|Harbaugh is not a dictator after all.(AP)|
With the Ravens last month coming off a 30-point loss to the Texans and with their leader, Ray Lewis, seemingly out for the season with a torn triceps, it was clear coach John Harbaugh found himself with a problem when he presented this edict to his team in a meeting: they would practice that day in full pads.
The Baltimore veterans, as told in this fascinating story by Yahoo! Sports’ Michael Silver, immediately raised a ruckus.
"It was practically a mutiny," one Ravens player told Silver. "It came very close to getting out of control.”
But here’s the great thing about Harbaugh -- or about any modern-day coach who doesn’t subscribe to the old-school theory that the head coach’s word is absolutely final. Harbaugh turned around the dissension and had a full-team discussion about it.
“The way Coach Harbaugh handled it was amazing,” the player said. “He let people have their say, and he listened, and he explained himself, and pretty soon it was like a big group-therapy session. In the end, a lot of positive things were said. We didn't practice in pads, but we came out of there stronger as a group."
In this day and age, this is the way some coaches have to act in order to keep their teams together.
But it’s interesting. One of Harbaugh’s mentors -- when he was a tight ends coach at Pitt in 1987 -- was Hall of Fame coach Sid Gillman. Gillman once told his Houston Oilers team in the 1970s that, “I put the d--- in dictator." He wouldn't have stood for players standing up to him like that. He probably would have cut Reed on the spot just to maintain his own authority.
Though Gillman taught Harbaugh much about coaching, it’s a good thing he didn’t take Gillman’s approach to player relations.
Writes Silver: “Because no NFL player of this era is as influential within his team context as Lewis -- and given the presence of other decorated veterans (Reed, pass rusher Terrell Suggs, wideout Anquan Boldin) with big personalities -- coaching in Baltimore is a unique challenge. Harbaugh, who had no experience as a head coach or offensive or defensive coordinator on any level, has managed to provide assertive leadership without drowning out dissenting voices.”
And he’s clearly won the respect of his team by doing so.
"I've never seen a head coach handle anything like that as well as he did," said a Ravens assistant who attended the meeting. "There were some things said where we were like, 'Damn.'
"A lot of coaches would have acted like dictators and been very sensitive about the way their authority was being questioned. John said, 'Hey, let's talk about this.' He showed great leadership. Instead of worrying that it would make him seem weak, he turned it into a strength."
Make sure to read Silver’s entire piece. It’s an interesting read about the modern-day coach.
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