San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh should send his brother, Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh, a fruit basket and a thank you card. The nightmare offseason for Harbaugh’s 49ers — an offseason that has seen a number of their players involved in off-field incidents — has been trumped by the even bigger nightmare offseason for the Ravens. An offseason headlined by RB Ray Rice assaulting his then-fiancee, now wife Janay Palmer has taken San Francisco off the front pages and put Baltimore on it.
From fourth-round pick Lorenzo Taliaferro being arrested for public drunkenness and destruction of property, to lineman Jah Reid‘s battery charge in Florida, to WR Jacoby Jones, CB Jimmy Smith and RB Bernard Pierce reportedly being kicked out of a Maryland bar after a few too many, to of course, Rice’s arrest for knocking Palmer out cold — and a really awkward and horrible press conference after the fact — the offseason has been a constant stream of headaches for Baltimore’s front office and coaching staff.
About the series of off the field incidents, Harbaugh said, “There have been a lot more phone calls to find out what the heck some guys were thinking at times.”
It’s a good question, of course, but perhaps the better question would be: What are GM Ozzie Newsome and Harbaugh going to do about it?
In a press conference following OTA workouts recently, Harbaugh spoke at length about the legal troubles some of his players have found themselves in. He of course talked a good game and made sure to throw in all of the expected buzz words like “responsibility,” “maturity” and “accountability.” Harbaugh expressed his “concern” about the incidents and his “disappointment” in his players, even saying, “We expect those guys to chase a high standard and we’re going to do everything we can to hold them accountable.”
While it was a nice speech and he certainly said all the right things, Harbaugh’s actions, and those of the organization itself, don’t quite seem to match their words. Take the case of Rice for example; what he did was horrible. Deplorable. And yet there was Harbaugh, falling all over himself to talk up Rice’s character and find ways to excuse what he did. Rice may still face discipline from the league, but one gets the sense that if NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell opted to give Rice a pass on it, the Ravens would too. QB Joe Flacco summed up that feeling when he said he didn’t expect Rice to be suspended at all, as if domestic violence weren’t a serious issue worthy of a suspension at the very least. And though he’s never said it, you get the feeling Harbaugh privately agrees with the sentiment.
Harbaugh made a point of saying that off the field incidents have consequences. Sometimes serious ones, both in the “real world” and as a member of the Ravens.
“Your spot is never guaranteed on any football team or in any job, and I think you have to know how you carry yourself and handle yourself is going to be reflected in how successful you are and how many opportunities you get to do your job.”
However, judging by the action — or rather, the inaction — of Newsome and Harbaugh with respect to Rice, it seems that so long as you can bang out 1,000 yards a season, the number of “opportunities you get to do your job” are limitless.
The bottom line is that Newsome and Harbaugh are as much to blame for the lack of discipline and accountability in their players as anybody since they do not hold them accountable for their actions. It’s a league-wide epidemic, truth be told.
But rather than writing off serious situations like Rice’s as “silliness” or as simply a “disappointing situation,” Harbaugh should have the courage of his expressed convictions and take a stand. Hold Rice, and all of his players who are involved in serious off the field incidents, accountable for their actions.
Otherwise, it’s just a nice speech filled with empty words.