Monthly Archives: January 2013

Ayanbadejo of Ravens boldly drive-blocks LGBT cause forward after Culliver’s travails

Chris

Chris Culliver meets the press Thursday morning at the Niners’ team hotel in New Orleans.

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NEW ORLEANS – Brendon Ayanbadejo had said he wanted to use the Super Bowl to shed light on his pet cause: lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights.

The former CFL star – now the Baltimore Ravens’ backup linebacker and special-teams specialist – got that chance on Thursday.

And, boy, did he ever use it to full, loud effect.

Ayanbadejo cut to the heart of the matter with frank, incisive comments that surely will challenge both NFL leaders and players alike, and for a long time to come.

First the catalyst.

In another huge off-field controversy here at Super Bowl XLVII, backup San Francisco 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver told a radio host he would not stand for having a gay teammate. The interview aired Wednesday.

“I don’t do the gay guys, man,” Culliver told Artie Lange, a former sidekick to Howard Stern, on his radio show. “I don’t do that. No, we don’t got no gay people on the team. They gotta get up out of here if they do … Can’t be with that sweet stuff. Nah … can’t be … in the locker room, man. Nah.”

Of course, those vile comments blew up through the Interwebs by Wednesday night.

The Niners issued a distancing news release almost immediately.

On Thursday morning, at the Niners’ scheduled all-player media interview session with hundreds of accredited media, Culliver was swarmed at his roundtable.

A 24-year-old second-year man from Philadelphia, Culliver apologized repeatedly, citing the same explanation almost word-for-word each time:

“I was just joking about it, but it’s nothing that I feel in my heart,” the sullen, tuque-wearing Culliver said.

Hardly eloquent.

Sufficient? That’s surely debatable. Disingenuous? Perhaps.

But it was a start.

An hour later, at the Ravens’ hotel, Ayanbadejo left no grey area as to where he stands on the whole issue, when similarly swamped by the football press.

The 36-year-old father of two has been a vocal, fearless supporter of the LGBT communities for years. He grew up in the Bay Area, where his step-father was director of an LGBT-supportive residence.

Is he angry at Culliver?

“I couldn’t really even say anything negative to the young man,” said Ayanbadejo, who more than a decade ago played in the CFL for Winnipeg, Toronto and B.C.

“It’s just one of those things where you have to live, and you have to learn … In the words of Martin Luther King, you can’t fight hate with hate. You have to fight hate with love.”

The longer Ayanbadejo spoke, the more he got worked up.

The reason? He said Culliver is far from the only NFL player who agrees with Culliver’s words – the ones he said in the radio interview, not in the apology session.

“I’ve preached since Day 1 to my teammates that there are certain words you can’t say, and when they’re around me they know – you can’t say gay in a derogatory manner,” Ayanbadejo said. “You can’t say the three-letter F-word.

“And I tell them, ‘You can’t say those things (anywhere). And if people hear you say those things, regardless of whether you mean them or not, they’re going to fry you. And if it’s in a public arena, your whole reputation is going to be roasted for it.’”

Ayanbadejo sounded frustrated that his stance “hasn’t swayed anybody” to his point of view.

And comments such as Culliver’s?

“I hear it all the time, I hear it every day,” he said. “And it’s not just in the locker room, it’s on my Twitter (account), it’s on my Facebook. So I hear it all the time, I hear it every day. I’m not surprised, but that’s why I speak so loudly about this.”

What percentage of Americans oppose LGBT rights?

“I’d say 50% of the people think like Culliver,” Ayanbadejo said. “I’d say 25% of the people think like me, and then 25% of the people are religious. They don’t necessarily agree with all of the things I agree with, but they’re accepting.

“It’s a fight. It’s an uphill battle.”

Ayanbadejo is making it less so. In one corner of the world, he just helped the LGBT cause take a big step – in the right direction.

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THESE NINERS, RAVENS ARE OPEN TO A GAY TEAMMATE:

NEW ORLEANS – We asked various players on the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens on Thursday if they think NFL players would be accepting if a teammate announced he was gay.

“I don’t know if anyone has, or whatever, but I’m sure he can,” 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith said.

Added 49ers running back Frank Gore: “It wouldn’t bother me. I wouldn’t have a problem with it. That’s his (issue). As long as he can help us win games, and he’s a great football player – hey, come on.”

Ravens tight end Ed Dickson agreed, to a point.

“I have some mixed emotions, but I’m fine with that,” Dickson said. “It’s a free country to be who you are – let your personality shine. If a player comes out, that’s fine. We’d support him, if he’s been through it all and stuff like that.

