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January 31, 2008: One Stays, Another Must Go

Baltimore sports fans, there is some good news and some bad news this week. 

The good news is that the Ravens’ new head coach John Harbaugh and returning defensive coordinator Rex Ryan see this city as big enough for both of them. And despite their obviously close friendship and longstanding coaching relationship, the decision for Ryan to return was probably not as easy as they would now make it out to be.

Despite the brave face he put on at this week's press conference, Ryan has to be very disappointed in his inability to land a chief's job in San Diego, Atlanta and Baltimore. He kidded about it saying, “I never really wanted to be a head coach.” And what did he learn from the interview process? “That I am not that good at it.”

It was funny stuff, but a bit too self-deprecating. Still, that’s part of what makes Rex, Rex. Sure, a three-year extension, pay raise and new assistant head coach title probably make it easier to eat humble pie, but it still never tastes good.

Ryan has a huge soft spot for Harbaugh, and he admitted that when he saw the names of the other candidates for the Ravens' head job, he told general manager Ozzie Newsome, “If it isn’t going to be me, John Harbaugh is the one you have to hire.”

Ryan's best option was pretty clear -- be a bigger man and be in the best situation for yourself if and when another head coaching opportunity arises. It was clear to Ryan that staying put afforded him a chance to expand his role and succeed at a level that still could springboard him to a head job.

The easiest thing for Harbaugh would have been to navigate the tricky waters here and bring in his own guy -- except it seems Ryan was Harbaugh’s guy and he wouldn’t let either his or the jilted Ryan’s ego stand in the way of a great fit. So Harbaugh opted for the harder path, bringing back a popular assistant who vied for the job he now has, because it was what was best for the team. If this was Harbaugh’s first acid test, he passed it with flying colors.

***

The bad news? As PressBox went to print, Erik “Mussina Lite” Bedard was still the property of the Orioles. 

The trade discussions surrounding Bedard and Brian Roberts have been perhaps the strangest Baltimore fans have witnessed. It makes one wonder if the ease with which other trades were made in the past decade might have been the result of how easy it was to pull the Orioles' pants down.

The "Andy MacPhail Way" is a great story for another day; the story here is how smug a presence Bedard has become. While a player should never be judged by what media members think of him, it is quite a challenge to hear a positive word about Bedard the person. 

While the Birds seem intent now on trading Bedard to the Mariners, there was an honest effort by MacPhail to enter into talks with Bedard and agent Mark Pieper about a three-year contract extension. It was only after MacPhail got stonewalled that he has truly intensified his efforts to move one of his most valuable chips.

One side of Bedard's mouth says he is hurt that the team doesn’t want him around, while the other side says he won’t be part of a total rebuilding effort. Too bad Bedard only has two sides of a mouth or he’d have yet another opinion.

I referred to Bedard as “Mussina Lite," in reference to another somewhat unpopular former Oriole pitcher, but there is a huge difference. While Mike Mussina was a bit of a prima donna, at least he had accomplished some things by the age of 28 that gave him some license.

By 28, Mussina had gone 90-40 and twice won 19 games in a season while throwing 1,135 innings. Bedard has racked up a 40-34 record while throwing just 658 innings.

It's simple. Many O's fans want to root for players who want to be in Baltimore and give a damn about turning the sinking ship around. It often seems the only thing Bedard cares about is busting the chops of the media and staying as dispassionate as possible about being an Oriole.

*** 

It's one thing to be confident; it's another to be cocky -- and then there is smug. New England coach Bill Belichick has clearly gone over to the smug side. 

The Giants have shown quite a bit these past four weeks while the Patriots struggled in several of their recent games. Tom Coughlin has a hungry team that can stop Belichick's history-making effort with one of his own. 

Giants 31, Patriots 23.

Issue 3.5: January 31, 2008