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Dennis Pitta Clarifies Comments About Ravens Offense

Posted Nov 15, 2017

The former Ravens tight end turned broadcaster called Head Coach John Harbaugh, Offensive Coordinator Marty Mornhinweg and quarterback Joe Flacco after his comments about the Ravens' checkdowns were 'taken out of context.'

Former Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta called Head Coach John Harbaugh, Offensive Coordinator Marty Mornhinweg and quarterback Joe Flacco this week to clarify comments he made about the team’s offense during an interview with WBAL Radio last week.

“I think my comments were certainly taken out of context if you really see the point that I was trying to make,” Pitta said in a phone interview Wednesday.

Pitta said the media focused on a single quote about Flacco having one read, and then checking it down if the receiver isn’t open.

However, what Pitta meant to say was that Flacco, just like any other quarterback, has to pick a side of the field to attack, and has limited reads within that side of the field.

“Whether you talk about our offensive system or any offensive system around the league, the quarterback typically has one, two or, at most, three reads that he goes through before he hits the checkdown. Depending on what the defense dictates – for example, if you have single-high coverage, you may work the right side because that route concept is better suited for single-high coverage – so in any offense, whether you’re Tom Brady or Joe Flacco, you are picking a side of the field to work. It’s not like Madden football where you drop straight back, you can scan all five receivers or whoever is out there and throw it to the best one. That’s just not the reality of playing the position. What I was trying to explain was that, in any given play, [Flacco is] looking at his one or two reads, and for whatever reason right now, they’re not open. So, he’s having to come off them and get it to the checkdown.

“Never at any point was I implying or trying to say that this offense is so simple that it’s one read or checkdown. It was taken as literal as can be to say this is a dumbed-down offense or whatever it may be. That’s not the reality at all.”

Pitta went on to explain that there could be a variety of reasons for the Ravens' high number of checkdowns, such as receivers not getting open, scheme not getting them open, Flacco not having enough time or Flacco not trusting the protection enough when he does have time.

Harbaugh said he and Pitta had a “great talk” last night after Pitta called.

“I can tell you this: I have been in every single offensive meeting, and I know how the reads are built. It is not one read and then dump it down,” Harbaugh told the media Wednesday.

“The difficulty when you are trying to explain how offensive systems are built in a sentence, it is really hard to describe it because it is just not that simple of a game. Our reads are complicated. They are the same reads that we have had. They are West Coast-style reads. They take into account many factors – rotation of the defense, coverage structure – is it two deep, is it three deep? Is it man? Is it zone? What are the matchups? Are they pressed or are they off? Those are all just off the top of my head examples of what the quarterback has got to go through to decide where he is going to start his read progression? From there, the read progression is always one through five if you get them all out. If you get four out, it is one through four. The checkdown is part of that. Sometimes the check down might be two. Most of the time, it is three or four depending on where the structure of the defense puts the quarterback’s eyes. I think if you ask [Pitta], he could probably explain to you what he was trying to say better than I could, but I know how the offense is built and it is just not that simple.”

Flacco said somebody sent him the article about Pitta’s comments, but he didn’t read it because he didn’t care. Flacco added that he thinks Pitta was, on some level, trying to stick up for a friend.

“What is there to say about our offense right now? We all can see the obvious when you go out there and watch the game on Sunday is that we’re not performing at the level that we need to, to play and win football games,” Flacco said.

Pitta, who was a radio analyst for the Ravens’ first four games of the season, said he’s annoyed that his comments have turned into such a big deal and that his former coaches and teammates are left answering questions about it.

“I have less respect for the media that takes your quotes out of context, but that’s the reality of the situation,” Pitta said. “I’m learning about this media thing very quickly.”

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