If I had to pick one adjective to describe the Ravens’ search for a new offensive coordinator, it would be (drum roll) thorough.
They have methodically gone through a process, fielding numerous phone calls, scheduling first and second interviews, holding countless in-house conversations, keeping their own pace.
My horse in the race is Kyle Shanahan, a nice blend of youth, experience and philosophy. He has the most OC experience of the finalists, having spent six years on the job in Houston and Washington. At 34, he also is the youngest of the finalists, and in my mind, the Ravens could stand some youthful energy after sinking to the lower tier of NFL offenses in 2013.
They struggled so much last season that at times it was difficult to discern their philosophy. Shanahan’s philosophy is clear. He’s a zone-stretch running guy. He pounds the ball. Yet he also throws enough to have finished in the top 10 in total yardage in four of his six years as an OC.
That sounds like a good fit for the Ravens. They can throw it, but they’re never going to be pinball pass-happy. They like to be physical, run the ball; inherently, that’s who they are. But they also have a Super Bowl-winning quarterback.
The other two finalists are also impressive. Kirby Wilson has such a terrific reputation that some league insiders can’t believe the Steelers are letting him interview. Jim Hostler, the in-house candidate, is highly respected in the organization and gets along well with
I like the idea of a somewhat different direction, yet not a radical change. I also like the idea of putting a quarterbacks coach in place for Flacco. His record indicates that he likes having one.
One way or another, Head Coach John Harbaugh probably will make a decision soon.
Although I’m a traditionalist at heart, I’m fine with the NFL tinkering with the extra point, which has become the game’s dullest play. In the past three seasons, the league’s kickers have converted 99.5 percent of their point-after attempts. The Ravens haven’t missed one since 2009. That’s too automatic.
Fans appreciate the play as an opportunity to grab a beverage or make a pit stop, but here’s a chance to make games more interesting.
Having said that, I’m not a fan of the idea commissioner Roger Goodell floated to the NFL Network: make touchdowns worth seven points, then either add or subtract a point depending on whether the point-after, whatever form it takes, is successful. Nah. Taking points off the board? Weird.
My suggestion is a blend of the old and new. Keep the structure of making touchdowns worth six points and giving teams a choice of either kicking for one point or running a play worth two. But make the choice tougher. The one-point kick? Make it a 35-yarder. The two-point play? Put the ball on the eight. That would lead to some interesting decisions.
The world isn’t going to freeze over if the NFL adds a pair of teams to its annual Super Bowl tournament. Actually, since the world, at least this corner of it, has already frozen over, I guess I can’t use that example. Anyway, my point is that it’s not that big of a deal. Life goes on.
Do I think the league needs to expand its playoff field from six to seven teams per conference? No. Things are fine as is. If you let many more teams into the postseason, you’re going to have some bad teams in there.
But American sports leagues love playoffs. They’re moneymakers. They’re attention getters. Did I say they make money? Major League Baseball just expanded its playoffs. Life went on. Hey, the Orioles qualified for the 2012 playoffs as the “new” second wild-card team. I don’t think Baltimore fans complained.
The one thing you don’t want is to let so many teams in that the regular season almost becomes irrelevant. With 14 of 32 teams in, the NFL would be getting close, but not there yet. (The NBA and NHL let 16 of 30 in.) Personally, I would shrink the NFL postseason, make qualifying even tougher, raise the standard. But that’s not about to happen. Seven-seeds are coming soon. You might as well get used to it.