Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh addresses the New England media during his conference call on Wednesday, September 30, 2009.
Q: Most people like to talk about your defense, but your offense is also getting it done this year. What has happened this year to enhance their production?
JH: It's only three games, so I don't know if you can make a comparison from one year to the next. We thought we were pretty good on offense last year as well, at times. It's part of a process, trying to improve. Joe [Flacco] gets a little better. Our O-Line gets better. The wide receivers need to get a little bit better. Hopefully, the whole thing plays better, but it's a weekly proposition.
Q: You had Brian Dawkins in Philadelphia and Ed Reed in Baltimore and you were a secondary coach. When looking at how the safety position has changed over the last 15 or 20 years, the bigger, in-the-box type [safety] is gone now. What are some of the things you've seen go into that and force the change for defensive people?
JH: To me, it's the real tinkerers on defense over the last 10 or 15 years - the Jim Johnson's, the Bill Belichick's, the guys who have changed the way defenses are played - [they] kind of demanded that a different type of player play that position. Defenses stood there, played fronts, and played coverages, and safeties were kind of down in the box, or they were back playing half-coverage or whatever. It was a certain type of guy that had to think, and get you lined up, and make adjustments. But now, defense is much more active. You have pressure packages that come from one side and show down one way and come out and show the other way. Guys have to go prep the box, or blitz A-gaps, and go back in the deep middle, or play man-to-man. You're so much more multiple now than it was. You need a more athletic kind of guy. You need a guy that can run, but at the same time can get in there and tackle. Those guys are becoming as valuable as and more valuable than the so-called "Glamour Positions," I'd say.
Q: Do you look at it as maybe part of this is offensive personnel with more spread looks and hybrid tight end-types also forcing that?
JH: Yeah, that's a great point. It's so much more diverse on the offensive side. It's the way the defense is giving a look in a more and more multiple way, and New England's a good example. You don't know what you're going to get. You're going to get a different grouping, possibly every single play; that presents a completely different challenge, and you can't run a completely different defense out there. So you have to have guys that can play regular base packages, and play down in the box, and support the run, but at the same time can get out there and cover a great tight end or wide receiver. The game has changed so much in that way in the last 10 or 15 years.
Q: Much has been made about Tom Brady, his recovery and his efficiency. Do you see anything different from what you've seen from Brady in the past?
JH: We saw him two years ago when he came into Philadelphia. Now, I haven't seen him except on film. I see Tom Brady. He's doing all the things he did before in terms of setting them [the receivers] up to get the matchups they want to get themselves in and throwing the ball as well as ever. He's as courageous as he's ever been. He's still Tom Brady. He has tremendous gifts and skills. He's a great quarterback.
Q: What is the best way opposing offenses combat Ed Reed's effectiveness?
JH: The best guy to ask that to would be Coach Belichick. He would probably have a pretty good answer for you, but I doubt he'd share it with you. I don't even know if I have an answer for that. There are a lot of ways to attack a lot of players. Ed has his idiosyncrasies as a player, just like they all do. You may not attack the player, but you attack the scheme. You try to give guys a certain responsibility that he's not comfortable as much against a guy that matches up well against him. Those are the things that anybody does for any player when they try to attack any defense. So it wouldn't be any different for Ed that way.
Q: That play that Ray Lewis made at the end of the San Diego game, is that how you drew it up?
JH: Exactly how we drew it up, precisely as we planned it, exactly as we predicted it would happen. No, that was a heck of a defensive play. There has to be latitude for great players playing creatively. It was within the structure of the defense and an acceptable reaction to that blocking scheme. He has to make a reaction whether he wants to do that or not. So that's something you can do if you see something there that predicts that play is going to be a run.
Q: What stands out to you when you look at the Patriots defense?
JH: The fundamental soundness they've always had, the multiple looks they can always give you, the fact that they can from week to week reinvent themselves, and the fact that they've been able to plug in personnel. For example, I have so much respect for Derrick Burgess, we had him in Philadelphia way back when. They plug him in, and train him in their system, and get him up and running in such a way that it looks like the Patriots defense has looked all those years. It doesn't look any different. That's a credit to great coaching.
Q: Does [Derrick] Burgess look different?
JH: He was a defensive end more in Philly. I know he's a nickel pass rusher there, which is what he did. He's also able to play the outside backer spot and I think he probably does more with New England than he did in Philadelphia, [it is] just specific to what New England's defense is. To me, that's a credit to coaching.
