NFL coaches face daily challenges the public never sees. For Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh, one of his most pivotal moments of the season came in a closed-door team meeting way back on Halloween.
"It was practically a mutiny," one Ravens player told Mike Silver of Yahoo! Sports in a terrific piece. "It came very close to getting out of control. But the way Coach Harbaugh handled it was amazing. He let people have their say, and he listened, and he explained himself, and pretty soon it was like a big group-therapy session. In the end, a lot of positive things were said. We didn't practice in pads, but we came out of there stronger as a group."
Several players, including safeties Ed Reed and Bernard Pollard, openly challenged Harbaugh. The meeting soon turned into a back-and-forth session where players griped about Harbaugh's perceived shortcomings.
"I've never seen a head coach handle anything like that as well as he did," one Ravens assistant said. "There were some things said where we were like, Damn."
Some of the complaints from Harbaugh's players: His mood swings and treatment of players. The team's no-huddle offense was brought up.
"I wasn't threatened by it," Harbaugh told Silver. "That's the main thing. And, you know, they had some good points, and I had some good points. Other guys stood up and said some great things. To me, it embodied everything that you should have on a team."
Harbaugh stays under the radar considering he's heading to a fifth consecutive playoff appearance. He's not as successful as Bill Belichick or as dynamic as Mike Tomlin or Harbaugh's brother, Jim. John Harbaugh took over a successful program with a ton of strong-willed veterans and the best leader in the NFL in Ray Lewis. This Harbaugh blends in, often by design.
"I don't know how to put it in words, and maybe someday there'll be a way to express it, but we have such great leaders," Harbaugh said. "You've got to let 'em lead, but you also have to lead 'em, you have to direct them, and someone's gotta make decisions. But we've just got some incredibly strong men on this team. I mean, I could tell you some stories, but I'd probably rather not."
Harbaugh has done a laudable job pointing the Ravens in the right direction during a challenging season. Baltimore has overachieved, and Harbaugh deserves his share of the credit.
Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.