Thursday, October 23, 2008

Harbaugh might be smarter than you think in handling of Cmac

After such a big win on Sunday on the road – and let’s face it the road hasn’t been kind to the Ravens, our collective focus this week is upon off the field babbling and whining instead of the developments between the lines. Fault abounds for the distractions but none of it is anything that another win or two can’t cure. Time will tell.

But let’s face it, Chris McAlister’s pouting was predictable. Terrell Suggs verbal stumblings and bumblings were not a surprise. And John Harbaugh’s handling of the media was fairly appropo for a rookie head coach. That said, Harbaugh’s responses to the drama are far more intriguing than the immaturity of McAlister or Suggs.

On the surface, it looks like Harbaugh hasn’t been very forthcoming. First he pointed at McAlister’s health as a reason for the benching against the Dolphins yet admitted that CMac had a very good week of practice. McAlister was not listed on the injury report submitted to the league on Friday and I’m sure the watchdogs that observe the injury report gamesmanship exhibited often by Bill Belichick raised an eyebrow or four over this controversy.

Then Harbaugh danced around the McAlister issue and the watchdogs claiming that the team simply wanted to field its best 11 players on defense to thwart the Dolphins various personnel packages. If true, Harbaugh is essentially saying that Frank Walker is a more productive player than McAlister.


Suddenly John Lennon’s song Mind Games is playing in my head.

I think the Ravens were testing McAlister. Clearly he had an atrocious game against Marvin Harrison who has lost more steps than Warren Sapp on Dancing with the Stars. Rumors have surfaced that McAlister’s attendance wasn’t exactly stellar during team prep meetings leading into the Colts’ game. There have been reports of scantily dressed women waiting to pick up tickets from McAlister for the Dolphins game followed by reports of him violating team dress codes.

So, on the heels of a poor performance and a season to date where McAlister looks like he’s lost a few steps of his own mixed in with a few shenanigans that don’t sit well with coach, the Ravens decide to embarrass McAlister.

Sometimes children need to be treated as such.

Perhaps the test has a more macro objective. Maybe the Ravens were toying with McAlister to see if they really want to bring him back at all in 2009. Or maybe they are taking a whack at his market value to pave the way to a salary cut next season when McAlister is due $8 million in salary. Or maybe McAlister isn’t in the team’s plans at all in ’09 and they will look to cut him loose and give his $8 million to a truly elite corner.

(Side bar: Due yourself a favor and check out my colleague Brian McFarland’s piece on the
Ravens salary cap picture for 2009. It’s the home run the Rays needed last night.)

Look McAlister has little leverage here. He knows he can’t make $8 million in 2009 anywhere other than Baltimore. When his agent reminds him of that, maybe then McAlister will buckle down because clearly something is awry. Why else do you sit a player who is your best corner when your secondary is injury riddled and you are facing a must win game on the road?

Maybe Harbaugh and Rex Ryan as well thought the timing was right to send McAlister a message. Maybe they weren’t too concerned with the Dolphins going deep when their quarterback (Chad Pennington) makes Steve McNair’s fastball look like that of John Elway. And maybe they aren’t too concerned this week either when the Ravens face league’s 27th ranked passing attack.

Surely McAlister’s blood will boil and he’ll reconnect with the team because he has no choice. Eventually the Ravens might use the reconnection to their advantage when they take on opponents that possess respectable vertical games featuring dangerous receivers who can stretch the field. They will have effectively painted McAlister in a corner and his only way out will benefit the team.


Maybe that Harbaugh isn’t such a rookie after all.

But then again, maybe I’m giving him far more credit than he deserves.

Time as it usually does, will tell…


Harryos29 said...

Harry O 29 Oct 23rd
I am going to side with Coach Harbaugh on this Ploy with McAlister.
...Coach is dumb like a FOX !!
Face it, CMAC has a lot of pride and wants to play very much. "There have been questions about his KNEE: only two people know: The Trainers and CMAC himself !! I do know this, Harrison Ran by him on those plays like CMACs feet were stuck in CEMENT!
... I agree that the TIMING was right, since Penningtons right wing belongs in the Sunday flag football league over in Towson. I'm sure that the Ravens Coaches got together and took a chance; and for once it worked out. Face it..the Ravens have not been Road Warriors recently.
Looking forward to a close game vs the Raiders Sunday, with an INT Returned for a TD, by none other than CMAC !!!