Coach John Harbaugh covered a variety of topics Monday - from the tough spot the Ravens find themselves in to injury updates to more specific thoughts about the team’s continued woes.
Harbaugh also weighed in on the health problems of fellow NFL head coaches John Fox of the Broncos and Gary Kubiak of the Texans. Fox underwent heart surgery while Kubiak is believed to have suffered a mini-stroke on the field during the Texans’ Sunday night game.
“I’m really good friends with John Fox, and I know Gary Kubiak pretty well, obviously, professionally,” Harbaugh said. “I go back with John and Robin (Fox) back to Pittsburgh in 1987. He’s doing OK from what I’ve been told. It’s a challenge. I don’t know what to say. Your question, as far as what we do in the building medically, we do a great job. The Ravens spend a great deal of money and resources in everybody here in the building - coaches certainly no less, maybe more. We have yearly physicals in May. Everybody gets a thorough check-up and those kinds of things.”
Harbaugh also pulled the curtain back a little bit on what it’s like to be a head coach, providing a little bit of insight into how that lifestyle might lead to health issues.
“It’s a challenge. If you’re asking what it’s like, and I don’t know if anybody out there even really cares, but you’re here all the time as a coach,” Harbaugh said. “It’s not something that you spend any time doing anything else. It’s not like you go home at night and have dinner and talk with the wife and kids about the job and how it went. You’re here. And we try to do a great job with our families, where the families can come in and have dinner and stuff on Tuesday night and Monday night and Wednesday night and be a part of it as much as we can.
“We encourage our guys to exercise as much as possible. We’ve got a pretty good facility here to do that. Sometimes, it’s hard to do it, and I tell them, I say, ‘It’s not that hard. It’s just right down the hallway, go down there and try to get some exercise.’ You try to do the best you can, but we’re trying to win some football games, and it’s competitive. You’ve got a bunch of highly competitive people clashing every Sunday, and the stakes are high. We’re playing a kid’s game. We’re a bunch of men playing a kid’s game, but the stakes are high. Everybody works really, really hard at it, and there’s a lot of pressure, and that’s the way it should be. And that’s OK, but that doesn’t make it any less demanding. So our hearts and prayers definitely go out to those two guys. Thanks for asking.”
That wasn’t the only curtain-pulling Harbaugh did Monday. He was pretty open in laying out how the Ravens go about play-calling, including some details about how the team wants to play on offense this year.
“The way we are organized is that we have an offensive coordinator who is our play-caller, and that’s Jim (Caldwell),” Harbaugh said. “The offensive staff is the main focal point of putting together the offensive game plan. They do it together; it’s well-organized. They have a system and a process for doing that. My involvement is more general, I would say - setting a direction. I’ll weigh in with some ideas or some questions or some things to be concerned with, let them know what we want to do philosophically and what type of an offense we want to be, try to merge our players as much as possible with that from a different perspective. But I’m not going to call plays, per se.
“Now, going forward, I did pick the quarterback sneak there. Joe (Flacco) did a great job with that. He took a beating on that, but he got it for us. There’s going to be times where, as a head coach, you step in and do that if you’re not the main play-caller. But I have complete confidence in our guys. I think you are seeing a direction offensively. We will still look to have opportunities to get in regular - get in two tight ends, one back, two wide receivers - get in those kinds of personnel groups and get after people. Run and pass with the lead back and those sorts of things. But you saw more three-wide (receiver formations). You saw it spread out a little more, so more of that offense goes into the quarterback’s hands, obviously. So, run-pass checks, run-run checks, trying to get in the best play for what the defense presents to you - that’s where ultimately you go with a quarterback like Joe. I know Joe wants to do that. Our players want to do that. And that’s the direction we’re heading. But we want to be versatile enough to get in the other personnel groups as well, just like any team that runs that offense wants to do.”
Harbaugh also was asked about the continuing problems with moving the ball on the ground. Baltimore ran for just 55 yards Sunday and has reached 100 yards once in eight contests. Ray Rice has run for only 259 yards in seven games.
For perhaps the first time this season, Harbaugh expressed that the team’s running troubles have something to do with how opponents are playing against the Ravens.
“Just looking at this game, this game and the last couple of weeks, what you would say is that people are playing us a certain way,” Harbaugh said. “And they’re playing us with seven people in the box against a spread formation. That is single-high. That’s Cover 3 and Cover 1 - that’s what we’re getting. We’re getting some off, we’re getting some press. That’s a run defense. So Cleveland played us in a run defense pretty much the whole game.
“We’ve got to get them out of that run defense. That’s our job. And to do that, we’ve got to be good and precise in the pass game. We’ve got to open up that coverage a little bit and force them to back off. We did that at times and other times we didn’t. We certainly didn’t do it enough because they stayed in single-high pretty much the whole game. When they got in two-high, we hit them deep; we hurt them. So they got right back in single-high again.
“I thought the run game, if you watch it play for play, we made a lot of good runs against a lot of tough looks. I feel like our offensive line blocked a lot better than the result might have shown in terms of number of yards. When you watch the tape, there are a lot of really good blocks going on there. There were a couple of plays where at the point of attack we had a look that we really didn’t need to be running against. That’s part of the process as far as (how) we develop this offense. We’ve got to get good enough to try not to run into those. You’re going to have a couple of them, and there are a couple of them that we blocked really well. So, that’s our challenge right now. We all see it, and that’s where we’ve got to get.”