“Society sees football being the manliest of the manly sports. But I think holding that stuff in is (wrong).”

Jewel Hampton, a backup running back on the 49ers, offered this passionate, eloquent take:

“I definitely think it’s a new day and age, where people should be able to be themselves,” Hampton said. “I strongly believe in that. I think people are ready for it.

“There have been so many stages that gay and lesbian people have gone through to get to this point. So I definitely think that America has opened up the door for it, and they should be comfortable enough to come out and say it.”

Asked if a family member or close friend is a member of the LGBT community, Hampton said no.

“Not at all. This is just how I feel. This is the first time I’ve ever been asked my opinion on it. I’m glad to say it.”

 

PHOTO GALLERY: First 4 days in N’awlins

Silver

Goldfinger, eat your heart out. Don’t ask. I have no idea either.

Bourbon Street, below.

NOLANOLA

I could have taken this photo a thousand times while
my cab inched through the Quarter on Sunday.

NOLA

Telltale sign it is not normally cold here.

NOLA

Tired eyes on the sunrise, waiting for the Eastern glow.

NOLA

The Creole Queen paddle-wheels down the Mississippi. Mary would be proud.

NOLA

Some guy.

NOLA

Media Day fun for some Niners.

NOLA

Baltimore Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome, one of the best in the biz.

NOLA

Jim Harbaugh directing traffic prior to official team Super Bowl XLVII photo.

NOLA

Vernon Davis is frickin’ ripped.

NOLA

No sign of Lt. Dan.

 

EXCLUSIVE: Bills-in-Toronto series indeed extended 5 years; announcement Tuesday

Russell

NEW ORLEANS – The Bills in Toronto series has indeed been extended for five more years.

As we reported exclusively eight months ago, the Buffalo Bills and Rogers Media are expected to announce on Tuesday that the NFL team will continue to play one regular-season home game per year in Toronto for the next five seasons, and one exhibition game only in that span.

That’s exactly what we reported in May.

The news is expected to be announced Tuesday at a mid-day news conference in Toronto. New Bills head coach Doug Marrone is expected to attend.

The long delay was caused by the club’s slow, complicated negotiations with various levels of government to extend its lease at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, N.Y. That process finally was completed last month when it was announced the club had agreed to a 10-year extension, on the promise of various stadium upgrades.

For obvious reasons, the club did not want to announce an extension of its Toronto series while the future of its local homefield lease remained unresolved.

So, as in the past five years, the Bills will relocate one of their eight regular-season home games to Toronto’s lake-front domed stadium, where the Bills have won only once so far – in 2011 against the Washington Redskins.

Last month, Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks blew out the Bills, 50-17 (Toronto Sun photo, above.). Two weeks later, the Bills fired head coach Chan Gailey and all of his assistant coaches.

What’s more, as reported here in May, ticket prices will remain significantly cheaper than those of the first four years of the series. Rogers announced price reductions last July for the game last month.

The Bills made a killing from the original five-year deal. Rogers paid the club $78 million for five regular-season and two pre-season games – a shot into the Bills’ coffers of $11.14 million per game, more than double what the team clears from each home game at Ralph Wilson Stadium, according to a Buffalo News report.

Neither side is expected to reveal on Tuesday how much Rogers is paying the Bills for the five-year extension, but a source in May said the amount would be “significantly” less than $78 million.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell last year said the Bills-in-Toronto extension would be “a great thing” for both the franchise and NFL fans in New York and Ontario.

Many Bills players last month, however, did not share that view – as the games in Toronto, for them, play more like a neutral-site game than a home game.

Indeed, hundreds if not thousands of fans last month cheered on the Seahawks. That predicament likely would end if the Bills would start making the playoffs again – which the club hasn’t done since the 1990s.

 

THE SONS RISE: Trio of Super Bowl coaches, including both Harbaughs, started in football together as coaches’ kids

RE_2011-11-John

(Above: Ravens head coach John Harbaugh, 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh
and their
father, Jack Harbaugh. REUTERS)

NOTE: Unless otherwise noted, the accompanying photos, below, are courtesy of Greg Kinney at the Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan…
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Two old football coaches, by chance, sometimes meet up at Baltimore Ravens training camp.

Jack Harbaugh and Gary Moeller.

