Harbaugh on McNabb's November Benching

Ravens coach John Harbaugh defended Reid's benching of McNabb, saying "It’s hard to second-guess it because it turned out to be a great decision." (Yong Kim / Staff Photographer)

For reporters, the best part of the NFL owners meetings are the AFC and NFC media breakfasts, where you get to sit around a table in a relaxed atmosphere and pick the brains of the league’s head coaches for an hour as they shovel down huevos rancheros and cheese blintzes.

Andy Reid may not be very forthcoming on post-game Mondays. But he’s really been very good over the years at these media breakfasts. Haven’t had to do a What Andy Said, What Andy Meant yet from one of these.

But you’re going to have to wait until tomorrow to hear from Reid. The NFC coaches don’t chow down with the media until Wednesday. Today, it was the AFC coaches. While much of the media crowded around Josh McDaniels’ table to see if the Broncos coach might say something else to infuriate his whining quarterback, Jay Cutler, I spent most of the hour session on the other side of the room with Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh.

Talked to him about a lot of things, including the Ravens’ mid-November 36-7 win over the Eagles in which Andy Reid benched his struggling quarterback, Donovan McNabb, at halftime, and replaced him with Kevin Kolb.

``Andy did something that he thought was best for his team,’’ said Harbaugh. ``When you’re a coach and make a decision like that, there’s probably a lot of things going on. For a lot of reasons, he chose to do that at that time.
``It’s hard to second-guess it because it turned out to be a great decision. Maybe it unified the team a little bit. Maybe it rallied guys behind Donovan a little bit. Maybe it got Donovan’s attention. Whatever, Andy knew he had to do something, and he did it, and that was the right move.’’

If Kolb had played well and led the Eagles to a victory that day, there’s a good possibility he would’ve replaced McNabb as the team’s starting quarterback. But he threw 2 interceptions, including one that was returned 108 yards for a touchdown by Ravens safety Ed Reed. McNabb started four days later against Arizona, got his act together and helped lead the Eagles to the playoffs where they made it to the NFC Championship Game.

McNabb will be back as the starter again this season, contract extension or no contract extension, and Kolb will again back him up. But Harbaugh said there’s no doubt in his mind that Kolb has the right stuff to be a successful NFL quarterback.

``All I know is I saw Kevin Kolb every day in practice for the year I was the secondary coach when he was the guy going against the defense as the scout team quarterback,’’ Harbaugh said. ``When we did red zone, we couldn’t defend him. I mean he’d run the red zone offense for the team we were going to play. We had the No. 1-ranked red-zone defense in the league 2 years ago. And we couldn’t stop Kevin Kolb. Throwing to Mike Gasperson every day in practice. He picked us apart.

``(The coaches) love him. He’s got all the tools. He’s a leader. He’s tough. He plays the game the right way.’’

Some other Eagle-related thoughts by Harbaugh:

* On the perception that Andy Reid is stubborn: ``It’s not stubborn if you’re right. That’s having conviction. He listens a lot. The perception that he doesn’t listen to anybody would be completely incorrect. Andy listens to his coaches, listens to his scouts. Tom (Heckert) has a ton of impact on their draft.’’

* On Tra Thomas’ comments that Reid needs to be more fiery and emotional: ``Did anybody tell Tra that he should show more emotion? No. Andy told Tra to let his personality show. Andy coaches with plenty of personality inside those four walls (at the NovaCare Complex). Those players know what Andy’s all about."


For our earlier post regarding an apology to Correll Buckhalter from a convicted drug dealer in Delaware County, click here.