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Who is most responsible for a team's mental errors?

I perused a lot of the readers’ comments Monday that were connected to various Sun stories and blogs detailing Ravens’ fans’ frustrations with their team’s play.

There are some who are all over quarterback Joe Flacco, for whom they were universally ‘wacco’ earlier this season. There are a whole lot of fans crushing defensive coordinator Greg Mattison and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron as well.

And now John Harbaugh is getting lit up by a certain disgruntled segment of the Ravens’ fan base. Guess the honeymoon is over.

One of the criticisms of Harbaugh is that his squad commits too many penalties -- often of the reckless, undisciplined nature -- and that halts any momentum this team can muster.

No question, that the Ravens’ myriad penalties are killers. But here’s what I have trouble following: I don’t see why that is Harbaugh’s fault. Listen, if it’s clock management penalties or too many men on the field or simple preparation things that go wrong, by all means, blame the coach.

But personal fouls and execution penalties? Those should fall on the shoulders of the players. Professional players. This isn’t Little League or high school ball.

To me, it’s the same faulty logic that some Orioles fans had this summer when so many baserunning mistakes were made, and manager Dave Trembley was blamed.

Say all you want about having a team that is disciplined and prepared. You have the personnel that you have. And if those players go onto the field and do boneheaded things, if they can’t execute fundamentals, that’s on them. Bad game plans, terrible play calling, incorrect pitching matchups, blame the manager/head coach.

But not knowing how many outs there are or plowing into a scrum after the whistle blows is the responsibility of the people who get paid to play these games.

Ultimately, I know the head coach/manager is responsible for how his team fares. The buck stops there. I get that. But I am little befuddled why the players – football, baseball, croquet – aren’t hammered more by fans when they are the ones making the mental errors. Besides, of course, it’s just easier to trash the coach/manager than the guy whose jersey you bought.

It’s a soapbox I carried around during the baseball season and I am planting it at the foot of Ravens’ headquarters now. Am I way off here?

Daily Think Special: Who is most responsible for a team’s mental errors?

Comments

But we have all those blame the coach peenalties you listed above, as well. So what are talking about? Better yet what games are you watching

Dan, I remember the D personel were the guilty ones sucking up the penalties from the early games of losing.Now the offense has suffered lately,too.You know what? It's on the players but all the coaches need to reinforce discipline on the sidelines if a player commits a stupid infraction;I'm not talking about the borderline ref calls that a player hardly believes.I look for the flag on special teams play all the time,now.The rookies overplay their opponent and bingo!tv time for a zebra.

I think that the coach has the responsibility to set the example for his team. The coach controls playing time. When Ngata, a potential Pro Bowl player, piles-on and maintains opposition momentum he should be pulled from the game--period. Pulling a player sends a message. However, coaches are reluctant to do that fearing that the replacement will not meet muster. So, veterans continue to commit stupid, game-costing errors on this team. Ed Reed continues to throw the ball around foolishly. Oher is now picking up where Zeus left off.

May I remind you that the Ravens lead the NFL in penalties? And seemingly the players are never penalized by the coaches in terms of playing time. The starters just continue to be thrown out there to play, and continue to make penalties, although less penalties were made Sunday. But you get my drift.

It is the responsibility of every coach to make sure that the players go out and execute the calls made. You say that the execution is on the players which is true, however the coach is in charge of making sure that happens so its perfectly acceptable to criticize the coaching staff for players failing to execute. That shows the staff is not doing their job appropriately.

Unfortunately, most of my fellow Ravens fans are not very bright. They are so fair weather. When we win, we are the greatest team ever and we dont get enough respect. We lose one game and everyone starts crying that we need to cut Ed Reed and Ray Lewis, bench Joe Flacco, fire Harbaugh, and Ozze Newsome. I'm not making any of that up. I have read those comments several times on these message boards. Like I said, not very bright.