Brothers-in-arms of gridiron battles past, now retired. Hair, greyer. Legs, gimpier. Voices, a tinge raspier. But still possessing the same fire for life, the same passion for a kid’s game.

gary-and-jack“I really enjoy it when I go down to training camp and Jack’s there, and we can kick back and tell stories,” Moeller said this week over the phone while visiting Lima, Ohio. “Jack’s a great storyteller. And he can go on and on and on. We have a great time, reminiscing.”

About their careers. And, especially, about their boys.

John and Jim Harbaugh, and Andy Moeller.

Jack Harbaugh’s and Gary Moeller’s careers crossed paths for only four years, in the mid-1970s at the University of Michigan, as assistants under Bo Schembechler. That’s when their boys met. (And that’s Gary, left, and Jack, circa mid-’70s, at right.)

The trio became instant friends, and it was then – as children – that each began dreaming of a life in football, just like their dads.

Ever since, the sons’ paths have been crossing and criss-crossing far more frequently than their dads’ ever did, both on the field and off.

But never more significantly, or serendipitously, than next Sunday in Super Bowl XLVII.

John Harbaugh – Jack and Jackie Harbaugh’s oldest of three children – is the 50-year-old head coach of the Baltimore Ravens.

Jim Harbaugh – the middle child – is the 49-year-old head coach of the San Francisco 49ers.

Andy Moeller – Gary and Ann Moeller’s one son out of four children – is the 48-year-old offensive line coach of the Ravens, under John.

In a moment that has fate blushing and coincidence shaking its head, the Ravens – with John and Andy – will square off against Jim’s 49ers next Sunday in North America’s No.1 annual sporting spectacle.

Three boyhood, sports-loving friends – reunited four decades later on a football field in front of 72,000 in New Orleans and an expected North American TV audience of 120 million.

What are the odds?

In the mid-’70s as kids, the trio goofed off together, played backyard sports together, competed against one another in organized league sports, and got in trouble together – such as on one famous occasion when the Harbaugh boys unintentionally interrupted the high holy proceedings of a precisely scheduled Bo Schembechler Wolverine football practice, which aroused the hair-trigger wrath of the larger-than-life man they all worshipped then, and, in more than a few ways, still emulate now as coaches themselves.

BoWhile Schembechler (right, circa 1976) retired from the profession in 1990 and died in 2006, his coaching tree yet grows – a soaring, solid Savannah oak with gravity-defying branches snaking every which way.

It boasts four national-champion college head coaches: Jack Harbaugh himself (Western Kentucky, Division I-AA, 2002), Bill McCartney (Colorado, 1990), Lloyd Carr (Michigan, 1997) and Les Miles (LSU, 2007).

A week from now the Bo tree adds a Super Bowl champion head coach from the pro ranks, whose last name is Harbaugh.

Many good yarns have been, and will be, spun about the Harbaugh brothers and this ‘Harbowl.’ This story chronicles the Harbaugh and Moeller offshoots on that tree, and how they began intertwining right from the get-go in Ann Arbor, Mich., starting in 1973.

Having grown up at about the same time, nearby, as a huge Michigan fan in Windsor, Ont. – just across the river from Detroit – I’m probably more familiar with this story than most. If there ever was a time to share it, it’s now.

* * *

John and Jim Harbaugh met Andy Moeller soon after their dad, Jack, left the University of Iowa football staff to join Schembechler’s at Michigan in ’73.

John was age 10, Jim 9, Andy almost 9.

Jack became the Wolverine defensive backs coach and served directly under Gary Moeller, then defensive coordinator.

So it all started with a Harbaugh working under a Moeller.

It was an enormous step up the coaching ladder for the elder Harbaugh, who had been relocating his family about every two years for a decade while moving up the ranks. Just six years earlier he’d been an assistant at Morehead State.

Now he was assisting one of the brightest, fieriest, exacting head coaches in all of college football – in the big-time. Schembechler’s ’70s teams were outstanding: 96-16-3 (.848).

This was the zenith of his 21-year career at Michigan, an era now principally remembered for the “Ten Year War” – when Schembechler’s Wolverines and Woody Hayes’ Ohio State Buckeyes annually fought tooth-and-nail for the Big Ten championship and Rose Bowl berth in their monumental, season-ending clash.

“Jack really fit in well with the Michigan coaches,” Gary said. “He’s very fundamental, just like his sons. You know, technique and all those things were important to him. And he could really communicate with the players, as well.”

Off the field, away from all that intensity, the Harbaugh and Moeller families became close.

Especially the kids.

“They’d hang out while going to practice, and watching practice,” Gary said. “John and Jim showed up with Jack, and Andy would come with me at times.

