy rapport with him? (Childs Walker)"Well, it's not hard. He's a really good person. Coach Billick is an iconic Raven. That's just the way it is. He had tremendous success here. He was the guy that kind of framed the Ravens early on in the tenure of this franchise. I respected him when I was an assistant coach and he was a head coach. I had admired him and really liked his style. I knew him a little bit because Andy [Reid] and he were friends, so I got to know him a little bit. And he always treated me really well. And then, amazingly, when we had the opportunity to get hired here and be the coach of the Ravens, he was just as gracious as you could ever expect. I just think that says so much about him, his family, who he is, his character. To treat me the way he did, as the next coach … I'm sure, obviously, when you get let go after having the success … Whatever, those things just happen. And that's the way it works in the National Football League. For him to have the class that he had and treat me and my family the way he did and say the things that he did, of course, I'm forever grateful. It speaks very highly of who he is and what this organization is all about. It says a lot about Steve [Bisciotti, Ravens owner] and a lot about the organization that he's going into the Ring of Honor. It's the right thing. And this is just a first-class place with really, really first-class people. I know that the fans in Baltimore understand that, and this Sunday, Coach Billick going into the Ring of Honor puts a real stamp on that. He's earned it, and he deserves it, and it will be an honor to clap for him when he goes in."
Over the next three weeks, it's finally all division games. Is there a different feel when you go inside the division and you have this kind of a stretch? (Jamison Hensley) "Different feel, yes, there is. Every game is big, but these games – I feel like they count for two games. It's an opportunity to win one and have your opponent not win one. And that's big. The Browns are excellent. They have tremendous talent. They play very hard. You've seen this defense fly around. It's going to be a big challenge for us, dealing with these guys. They'll be fired up. We just have to go play good football and play our best football and be the Ravens."