Monday, November 29, 2010

Will Someone Let the Dogs Out?

We are all too painfully aware of the tirelessly overplayed song, "Who Let the Dogs Out?" Perhaps a welcomed sequel might be, "Will Someone Let the Dogs Out?"


Well, let's just say I'm beginning to wonder if John Harbaugh's doghouse has been overbooked lately. How about we hang a "No Vacancy" sign on that Puppy Palace, eh?

Last year Dannell Ellerbe exceeded expectations with his play alongside Ray Lewis to close the 2009 season. The position seemed to be Ellerbe's to lose as the team headed into summer camp. Yet it never played out that way. Almost from day 1 of camp, most of the first team reps went to Jameel McClain.

McClain is a guy who has seen hard times. He's persevered and emerged on the plus side of life. As an undrafted free agent he beat the odds, just as he beat homelessness as a youth. It's a great story no doubt but the story doesn't assure great or even competent play as Lewis' sidekick.

McClain has disappeared at times, hardly what you seek in a linebacker whose job is to rack up tackles after super-sized D-linemen eat up blockers. When he does make a play, McClain is sure everyone in the stadium is aware. He'll celebrate more demonstratively than the Hall of Famer he plays beside.

The point here however isn't to beat up on McClain. He's simply an average player being asked to deliver Pro Bowl-like performances because that's what the Ravens are accustomed to from the position.

But it's just not happening.

And this makes the outcast treatment of Dannell Ellerbe that much more puzzling.

When will the guy get a bone?

How long before he convinces ball coach that he's learned a lesson?

You can almost hear Ellerbe's plea now: "I will learn to love special teams, I promise coach!"

If you are a Ravens player and somehow slip into Harb's Barkhouse, it's the equivalent of a bitter ex-wife becoming your boss and guess what? You're not coming out for a long, long time - even if it hurts the team.

And this isn't just about Ellerbe. We've seen it with Willis McGahee as well and we've seen it with departed DE Antwan Barnes. Barnes we learned didn't embrace his special teams role either and consequently, he too earned a suite in the Puppy Palace and ultimately he was flea-marketed for a 7th round pick from the Eagles despite the fact that the Ravens are severely deficient in the pass rushing department.

Boy we sure did need that Lamar Divens now didn't we? He's been active for all of 2 games this season without a measurable stat. He has some special teams upside, right?

And how about that Brandon McKinney - a healthy scratch in the last four games.

Meanwhile we see Barnes in high profile games against the Patriots and Colts play like a menacing presence as a situational substitute. Couldn't he have helped the Ravens just a tad more than Divens?

Ah, but see, there's this doghouse thing going on.

Don't get me wrong, I'm a Harbaugh guy but that doesn't mean I'm drinking the Kool-Aid. He's hardly infallible and these faults coupled with some other questionable choices (Prince Miller over Bryan McCann and placing his only fullback on special teams) have done little to help the club.

No one is perfect and therefore there's room for improvement for everyone.

For Harbaugh a good place to start might be a fall cleaning of the doghouse.

Here poochie, poochie, poochie!


Ravens_Flock said...

I don't know that I agree about Ellerbe. The guy has never shown me a whole lot. Yes, he made some plays last year. But Gooden wasn't playing all that bad before he got hurt. And this year, when he has played, he's made some really boneheaded moves.

But you're right, we need Barnes. It was just as bad an offseason move, shipping him out, as it was the year prior, not bringing Stover back. Barnes looked phenomenal in the offseason and preseason. He was our best speed rusher, and we let him go. To a team that didn't even feel like keeping him. Now he's making waves in SD, while we've been struggling in the pass rush (again), most of the year.

Our pass rush didn't pick up last year, till late in the season, when we finally started using Barnes again. I bet you anything, our pass rush would have been just fine, and would have even opened up for Suggs more, if Barnes were still here, and were being used.

Harbaugh is not a bright coach, whatsoever, and his "doghouse" is one of the biggest problems. McGahee, Barnes, McAlister, Williams, you name it, a lot of players that could have made a major difference for us the last couple years, either benched or let go, all because "Harbs" doesn't like them.

Phil from Frostburg said...

Glad to see you finally have seen the light on Barnes (you defended Harbaugh when I was complaining about his release before game 1.) I like Harbaugh in almost all phases of coaching EXCEPT I think the basic problem here is an overemphasis on special teams. We're seeing better position players get released/traded in favor of better special teams players (the examples you pointed out are the tip of the iceberg), mediocre middle round draft choices being made because of perceived special teams value instead of positional value, curious gametime deactivations, and finally, a field goal kicker choice last year that saved a roster spot but cost us two wins and perhaps a run at the division title. It's all working out fine this year so far, but the team has been very healthy. Lose a couple key guys like, say, our starting left tackle and fullback for any amount of time, and lack of positional depth on this team will be exposed.

Anonymous said...

Harbaugh's dog house does worry me. And I fear that he's a little to similar to Brad Childress. As soon as things go south he is going to lose the locker room.

Getting rid of Barnes was the dumbest move we made all offseason. I am still convinced that Harbaugh had it out for Barnes the moment he got here. Harbaugh was in Philly in Barnes rookie year when he took that cheap shot on Sav Rocca. I believe Harbaugh made up his mind about the type of person Barnes is right then and there, he held it against him and never gave him a chance.

Jerry B said...

Harbaugh's "Doghouse" is getting a reputation that hardly seems conducive to the team's best interest. It's one thing to discipline players, it's another to carry a grudge and that's what this looks like. And, if that's the case, the coach is letting his bias get the best of him and! If this were the only issue with the coaching, it would be one thing. But, decisions are being made relative to personnel on a regular basis that continues to call into question the coaching capability........

Harryos29 said...

DEC 1, 2010 HARRYOS 29,, I heard through the grape vine..that BARNES was not the brightest bulb in the lot..concerning learning and remembering defensive calls? I do not think that he couldn't be TOLD on each play..GO GET # 7 ? I dont' just seems to me that Getting rid of Barnes was cutting off your nose to spite your face?
..when will Paul Kruger step up?

Anonymous said...

I disagree about the depth on this team. Actually, I see a lot of depth.

OL-Chester (was pencilled in as a backup until Gaither's injury)
TE-Dickson and Pitta
WO-Houshmanzadeh and Stallworth

DL-McKinnie, Cody
OLB-? (would be nice to have Barnes were it not for Harbaughs' doghouse...they did draft Kindle)
ILB (Ellerbe, another doghouse casualty, Gooden, Phillips)
CB--Washington, Wilson, Webb, Williams (remember, Foxworth was the slated starter)
SAF--Zib, Nakamura

To be honest, I think the fact that the Ravens could play without Reed, Gaither, and Foxworth for seven games and not miss a beat really speaks well of the depth on this team. It's easy to say that there is no depth when a guy like Oher or McClain goes down, but how many teams carry more tackles than Oher, Gaither, Yanda (I'm counting him as a tackle because he's started two years there for Baltimore), and Cousins? And how many teams (save for Billick) would use two roster spots for a fullback unless one guy is banged up?

I guess my fundamental point is that every team has a lack of depth at certain spots. It seems to be the nature of the league. You have to give the Ravens coaches and personnel staffs credit for being able to win games minus players like Gaither, Reed, and Foxworth by being creative scheme-wise and for having players like Zib, Yannda, Chester, and Josh Wilson who can come in not miss a beat.

I think the depth is a strength, not a weakness. Though i think we should have kept Barnes, particularly because of Kindle's injury, which was known before the season.