“We all really got to know one another better at the bowl games. They would spend lots of time together – all the kids did. We had a large staff of kids, really. On occasion, the families would get together in Ann Arbor too.”

The Harbaughs and Moellers lived in different areas of town. The youth football league fielded teams by district. John and Jim played on the Packers, Andy on the Wolverines.

So 1973 was the first time Jim competed against Andy in organized football.

As is always the case in youth football, many youngsters didn’t have a clue what to do. These three boys sure did, though.

“You’d see some kids with the facemask turned the wrong way,” Gary says, laughing. “They were just little kids. But our boys knew how to play the game, because they’d watched it so closely.

Harbaugh-Kids“They had fun playing against one another. I think they did in basketball, too. I know they were on opposite teams in that too.”

Over the next four years, John, Jim and Andy grew closer.

“They had the same group of friends as younger kids,” Gary said. “They saw one another quite a bit.”

By January 1977 the boys had entered their early teens. But that’s when the Moellers left Ann Arbor, for the University of Illinois hired Gary to be its head football coach.

The Harbaughs remained in “A-squared” until 1980, for seven years in all – by far the longest time the boys spent anywhere.

“We look back, and growing up mainly at the University of Michigan when they were in elementary school and junior high school, they loved sports, had a passion for sports,” Jack said in a teleconference call on Thursday with wife Jackie and daughter Joani. “They enjoyed being around the game.”

The famous story in Michigan circles is the day the Harbaugh boys lived to tell about interrupting a Schembechler practice.

Here they were playing catch off to the side of the field, as the Wolverines practised before some big game. But, as inevitably happens, the ball bounded the wrong way – onto the practice field, stopping proceedings.

Jim went out to fetch it. Schembechler went nuts, barking at Jack to get that something-damn kid off his something-damn field.

At Ravens’ training camp this past August, I asked John in an interview if that story were true.

“Absolutely! But who do you think was the one who sent Jim out there to get the ball?!” John said, laughing. “And Bo threw Jim off. I was the older brother. It was my prerogative.”

Gary Moeller laughs, too, at his boss’s reaction.

“Bo loved to holler at those young kids, because he liked to see them take off. They probably enjoyed it as much as they were scared about him getting on them.”

The way John set up Jim to get reamed by Bo speaks to their sibling rivalry.

It was intense. Not that you wouldn’t expect that from two highly athletic-minded brothers, born only 15 months apart.

Jim had a burning desire to not only compete in everything, but be the best in everything – and win at everything. As Jack said a couple of years ago in an NFL Films documentary about the family, a teacher once complained to him that little Jim competed too hard. Jack was appalled that an educator would actually want to drive that spirit out of his hyper-motivated son.

John, meantime, discovered at an early age that his younger brother possessed far more natural athletic ability that he did – which probably only further stoked his own competitive fires. No damn little brother of his was ever going to outdo him in anything, if he could help it.

Even if, as athletes, he couldn’t.

* * *

Both John and Jim played football in high school – John for four years at Ann Arbor’s Pioneer High, Jim for two years there before playing two more in Palo Alto, Calif., after dad Jack had left Michigan to work for Jack Elway (yes, John Elway’s dad) at Stanford.

John, a 6-foot defensive back, played college ball at Miami of Ohio – where Schembechler and Moeller had coached in the 1960s. Injuries kept him from playing much.

Jim, a 6-foot-3 quarterback, was an all-region player at Palo Alto High in his senior year, 1981. After having idolized Michigan’s option-wizard quarterback Rick Leach from 1975-78 (see video, above, of Jim congratulating Leach on a TD against Duke in 1977), Harbaugh as a high-schooler came to similarly admire Stanford’s starting quarterback at the time – one John Elway.

Just last week, Harbaugh was saying how he was still miffed he hadn’t been heavily recruited by the big colleges. Yet Michigan’s scholarship offer was no legacy gift, Gary Moeller said: “He was somebody that we definitely recruited.”

So back to Ann Arbor went Jim, as a freshman football recruit. Who joined him in that incoming class?

Andy Moeller, a star linebacker at Ann Arbor’s Pioneer High.

The Moellers had moved back to town in 1980, after Illinois fired Gary for going 6-24-3 (.227) in three years; Schembechler welcomed him back on his staff.

Reunited, old buds Jim and Andy both redshirted at Michigan in 1982, then saw spot action at their positions in 1983. Andy played quite a bit at inside linebacker in 1984, then started his final two years.

