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!