I think what we have here in the Ravens squad is probably the most physically imposing team in the N.F.L. but is just not smart enough to beat the upper echelon teams. They are a very stupid football team, and yet they still carry an egotistical swagger to them(Suggs, for example) that I just can't figure out. They're an unlikeable bunch but I would assume that they don't care either way. Joe from Crofton

No, you are NOT way off here. I couldn't agree with you more. Let me say this. If these penalties, etc...were to occur at the college level, I would say you are wrong, but these are millionaires performing at the highest level and if they can't control their emotions, etc...than all of the coaching in the world isn't going to help. If it did, than what you would see and hear is that Harbaugh would 'bench" Reed for his stupid play this past week. Guess what, that "ain't" going to happen... Why? Because Ed (at his level right now) is not "coachable". He is a superb athlete and arguably the best in the NFL (at Safety) and perhaps the greatest at his position in the history of the game; but all of this success translates into one thing and that is not a single coach right now would be able to tell Ed what he can and can not do... What's the saying: "You can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink..." Think about it there's some truth there!!!

Dan--Who is most responsible when a team has first and goal from the one yard line and cannot score a touchdown?

Why couldn't Joe Flacco go with the quarterback sneak again?

Why would you not want to use the big guy Le'Ron McClain?

I'm not sure I buy into the argument that team discipline falls only on the player. Yes, the player is responsible for their actions, but the Ravens are the most penalized team in the NFL. Morale is the responsibility of management. In this respect the NFL is no different than the military or any civilian business, especially the military given the common element of youth.

I can understand false starts or blocks in the back when the ball carrier is running all over the field trying to gain additional yardage. I even understand pass interference when the only other option is a catch and touchdown, but there is really no excuse for personal fouls. That is discipline and when discipline breaks down, teamwork breaks down. When teamwork breaks down then you have individuals playing for themselves. Discipline is also a show of respect for the team and the management that is responsible for that team, not to mention their fellow teammates.

The way I view the situation is that the players are responsible to the coaches, the coaches are responsible to the owner and the owner is responsible to the fans. As for the Ravens owner, Steve Bisciotti, I think he's one of the best owners in the NFL. My issue with Harbaugh is that he makes critical coaching mistakes. As for Mattison, he's overwhelmed at the NFL level.

When you lose four games by a combined total of 13 points and the fifth game by 10 points, it can't be just bad luck. If luck had anything to do with it then the Ravens should have at least won one and possibly two of those games.

The Ravens have a net positive difference between points for and points allowed of 66. The only teams with a better difference are the Saints, Colts, Vikings and Pariots. How is it that two of those teams are 10-0, one is 9-1 and the remaining team is 7-3?

There is an old saying that probably most working stiffs have heard; "The harder you work the luckier you get". Lets also not forget that Bisciotti fired Billick because he lost the respect of his players. Losing has a way of ruining an otherwise pretty good day.

Finally, there is "leading by example". The coaches cannot expect the players to be elite if the coaching staff doesn't lead by example. The adage of "do as I say, not as I do" does not produce world class organizations. The Ravens are in the position they are in because of many bad decisions, not just one or two.

As for Stover, the Colts are carrying not just one or two kickers, but three, four if you include the punter. If the record is correct Stover has a guaranteed contract, I'm guessing that when Vinatieri is healthy, Stover will be a member of the 53 man roster, but not the 45 man active roster. If the Ravens were smart they would have signed Stover and if Hauschka worked out then deactivate Stover, but no we had to go with the guy that had only kicked a total of two or three FGs in his ENTIRE CAREER. Really, how expensive are kickers these days? I'm sure Stover could have been signed for 1M or less. Stover is one of the classiest guys in the NFL and the Ravens just kicked the dude to the curb, so I'm not going to lose any sleep as a result of the Ravens management getting a little heat from the fans. Oh, and what other member of the Ravens love Baltimore more?

Finally, if Ravens win the next six games then the fans will be saying to Harbaugh "We love you Man".

Enough said, I'll be watching Sunday night to see if the Ravens are any luckier. If Roethlisberger is playing his best then the Ravens are in for a long night as big Ben is probably the only quarterback that plays better when the defense blitzes and how can the Ravens cover the receivers if they don't blitz?

Just to be clear, I'm a Ravens fan and that trumps rooting for any individual player.