Jim started five games at QB in 1984 before breaking his arm, then broke out as one of college football’s most efficient, big-play quarterbacks in 1985 and ’86.

gary-and -andy“Their junior and senior years, I think, they roomed together in a house – a bunch of guys lived in that house,” said Gary, who coached his son as Michigan’s defensive coordinator (see right). “When they both came back for a fifth year, they each went to separate apartments. They still got along well.”

In 1986, Harbaugh was everybody’s second-team all-American (behind Miami’s Vinny Testaverde) and finished third in the Heisman Trophy balloting.

Perhaps most importantly to Harbaugh, he became the 1980s version of his idol, Leach: A Michigan quarterback who dazzled with his arm and his feet, and who usually won the big games. Harbaugh even ran some option plays, out of both the I-formation and wishbone.

And, as Leach had done twice in the late ’70s, and as no Michigan quarterback has done since, in his senior season Harbaugh led the Wolverines to Pasadena by defeating Ohio State at Ohio State in a game for all the marbles. No small feat.

HarbaughThat day in 1986 says as much about Jim Harbaugh, the competitor, as anything ever could.

A week earlier, the Wolverines had been 9-0 and ranked No. 3 until a gutting, last-minute loss in their home finale to Minnesota.

Instinctively, Harbaugh surmised that his devastated teammates needed something to rally behind, with a trip to Columbus only days away and a Rose Bowl berth still there for the taking.

So Harbaugh shocked his teammates and – you better believe it – his coaches when he told the Detroit-area press corps on the Monday before that Michigan would beat Ohio State – guaranteed.

What did he just say?!! Yup.

No Michigan player under Schembechler had ever done anything remotely as bold. Yet the old man did not rebuke him. He, too, must have sensed the need.

Down in Columbus, Harbaugh’s guarantee was akin to spray-painting the entire city blue. Ohioans like Wolverines as much as Hugo Stiglitz liked Nazis in Inglorious Basterds. They now liked Harbaugh even less.

And he reveled in it.

The Buckeyes came out stoked, dominating the first half to take a 14-6 lead at the break. But in the second half, with tens of thousands of Buckeye fans either chanting his name in derision, or screaming their lungs out to try to drown out his offensive signals, Harbaugh didn’t flinch an inch.

In fact he was so poised, confident and self-assured in that second half, he continually made it appear as though he were struggling to yell out audibles to his teammates above the catcalls, which egged on the Ohio Stadium crowd to yell all the louder – which is exactly what he wanted.

Jim Harbaugh wasn’t audibling into anything. He intended to send those taunting Ohioans home not only with broken hearts, but hoarse throats.

Meantime, Andy Moeller helped to settle down a defence that had been shredded in the first 30 minutes both on the ground and, especially, through the air by quarterback Jim Karsatos and his favourite pass target, Cris Carter, the future Minnesota Vikings star.

HarbaughIn the end, Harbaugh had the third best passing day in series history (261 yards), Moeller and the defence stiffened, and Michigan won 26-24.

The Wolverines – led by their two co-captains, Jim Harbaugh and Andy Moeller – thus earned their first trip to the Rose Bowl in four years.

“Jim and Andy (Nos. 49 and 4, at right) provided excellent leadership that year,” Gary said. “They did that because they were hard-working kids. They saw that in other people all the way while growing up. They both worked hard. That’s the leadership you sometimes provide.”

 

* * *

Unsurprisingly, John, Jim and Andy all wound up pursuing careers in football.

Jim, of course, went on to have a solid 15-year turn as quarterback in the NFL – mainly with the Chicago Bears and Indianapolis Colts.

It was with the Colts that he earned the nickname “Captain Comeback,” for rallying the team to so many come-from-behind victories and taking it, in 1995, to within a whisker of reaching the Super Bowl.

Neither John nor Andy played football after college. Both went into coaching. Even before his NFL playing career ended, Jim started to coach, as a volunteer assistant for his dad at Western Kentucky.

While John and Andy got jobs more than once along the way thanks to dear old dad, or dear old dad’s connections, and while Jim’s fame as a player undoubtedly helped him when he launched his coaching career in earnest in 2001, the following must also be said.

Each paid his dues – starting out by working insane hours, doing the joe-est of jobs, for peanuts, at the lowliest levels.

They’ve earned this.

John has been head coach of the Ravens since 2008. Jim has been head coach of the Niners since 2011. Andy joined John’s first Ravens staff as assistant offensive line coach, then two years ago ascended to primary offensive line coach:

Jack reiterated this week that he is elated his sons chose to become coaches.

But wouldn’t a coach know better than anyone the life-sucking hours the profession demands, and thus want his sons to pursue something else?

