I'm sure Todd Haley doesn't like to lose. That's an admirable quality (and a necessary one) for any football coach (or person for that matter), but there's no reason to have a reaction the one Todd Haley had toward the Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh after the 31-13 loss last night in preseason game number two.
Specifically, Haley was frustrated that Harbaugh seemed to run up the score by continuing to drive toward the end zone with the game firmly in hand and the clock winding down its final seconds. Sportsmanship is something Haley is pointing toward when he makes such complaints -- that there's a gentleman's way to conduct yourselves on the field, and somehow Harbaugh didn't measure up to the rules of etiquette involved.
Harbaugh said he understood as he addressed the issue after the game with the following statement:
"I want to apologize to the Chiefs if they feel like we were not doing the right thing at the end of the game," Harbaugh said. "That wasn't the midset, OK? The mindset was - this is the preseason. If this had been the regular season, we would've been on a knee. The idea in that situation is to give those young guys who work hard and who are trying to make a football team - this football team or another football team - to play the whole 60 minutes and give them a chance to show what they can do. Offensive line, running backs, everybody.
"I know that's debatable, I know there's a point of view both ways, I understand that. But I just feel like that was the right thing to do for our players, to give them a chance to play the game out and see what they can do. So, that was the thinking on that."
If it comes down to the perspective of two coaches, I'm going with Harbaugh 11 times out of 10. And I was utterly shocked that Haley tried to call out a coach for what I would believe would be his same response. Day after day, Haley has been preaching about team readiness -- that the only thing that matters is having the right set of players ready for game day on September 11. Nothing else matters, according to Haley. Yet when the Chiefs are on the losing end, suddenly sportsmanship matters?
When you play 240 total minutes of preseason games and you're testing out up to 90 total players in that time, every minute counts. Heck, every second counts. You maximize the time on the field to test and ultimately put out the best final product that you can. Taking a knee isn't good sportsmanship. It's a waste of time and opportunity. "Putting a game in the books" is something for the regular season, but if nothing else matters, then cementing a win makes no sense in these preseason weeks.
In other words, Haley is contradicting his own sermons when he complains about Harbaugh's approach. If everything is about having the team ready for Week One of the regular season, then you take advantage of every opportunity between now and then to evaluate your players, test their game-time instincts, try out different plays and take advantage of whatever scenario the game gives you. Harbaugh knows this and acted accordingly. Haley knows this, but somehow took it personally.
Harbaugh not only coached his team correctly, but even had the heart to address it and go out of his way to offer up an explanation. There's none needed, coach. You're the one setting the right example.