Harbaugh followed by Cam. I said before the season started that if Harbaugh accomplished 20% as much this year as he did last year we'd be in for a great season. I certainally did not see this decline comming. Ever since I saw all the Harbaugh boys (father included) on TV letting everybody know how wonderful and great they are, the Ravens have gone straight down hill. It's never good to boost like that. Don't get me wrong, I think the Harbaugh's are wonderful quality people, but, you (without any question of doubt) keep that sh*t to yourselfs. JINKS for sure.

I think the responsibility lays on Harbs shoulders. He allows the Billick era of trash talking and UNDISCIPLINED play continue. Its obvious from the COCKINESS and attitude of this team that they are lazy and don't have a passion to win. They almost always overly "celebrate" after a good play. It gets annoying to watch Kelley Washington dance around after picking up a 1st on 3rd and 3. I love Ray Rice and the potential he brings for the big play, but even he started to show his cocky side on Sunday. When I see a team celebrating like they won just because they made a stop or got a 1st in the 1st quarter, it makes me think Harbs is letting personal egos get in the way and doesn't have the balls to stop it. They need an attitude adjustment and Harbs needs to give it to them. Stop being COCKY, keep your heads in the game and maybe we'll start winning again.

Seems to me both parties are guilty. The players need to be disciplined, the team leaders need to point this out to the younger players, and the coaches need to instill some discipline and have a "no tolerance" policy for flagrant fouls. I see none of this, with some of the senior leaders committing some of the most flagrant penalties.....

Dan,
Mental mistakes with the Ravens seems to have no price paid for the offender. College football players are usually sent to the bench after a bonehead play, but not the Ravens players.
So, I think you can place this right at the feet of the coach, and not blaming headquarters. Who is 'headquarters' anyway?

Brian Billick! Just kidding....gimme a Dos Equis. Look, it has to fall to the head coach, that's just the way it goes. Too many losses in close games (NE, Indy, Cincy x 2 & Minn). Penalties and poor decisions on roster spots (kicker) all point back to Harbaugh. He reaped the praise last year so now he must deal with a little adversity.

Dan,

I have to respectfully disagree. The head coach is responsible for all of the above, period. If the players make repeated stupid mistakes it is up to the coach to either fix it or bench them. If he is unable to improve any facet of the team that results in more lossses than wins, untimately he will be released.

Coaches acquire a reputation over time as to how they direct and control their team. Harbaugh's legacy is still being written.

Don Shula established a reputation for discipline and as a result his teams were usually the least penalized year in and year out.

As an aside,John Harbaugh is supposed to be a strict dress code guy, but I watched the players arrive at the stadium prior to the game and I was appalled at how some were dressed.

Frank Walker arrived in a wife beater T shirt{I took a picture if you would like proof}and even the ushers asked him where his shirt was. Michael Oher was dressed like he was ready to bale hay on a cold day with a baggy old sweatshirt and crappy jeans. Hardly professional.

Ray Lewis was impeccable as usual as were several others.

Mr. Harbaugh needs to have a meeting with the players about how they look to the fans when they arrive at home games. A coat and tie should be mandatory. That's where the tone of discipline can be set.


Mental Mistakes--- hmmm

Here's my take. The bottom line all decisions create certain opportunities and cut away others.

I think the biggest mistake was not bringing back Stover. At the same time I can understand the decision Harbaugh because he saw the writing on the wall - it was the end of Matt's career - Harbaugh just cut Matt's career 1 or 2 years short. If Matt would have been here - we would have had at least one more win and a big one at the Vikings.

This game is a a game of momentum - just look at the Bengals. Last year riled with injuries they were just terrible! This year they are the toast of the North. Look at the Steelers - Super Bowl Champs now fighting in the same way we are ... I think the Ravens have a better shot at the playoffs at this point than they do.

For what ever reason - the Ravens seem to play best with their backs to the wall and they almost pulled off a big win with the Colts. - If we beat the Steelers this week and run the table we will be at the same record as last year 11-5. And I believe that is doable.

Sure - teams who are struggling always look for answers. If they scrape for them too much they struggle more. If they keep their eye on the ball and break out with a big win or even a huge play - they can get it all back. I buy into Harbaugh's comments that this is a very good team and it is only a matter of time that we join the elite. Yes, I am disappointed with this year! Its been tough - so close against the best - The Patriots, Vikes, Bengals and Colts. Except for the last game with the Bengals - we lost by an average total of like 3 points.