Answered Gary Moeller about Andy:

“It’s what he wanted to do … I think you’re always happy when your kid is happy in his career. Yeah, we know the bad parts of the job, so you always worry about those, like you said – the long hours. But that’s part of it. And if you enjoy your work, it goes fast.

“It’s worked out well for Andy, obviously being part of the Super Bowl. It’s something that’s hard to get to. You can’t believe how many great players or coaches who have long careers who never even get into Super Bowls.”

John reportedly earned $4 million in 2012, Jim $5 million, and Andy probably about $200,000.

Asked what Schembechler would make of the trio’s coaching successes, Gary said:

“He would like how these guys have made it … He had great success himself, and to see that happen for these kids, it’s the same type of thing. He’d be very proud.”

 

* * *

Every now and then, I read a quote from John or Jim Harbaugh and chuckle.

Few besides a balding Michigan football historian like me probably ever suspects that some of their sayings, and actions, descend straight from one Bo Schembechler all those years ago.

Such as last year, when one of the Harbaughs – or maybe it was both – inspired his NFL players by telling them their one and only overriding concern had to be “the team, the team, the team.” That was a classic Schembechler creed; look it up on YouTube.

Or when Jim gets gruff with reporters in news conferences. Sometimes it sounds as though he’s actually impersonating Schembechler’s legendary snippiness.

Am I right about all these references, I asked John in that training-camp interview last summer?

“Yeah, you’re right. That’s exactly what it is, absolutely,” he said. “It’s Bo. And for us, too, it’s Jack. It’s our Dad. And our Dad was a part of that. We’ve heard Bo-isms since I was in fifth grade and Jim was in third grade, when we were at Michigan.”

Mantras don’t get your team to the Super Bowl, however. Good coaching does.

And one of the chief reasons the Harbaugh boys are winning, and winning big, at the NFL level – together they’ve been to five conference championship games in seven years, for goodness sake – is because they’ve also tapped into the bedrock Schembechler formula for winning football games.

Not his passé option-I offence, or his now archaic 5-2 slant defence. It’s something much more rudimentary, underneath all those X’s and O’s.

“I think we know what good football looks like,” John told me of his and Jim’s successes. “It’s irrespective of how you move the ball. It pertains to good football. Good, solid, field-position football.

“You don’t make mistakes. You play solid defence. You don’t turn the ball over. You get first downs, and you control the clock. And you can do that any way you want. You can do it throwing, you can do it running; you can do it blitzing, you can do it playing (zone) coverage.”

Thus, John said, his and Jim’s NFL success is “really founded on those principles … And for us, the principles remain the same – they’re written in stone. Methods can change, but the principles are in stone.”

Jack Harbaugh and Gary Moeller should have plenty more pride-swelling stories to regale each other with for years to come.

- – -

john

Andy

Jim

- – - – - – -

 

PROFILE BOXES….

 

JACK HARBAUGH:

AGE: 73

PLAYED: Bowling Green St U, 1957-60; New York Titans (AFL), 1961

ASS’T COACH JOBS:

1964-65           Eaton High

1966 Xenia High

1967 Morehead St U

1968-70      Bowling Green St U

1971-73      U of Iowa

1973-79      U of Michigan

1980-81      Stanford U

1987-88      U of Pittsburgh

2004-06      U of San Diego

2009             U of Stanford

HEAD COACH JOBS:

1982-86           Western Michigan U

1989-2002Western Kentucky U

RECORD: 117-94-3 (.554)

 

GARY MOELLER:

AGE: 72

PLAYED: Ohio State U, 1961-63

ASS’T COACH JOBS:

1967-68      Miami of Ohio U

1969-76      U of Michigan

1980-89      U of Michigan

1995-96      Cincinnati Bengals (NFL)

1997-2000            Detroit Lions (NFL)

2001             Jacksonville Jaguars (NFL)

2002-03      Chicago Bears (NFL)

HEAD COACH JOBS:

1977-79           U of Illinois

1990-94           U of Michigan

2000             Detroit Lions (NFL)

RECORD: 4-3 (.571); college 50-37-6 (.554)

 

 

JOHN HARBAUGH:

AGE: 50

PLAYED: Miami of Ohio U, 1980-83

ASS’T COACH JOBS:

1984-87      Western Michigan U

1987             U of Pittsburgh

1988             Morehead State U

1989-1996            U of Cincinnati

1997             Indiana U

1998-2007            Philadelphia Eagles (NFL)

HEAD COACH JOBS:

2008-present Baltimore Ravens (NFL)

RECORD: 54-26 (.675), post-season 8-4 (.667)

 

JIM HARBAUGH:

AGE: 49

PLAYED: Michigan, 1983-86; Chicago Bears, 1987-93;  Indianapolis Colts, 1994-97; Baltimore Ravens, 1998; San Diego Chargers, 1998-2000; Detroit Lions and Carolina Panthers, 2001.

ASS’T COACH JOBS:

1994-2001            Western Kentucky U

2002-03      Oakland Raiders (NFL)

HEAD COACH JOBS:

2004-06      U of San Diego

2007-10      Stanford U

2011-present San Francisco 49ers (NFL)

RECORD: 24-7-1 (.766), post-season 3-1 (.750); college 58-27 (.611)

 

ANDY MOELLER:

AGE: 48

PLAYED: Michigan, 1983-86

ASS’T COACH JOBS:

1987             Indiana U

1988-93      Army

1994-99      U of Missouri

2000-07      U of Michigan

2008-present      Baltimore Ravens (NFL)

 

 

News, notes after Mon/Tue Sr Bowl practices

 

SENIOR

MOBILE, Ala. – A few random observations, on the field and off, after two days of Senior Bowl practices:

–    Of the six quarterbacks participating here, the South’s so far have looked better, with all the understandable and valid small-window caveats. Tyler Wilson (Arkansas), Landry Jones (Oklahoma) and E.J. Manuel (Florida State) have thrown much more accurate and snappier passes than their North team counterparts. Wilson might wind up ahead of the bunch. Manuel has plenty of arm strength, but he doesn’t seem to get much of his body into his throws; he’s all arm. That leads to inaccuracy, and he told me on Monday the thing he has to work on most is his consistency.

–    Of the North team QBs, Mike Glennon of North Carolina State throws the best pro-ready ball. Glennon truly is a string bean (nearly 6-foot 7, 220 pounds), but his footwork is better than you’d expect. The knock on Syracuse’s Ryan Nassib has been that he throws only one speed and at one trajectory – hard and low. While his throws are low, in simple drills he skipped more than a couple of medium-range, cross-field outs, and even skipped one standard deep slant. He appears to lack the requisite NFL arm strength to make such passes effortlessly and consistently; perhaps his arm was sore. Miami of Ohio’s Zac Dysert really struggled on Tuesday in some passing drills, but – like Nassib – made better throws in live-action 11-on-11 drills.

–    Heads of dozens of NFL coaches and scouts all turned in the east end-zone stands on Tuesday morning when Indianapolis Colts head coach Chuck Pagano walked by. Many probably wanted to run down the aisles and shake Pagano’s arm off, but refrained. One who did offer regards merely asked about the family. Pagano, who missed most of his first season in Indy while successfully battling a rare form of leukemia, no doubt appreciated everyone’s restraint.

–    New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan appears even more svelte than he did after shedding 103 pounds last off-season. Maybe his wife will get a tattoo of him some day soon.

–    Michigan’s Denard Robinson is here as a wide-receiver and kick-return prospect, despite having been one of the top rushing quarterbacks in NCAA history. The speedy Robinson is clearly a fantastic athlete, but he’s as raw as raw gets in both of his new vocations. He looks lost in both, frankly. He catches too many simple passes against his body, rather than with his hands, and is pretty much lost trying to judge punts. Robinson was held out of drills against defensive backs, as the nerve damage in his right (throwing) arm still has not healed in the three months since he first suffered the injury. He tried to throw a ball back to the quarterbacks at one point in Tuesday’s North-team practice, but it wobbled badly and didn’t make it, going only 15 or 20 yards in the air.

–    Among defenders, defensive end Alex Okafor (Texas) is raising eyebrows. He has a powerful, fast burst around end as a pass rusher, and is nasty to boot.

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JAY GRUDEN ‘GLAD’ TO HAVE INTERVIEWED FOR 4 NFL TOP JOBS:

MOBILE, Ala. – Maybe Jay Gruden’s name will now surface as often as his older brother Jon’s does when NFL head-coaching vacancies arise.

As it was, four of the eight NFL teams that fired their head coaches at the conclusion of the 2012 season interviewed the younger Gruden, offensive coordinator with the Cincinnati Bengals.

“It was a great experience for me, and I’m glad I did it,” Gruden told me on Tuesday, as the North team practised for Saturday’s Senior Bowl college all-star game.

