Anyone who has interacted with Ravens coach John Harbaugh knows when Harbaugh is making a point in a pointed way. And that’s precisely what he did after Sunday’s loss to the Bengals. Harbaugh approached Bengals coach Zac Taylor with a mildly aggressive demeanor and asked him why he ran, with two minutes to pay, a third-and-four play that consisted of a deep pass that gained 52 yards and resulted in quarterback Joe Burrow finishing with 525, the fourth highest total in any NFL game.
But Harbaugh is smart. He knows that, earlier this year, he defended the decision to run the ball when the circumstances called for taking a knee against the Broncos, in order to preserve Baltimore’s streak of 100-yard rushing games. If he’d publicly groused about Taylor’s tactics, Harbaugh would have come off as a hypocrite.
As a result, Harbaugh downplayed the situation in his post-game press conference. Earlier today, Harbaugh reiterated his position that (video evidence notwithstanding), Harbaugh had no burr in his saddle as he spoke to Taylor.
“I don’t really know where that’s coming from, and I really — I don’t necessarily appreciate having to address ‘there’s a feeling out there’ kind of questions. I think it’s kind of absurd. I don’t know where it comes from. But Zac and I had a good conversation just like we always do. We always have good conversations. There’s mutual respect there. Everything’s fine.”
It’s “coming from” the video of Harbaugh approaching and speaking to Taylor. If Harbaugh wants to put it to bed, he just needs to say what he said. Because it looks like he said, “Why’d you run that play right there?” It also would be helpful for him to explain why it looked like he was not simply shaking hands and heading to the locker room, like coaches normally do.
Taylor also downplayed the situation. Although he wasn’t asked about Harbaugh’s comments in his post-game press conference, Taylor received this question today: “Did John Harbaugh take exception to it at the end of the game there? I know there’s a clip of you two, when you shook hands, and he at least looked from my untrained eye that he was a little frustrated.”
Taylor had a one-word response, along with a Cheshire Cat-style smile. “No.”
As to whether there was something to the situation, the obvious answer (with apologies to Ravens fans who would like to shout down reality) is “yes.” And it’s laughable (but understandable) that the two coaches would be trying to publicly downplay the situation. They’ll continue to face each other twice per year. They still could potentially cross paths in the upcoming postseason. Why splash jet fuel on the fire?
Still, that doesn’t prevent us from questioning the credibility of the public comments of both coaches. Harbaugh acts like the issue was fabricated. The interpretation comes from the video. From the way he approached Taylor. From the way Harbaugh gestured. From the things that he apparently was saying, based on the manner in which his lips were moving.
Again, anyone who has been on the other end of that kind of interaction with Harbaugh knows what it is and when it’s happening. He was giving it to Taylor for dialing up a deep pass when the game was over. And Harbaugh knows that, based on the brouhaha that emerged after the Broncos game in Week Four, Harbaugh can’t complain about someone doing to him what he did in Denver.
John Harbaugh, Zac Taylor downplay their postgame interaction originally appeared on Pro Football Talk