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Stan "The Fan" Charles On John Harbaugh, Eric DeCosta And Mike Mussina's HOF Election

January 31, 2019
The way the Baltimore Ravens went about the business of bringing head coach John Harbaugh back on a four-year extension was a bid odd, starting with how the team announced he was coming back before the big game in Los Angeles against the Chargers Dec. 22. 

That led to Harbaugh calling it a non-story and NBC Sports' Peter King implying in one of his columns that Harbaugh may not have been on board with coaching in Baltimore past the 2019 season, which then led to speculation that the Ravens may consider trading him.

And that mini-drama gave way to Harbaugh's post-game news conference after the Ravens lost at home in the playoffs to those same Chargers. Harbaugh said he wanted and expected to be back if the team wanted him, and he felt that was the case.

Despite my feelings about Harbaugh's full set of coaching skills being limited, the bottom line is owner Steve Biscotti got his man. He's got him for four more years, and Harbaugh's compensation is likely at the higher end of the salaries being paid for head men in the NFL.

This contract will lead me into no further speculation regarding Harbaugh's status for at least the next 12 months. Being wrong two years in a row will do that to you.

On a more serious note, I have often written that the worst coaching move Art Modell ever made wasn't firing Bill Belichick after he left Cleveland and moved his team to Baltimore. Rather, it was his rift with Marty Schottenheimer that led to the coach's resignation in 1988 after four straight playoff seasons. If you have a head coach in the NFL that gets his players engaged enough to play hard for him, he has done the hardest part of the job.

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Speaking of doing their job, one person just introduced in his new job as general manager of the Ravens was one-time intern Eric DeCosta. DeCosta, the longtime director of scouting who was promoted to assistant GM in 2012, has been a Raven since their helmets were without a logo.

DeCosta did a very solid job on his first solo show on the dais. He clearly showed respect, love and admiration for former GM Ozzie Newsome, but DeCosta made it clear he was now the man in charge. He said the club would very much like to have linebacker C.J. Mosley back and admitted that analytics are clearly a "thing" in the NFL that is becoming more integral to the way teams will plot how to win.

DeCosta also addressed the backup quarterback situation.

"Having two quarterbacks is essential in the NFL," DeCosta said. "There's no faster way to ruin your season than to get your starting quarterback hurt and not having an effective backup quarterback. Your season is basically over at that point. We never want to be in that position again."

With how much running quarterback Lamar Jackson does, that point becomes all the more poignant.

All told, DeCosta solidly answered more than 40 minutes of questions, even a silly one by me about whether or not he'd have a painted parking spot with his initials ED. He said he'd rather have GM.

The one thing I couldn't get beyond is how DeCosta's choice was always to stay here in Baltimore to work alongside Newsome in the city he had grown to love and that his wife is from.

It brought back the vivid memories of two prior assistants to Newsome who both were lured away by the GM job in of all places, the Ravens' former home of Cleveland, Ohio. 

First, Phil Savage left. Despite the fact he was an incredibly solid football guy, he got caught up in the failure of the entire new Browns organization. Savage worked under then-owner Randy Lerner from 2005-2008. While Savage has had a varied and successful career since leaving the Browns, he is now the GM of the Arizona Hotshots of the Alliance of American Football, which is quite a far cry from where DeCosta is now.

George Kokinis immediately followed Savage as the Cleveland GM. He was hired Jan. 26, 2009, and was escorted out of the Browns' practice facility in Berea, Ohio Nov. 2. Newsome welcomed Kokinis back as a valued member of his personnel team, and it's a position he still holds.

Think about where Savage or Kokinis would be if they had the patience exhibited by DeCosta throughout these many years waiting for a spot to open where he knew he was working with people who had his back.

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It took former Baltimore Orioles and New York Yankees pitcher Mike Mussina six tries, but he was voted into the 2019 Baseball Hall of Fame class. He's headed to Cooperstown alongside Edgar Martinez, the late Roy Halladay and the first unanimous selection in Mariano Rivera.

Mussina and the Hall have quickly addressed the fact that Mussina will go in with a logoless cap. With so few players playing for one team their entire career, this will become more and more common. Think about it: Mussina pitched 10 years with the Orioles and eight with the Yankees. Mussina said with good reason that without the two teams he played for, he'd never have been a Hall of Famer. Not sure I agree, but then again, what's in it for Mussina to be anything but diplomatic?

The shame of it is Mussina never should have gotten to free agency. In the early years of Peter Angelos' ownership of the Orioles, he held a sincere belief that it was not a wise decision for teams to dole out deals longer than three years to starting pitchers due to concerns about their ability to stay healthy throughout the term of a five-year deal.

We can argue with the rightness or wrongness of that thought process until the cows come home. But Mussina, very wanting very much to remain a Baltimore Oriole, signed a three-year extension in May 1997 for around $21 million. He received a lot of negative complaints from the MLB Players Association and its influential player reps.

As thanks, the Orioles turned around in 1999 and gave right-handed pitcher Scott Erickson a five-year contract for around $32 million. I remember asking then-GM Pat Gillick if he felt that was fair to Mussina, and he said they were working on trying to revisit Mussina's shorter contract. My guess is the owner thought a signed contract was a signed contract, and it would get addressed the next time Mussina was going to be a free agent.

Suffice it to say, that the Orioles didn't work as fast as they could have to lock up Mussina. He did get to free agency, and at midnight on the day he was free, the Yankees made an all-out push to add Mussina. The Yankees got their man. Mussina and the Yankees agreed to a six-year, $88.5 million deal Nov. 30, 2000.

Not to rub salt in the wounds, but the Orioles could have had Moose for $70 million that spring. Or, upon signing Erickson to that five-year deal, they could have ripped up Moose's deal and added a couple of years to it.

All of that said, here's hoping that the Orioles do what they did for Frank Robinson and Eddie Murray (two Hall of Famers who didn't play their entire career as members of the Orioles): retire his number and add a seventh statue beyond left-center field. 

***

Lastly, speaking of Frank Robinson, what I have known for a few months has become public: No. 20 is in hospice. Robinson was the greatest player and competitor to ever adorn an Orioles uniform. We send along warm wishes to Frank and his family in their time of need.

The Orioles were good before they traded right-handed pitcher Milt Pappas and two other players -- right-hander Jack Baldschun and outfielder Dick Simpson -- to the Cincinnati Reds for Robinson. But they became great after that trade.

Catch "The Bat Around" with Stan "The Fan" Charles every Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon at PressBoxOnline.com/StanTheFan. Follow him on Twitter at @StanTheFan   

Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox