Thursday, December 19, 2013

With Belichick and Harbaugh, mutual respect makes for a great rivalry

"One thing about the Patriots is you just never know what you’re going to get." - John Harbaugh

Life is like a box of chocolates, eh John?

When you respect your opponent, that's half of the battle right there - so to hear Harbaugh talk about the Patriots, it's refreshing because he doesn't try to blow sunshine up your ass and doesn't single out players as the keys to the matchups, but also a little unnerving because you know that his respect means that he's prepared...

...perhaps a bit more unsettling when he pays you the greatest compliment a coach can pay his opponent, which Harbaugh did during a conference call with the Boston media on Wednesday:

"...they’re like a division opponent. They know us, we know them. I think they understand how we’d like to play the game, and I hope that we can continue to learn how they like to play the game and try to be prepared as you can be."

It's no secret that New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick and the Baltimore Ravens coach are friends and glean knowledge off of each other - and when Belichick talks about the Ravens and John Harbaugh, the answers seem a bit more genuine, comments a bit more candid - not so much the cookie-cutter responses that we normally get from the sullen and oftentimes surly hooded one.

"They've played well in crunch time. When they've had to make the plays, they've made them. As usual, coach Harbaugh is doing a real good job with his football team in all three phases of the game – offensively, defensively and special teams. They look like the championship team that we all know they are." - Belichick

Belichick went on to add how well coached the team is, constantly alluding to how clutch the players have been and giving props to a class organization from top to bottom - of course, Belichick has some history with the organization as the head coach of the Cleveland Browns, being fired by then-owner, the late Art Modell just as he was moving the team to Baltimore to become the Ravens...

...while Harbaugh kept the hug-fest going by commenting on how tough it is to keep winning consistently through losing players to attrition, injury and, sadly, felony - and he should know, as his Ravens have had to endure losing many players this offseason.

But despite his friendship with Belichick and his obvious connection with his brother, San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh, he says the best advice he ever got in football was from his father, whose words would fit right into the Forrest Gump lexicon.

"Get the lead, keep the lead."

Right up there with any philosopher's creed or wizard's incantations - and fundamentally sound to boot.

The Patriots and Ravens are rivals for a reason, part of it to do with how often they've squared off against each other recently  - but it's really about fundamental respect and how much the teams are like-minded.

Should be a war on Sunday.

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