Q: Does Joe Flacco seem to take more risks and be more aggressive in his second season than he did last year?
JH: I have to be careful to label it in any way like that. Every quarterback, just like any person is unique and different. And certainly, we have tremendous quarterback coaches. Hue Jackson does a great job with Joe along with Cam Cameron. Both of those guys have been through it with young quarterbacks before. They're going to do anything they can to keep him progressing just as effectively as we can. But he's going to have some bumps in the road. He's going to see some things he hasn't seen and he's not perfect. He's made mistakes already. He's missed some throws and thrown some he shouldn't have thrown. Hopefully, he'll keep getting better and he learns from every experience.
Q: You played in the AFC Championship last year. Some people see this as a status or checkpoint game for how good your team is. Is that a little bit off base considering what you guys have accomplished?
JH: I think it's a fair question, but it's not one we would even entertain because we could care less. That presumes that we would be concerned with how other people evaluate us, and we don't. So anybody can write an article that's interesting or fun to read, or you rank teams; that doesn't have any impact on us becoming a better team from one week to the next. It wouldn't be something we would consider because it's irrelevant to what we're trying to do.
Q: What makes your defense so successful and so productive?
JH: Any scheme is valuable. It's something we spend a lot of time working on, but it's good players playing well in a scheme that accentuates their abilities and things they do well. We don't look exactly the same as when we did when Adalius [Thomas] was here or even last year. New England doesn't look exactly the same as they did when some of those other guys were there but are not there anymore. You try to set up the scheme where the guys who are in the scheme can do the things that they do specifically well. That's probably the biggest key in what New England has done, and what we try to do since we've been here, and over the years in Philly. It's a matter of good players playing well. If you can get that done, you have a chance to have a good scheme.
Q: What's the difference of a Patriot offense with Wes Welker as opposed to one without? And do you have to game plan for both scenarios?
JH: Well, I don't know. Number 11, [Julian] Edelman looks an awful lot like Wes Welker when he runs his routes. It looks like he and Tom [Brady] have great chemistry and a great feel for one another. So he doesn't look too much different, although there is only one Wes Welker. He had a bunch of catches against us two years ago in Philadelphia. He's just a great player. He's a return guy. They have so many weapons. It's not just the weapons you hear about; it's other guys you have to prepare for because you just never know who the player is that's going to be the guy to make a play. They do a great job of finding players and putting them in a position to make plays. So if it's Wes, we'll have to cover him. If it's Edelman, we'll have to cover him. [Joey] Galloway, we'll have to cover him. Of course, 81 [Randy Moss], he's somebody that will get your attention. They have two tight ends that can play. They have three backs, maybe four backs that are really dangerous. But [Kevin] Faulk, I mean golly, all these years, he's been a go-to guy and a game-breaker. [There are] just a lot of weapons.
Q: The Patriots are in a sub defense quite a bit. Have you noticed that or is that reflective of an overall NFL trend?
JH: I think they match with what they get offensively. That's the thing about defense, you have to be able to play every kind of package because you have to be able to line up against whatever offense goes out there. It's the offense's decision in terms of what type of game they want to play, based on what they put out there. You have to build a matchup, cover people and match up and stop a heavy run game. I think they're basically matching up to what they see and the way they think gives them the best chance to win those one on one battles.
Q: When it comes to body language is there anything a coach or an opposing team can gain from seeing a frustrated opponent?
JH: Nah, I mean guys show their emotions and show their personalities and they are competitive guys. We want our guys to show their personalities. So there are going to be times when guys are frustrated, so you're frustrated. You're going to be exhilarated, so you're exhilarated. You try to get past the idea that it's sending a message to somebody. It's just a man being a man in a situation where he is trying to do his best. I don't think it impacted the fact that you might have a frustrating series here or there. You come and score a touchdown the very next series, which is pretty much what happened for the Patriots last week. So it's not that big of a deal.
Q: You have a kicker [Steve Hauschka] with local ties. How has he done- an analysis on him?
JH: He's done a great job. He's a guy that was at Middlebury, then went down to N.C. State as a graduate student. He has a soccer background and has really taught himself how to kick. I think he's improved tremendously in the last year with Randy Brown, who is one of our coaches who helps him. He has a lot of talent. He's a big, tall, strong guy and he's very athletic. He has to prove himself, but he has a chance to kick in this league for a long time. He may miss a kick here or there and work through it, but he may not. So he does a good job.