The Philadelphia Eagles, San Diego Chargers, Arizona Cardinals and Jacksonville Jaguars all interviewed Gruden, but each wound up hiring someone else as head coach.

“I was probably a longshot in some of the cities,” Gruden said. “But, still, I’m glad I did it. It was a great process. The owners are passionate about winning. The GMs are all excited – young guys trying to put together a winner. It was neat to go through the process.”

At age 45, Jay is four years younger than Jon, the current Monday Night Football colour analyst for ESPN and former NFL head coach with Tampa Bay and Oakland. He led the 2002 Bucs to a Super Bowl championship.

Jon’s name annually gets thrown out as a candidate once head-coaching jobs become available.

Jay’s probably will now too. He said he didn’t feel pressure in the interviews, and wasn’t upset about going 0-for-4.

“There’s really not a lot of pressure on you when you have a job already that you really like and enjoy, and your family likes the area,” Gruden said of remaining in Cincinnati. “When you go out and interview somewhere else, if you get the job, great. If not, you’re still happy where you’re at.”

 

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CHIP KELLY’s IDEAL GAME: A BILLION TO NOTHING:

MOBILE, Ala. – New Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly’s renowned creativity and boundary-pushing apparently knows no bounds.

He dreams up new words on the spot, and takes hypotheticals to their extreme.

At least he did after the North team’s Senior Bowl practice on Monday, in answering questions about what he’s looking for in the offensive and defensive coordinators he has yet to hire.

“We’re all in a society where you want one word to describe everything,” said Kelly, whom the Eagles hired last week from the University of Oregon.

“I don’t think I can describe a defensive co-ordinator with one word.  There are so many different things you’re looking at. How detail-oriented is he? What type of teacher is he? …”

Then the light bulb went off.

“I’ll give you a new word: shutout-ability,” Kelly said. “That would be the one overriding quality, and I have no idea how you would define that – but that’s actually a pretty good word. I’m gonna tell everybody. If you have shutout-ability, then I want to talk to you.”

Asked hypothetically what he wants in an offensive coordinator, Kelly kept rolling, linguistically.

“I’m not being gruff, but I’m not a hypothetical guy. Hypothetically, I want a guy who can score a billion points a game. When people ask me hypothetical questions, fine, then I’d like to score 25,000 points in a game, hypothetically.”

Betcha Kelly dreams of 25,000 to 0 boxscores, though.

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TE’O TEAMMATE: I DIDN’T KNOW DEAD-GIRLFRIEND STORY WAS BOGUS

MOBILE, Ala. – A four-year teammate of Manti Te’o’s on the University of Notre Dame football team on Monday said he was unaware if other teammates were suspicious the star linebacker’s dead-girlfriend story was a fabrication.

“I don’t know. All I knew is that he had a girlfriend, and that was the extent of it,” centre Braxston Cave told me, after his North team’s first practice before Saturday’s Senior Bowl college all-star game.

“I try to stay out of people’s personal business.”

From last September until this month, Te’o had given many interviews in which he claimed his close girlfriend, Lennay Kekua*, had died of leukemia on the same day his grandmother did back in September.

Te’o – college football’s top linebacker – rode the wave of resultant sympathy all season long. He finished second in voting for the Heisman Trophy.

Last week, however, it was revealed that Kekua never existed.

In an off-camera interview Friday night with ESPN, Te’o claimed he was the victim of a cruel hoax – that the woman he met online deceived him, making up the name and duping him into believing she loved him.

Despite rampant speculation he was in on the deception, Te’o steadfastly denied it – as did the university in an earlier news conference.

But Te’o admitted he “tailored” stories in interviews about aspects of that relationship, even after he said he was informed in early December the romance was a sham.

One report late last week suggested that some members of the Notre Dame football team knew the relationship was bogus.

“Not that I know of,” said Cave, one of a group of strong senior leaders that helped the Fighting Irish finish the regular season undefeated, before getting slaughtered by the Alabama Crimson Tide in the BCS national-championship game on Jan. 7.

Has all the speculation hurt Te’o?

“Absolutely,” Cave said. “This is a huge time in his life, and to have all these outside distractions, you never want to see that for such a great teammate. and such a great football player.

“He’s a tough kid. He’ll get through it.”

Asked if Te’o is, well, more gullible than most young men of his age, Cave said:

“People make mistakes. He thought he had someone that he loved, and he went with it.

“The social media aspect is bigger than it’s ever been. Guys make mistakes, and you live and learn. He’ll be fine – he’ll be fine.”

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* – Should I have boldfaced the name of someone who does not exist? Hmmmm.