I am sorry - I am one of those who has a glass half full after disappointment. I see a team that is a few players away from dominating. And who knows we might have those players on the bench (ie Mr. Webb, Mr Washington, etc.).

This week starts our season - if we go 6-0 this conversation will be a mute point.

Coaches and managers make game decisions and should be held accountable. That being said, bone head plays by the players are on the player’s shoulders. You can teach the players the fundamentals, but their action on the field of play is their responsibility

The issue lies with both, in part with the lean going towards the players. These players are paid millions to play the games we love to watch. This is not their first ride on the boat so the mental side of it lies on the players. You commit dumb personal fouls that is on the person who commited, you commit a false start or holding that goes to the player. While a lot of the penalties are never called or the games would take about 6 hours to play the player must take responsibility for what happens between the sidelines. The coach is responsible to make sure the players are prepared to play with game plans, film, moving players around and setting the correct lineup, but when it comes to the execution of it that is all on the players 100%. The coach can be bad, like Zorn and Magini, but still these guys know how to play and they still must play the game with the mental preparedness and tenacity that got them there. I really dislike seing coaches have to take the hit for how the team performs when they can only do so much. that would be like holding Reid responsible for Donovan being a sub 60% completing QB. Not really fair or accurate. We will still support these teams and players so it is easier to change the coach, I mean when was the last time you saw someone buy a jersey that said Coach Harbaugh or Coach Holmgren, easier to fix the one person then the one that is brining the people into the seats.

Terrible towels is a horrid idea but alas, here's a better deal. During the Steelers game we could do ourselfs, MASN and the Ravens a HUGH favor. Roast Tom Davis and Anita Marks. With any luck the smoke will blind the Steelers and we can win a big game. But win or lose we will be far better off with them in ashes. Ha ha ha, you know it's true. Please bartender drinks for everyone and do you have a light?

I"M back!!!!!

I would blame Mike Mussina but he is retired from baseball. Yeah I know this is football, so I blame the coach. I am not impressed with the handling of this team in 2009. The offense has sputtered ...where is Le'ron McClain?

I like the head coach as a person, but he seems overmatched and out coached sometimes, though I know he is a young headcoach, and maybe with time he will get better. I am not ready to kick him to the curve, like he did the kicker, but I will be watching from a far.

Also, for the first time in Ravens history, Ozzie Newsome must share the blame for his off-season moves: IE: Foxworth, Carr, Stover, and Scott.. I know that contacts and salary cap issues were the reasons for Scott and Leonard to leave, but Stover?

Once again, and I am beginning to repeat myself, the whole organization is to blame, including the receptionist (see Harburgh, earlier remarks to understand).

Dan for a moment I thought your headline meant the Orioles but I saw the article is on the Ravens. How did a Ravens story get under the Orioles banner?

Then again, after the performance of the Orioles during their season, I can see why your Ravens story appeared under the Orioles banner.

---
Barkeep's Reply: Its premise is Ravens, but the concept works for Orioles, too. Now, let's hear your thoughts.

In the immortal words of Chris Farley.....HOLY SCHNIKES!! We have a V Putin sighting.....now I know how long your sentence was.

Dan, for all the base running mistakes the Birds made, I would assign blame to BOTH the runners and the coaches.

I'll give all the rookies the benefit of the doubt they will make mistakes but for the vets like Brian Roberts (the big base running goat of 09), 'I ask what were you thinking?'

So my comment begs to ask who has the authority to make decisions on the bases; the runners or the base coaches?

What qualifies John Shelby and Juan Samuel to be the base coaches and their return for 2010?

Dan - Good topic of discussion. Everyone is right - John Harbaugh is a young coach that is hesitant to assert himself with the veterans. He needs to do some research and find out how Don Shula and some of the NFL greatest coaches invoked discipline. It is not rocket science.

Sunday night - I was bothered again by the amount of Ravens penalties. There was a play that made Mark Clayton look like an absolute idiot for setting a moving pick on a defensive back. This happened during a Todd Heap pass play (that he drops anyway).

I believe that the Ravens have what it takes to still make the playoffs and I'm sticking with them. However, it's going to be the constant penalties that's going to stop them.

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