On Sunday, Dec. 5, the Pittsburgh Steelers went into Baltimore and took a hard-fought win from the Baltimore Ravens. By now everyone is familiar with the ferocious nature of the game. Like past contests, this one lived up to its billing as the hardest hitting rivalry in the NFL.
Prior to the game, on NBC's Sunday Night Football, Bob Costas interviewed John Harbaugh. One of the questions Bob asked of John was regarding the recent stricter enforcement of the NFL's policy on head to head collisions to defenseless players. Bob asked Harbaugh if he shared any of the concerns Steelers players have expressed regarding the league's enforcement of the rules.
In what appeared to be a smug, nearly sanctimonious manner, Harbaugh replied "...going helmet to helmet, or shoulder to helmet against defenseless players is no longer part of the game...there's no question in my mind that our team has figured it out, most of the league has figured it out, and shortly everybody will figure it out."
Was it just me, or did Harbaugh's raised eyebrows when stating "...and shortly everyone will figure it out" serve as a back-handed shot to the Steelers organization?
It only took a couple short hours for the Ravens team to make a hypocrite of Harbaugh. The Ravens resorted to the exact thuggery that Harbaugh insisted his team "had figured out". Haloti Ngata broke Ben Roethlisberger's nose on a clear blow to the head with his left arm. Later in the contest, Ravens linebacker, Jameel McClain nearly decapitated Pittsburgh TE Heath Miller with a devastating helmet to helmet blow that left Miller immobilized on the field.
You can view Harbaugh's controversial comments, along with replays of the hits and the on-air commentators' scathing comments about the hits in the included video.
This afternoon, the NFL issued fines for both Ngata and McClain—$15,000 and $40,000 respectively. Harbaugh was asked his view of the fines and the hits today, less than 24 hours after his comments aired on Sunday Night Football:
“I think the big issue, from our perspective, is what Jameel is capable of doing and what he’s not capable of doing,” Harbaugh said. “Jameel tried to go low. He tried to go low to make the tackle, and Heath Miller fell. So he’s going down, and as Jameel is trying to go low to make the tackle in that strike-zone area, [Miller’s] head ends up in that area. So there’s nothing that Jameel could have done that was humanly possible to avoid that kind of contact. Now if they’re going to call that a penalty because they can’t tell that it’s a duck-and-hit type of situation, that’s up to them. But from a fine perspective, to me, it’s clear that Jameel was trying to go low.”
Flash back to James Harrison's hit earlier this season on Mohamed Massaquoi. Weren't the exact same reasons Harbaugh used in defense of McClain used as a defense by James Harrison, the Steelers, and supporting members of major media regarding his hit on Massaquoi?
Am I the only person who sees John Harbaugh as a poster child for hypocrisy? He chose to air his strong opinions on national TV and state that his team played clean and had it all "figured out." Yet his players committed two of the NFL's most heinous hits of the season on opposing players and today he defended them using the same logic that yesterday he appeared to frown upon.
Keep in mind this is the same NFL head coach who, earlier this season, was fined $15,000 for making contact with a NFL official Ron Marinucci while demonstrating after a controversial hit by Terrell Suggs on Carson Palmer of the Bengals.
Sometimes the old adage "It's better to be seen and not heard" really makes sense.
Somehow I don't think Coach Harbaugh will learn his lesson because he and the Ravens have it all figured out.
UPDATE January 10, 2011: On January 11, Coach Jon Harbaugh came out and publicly stated that he was "glad" his team broke QB Ben Roethlisberger's nose. "“He’s a tough guy,” Harbaugh said of Roethlisberger. “He had the broken nose. I was glad we broke his nose and then I was very impressed that he played through it. Obviously, you can throw very effectively with a broken nose – he proved that.”