For the first time since his rookie year in 2008, he is learning a new offense – Offensive Coordinator Gary Kubiak’s offense. And Flacco’s not the only one.
The entire Ravens offense was in “football school” throughout much of May, and class is still in session during organized team activities (OTAs). The learning they do this month will go a long way in determining how quick a start they get off to this year.
So far so good, says Flacco, in large part thanks to Kubiak’s easy-to-learn system.
“I think everybody is picking it up really well, so I think that’s just a testament to how the terminology is and how it hits everybody’s brain,” Flacco said last week.
“I think it’s a pretty good way of calling things, just because I haven’t really seen too many guys have trouble with picking the offense up so far.”
Kubiak has been running his West-Coast-like scheme since 1995 when he was the Offensive Coordinator of the Denver Broncos.
But it’s unlike what the Ravens are accustomed to. Baltimore’s offense has been largely crafted by former Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron, who was with the team from 2008 to 2012. Cameron had more of a Don Coryell-based power run and deep-passing system, which gradually evolved over the years.
Jim Caldwell didn’t change the system much. He increased the pace into a hurry-up offense and allowed for more audibles at the line of scrimmage after reading the defense. He also used a spread offense last year when the running game struggled.
Kubiak’s coming in with a tried-and-true offense that has had great success. But an offense can only be effective if the players get it and can execute it.
Head Coach John Harbaugh said Flacco has a lot on his plate right now because the terminology is all different. The concepts are the same, but they’re organized differently. Still, Kubiak spent much of the spring trying to make it simple to digest.
“The thing I like about what Coach Kubiak is doing, it’s a very straightforward offense,” Harbaugh said. “It’s very clear-cut. That helps. That helps maybe get guys up to speed as quick as possible.”
Flacco indicated that the play-calling process in the huddle is also more streamlined. That should help the Ravens keep some of the up-tempo offense they had under Caldwell.
“I think it will help everybody,” Flacco said. “We’ll be able to get in and out of the huddle. Everybody will have a good idea of what they’re doing.”
Kubiak brought two coaches from Houston – Quarterbacks Coach Rick Dennison and Tight Ends Coach Brian Pariani – to help him teach the offense.
The entire unit is present at voluntary OTAs, showing the urgency to learn the system and practice it. Flacco has been at Ravens headquarters since the first day he could start working with Kubiak, and got a head start trying to learn the playbook before that.
The offense has gone through multiple installations. They first installed it without working against a defense. Now during OTAs, they’re “starting over” and running it in 11-on-11 drills.
“There is a process to the whole thing, and I think it’s going pretty smoothly so far,” Flacco said. “I think everybody is doing a great job of grasping it. We’ll just see how far we can take it over these next couple weeks and into training camp.”
The Ravens offense needs to be at full speed when the season starts. They open against the team that knocked them out of the postseason chase last year, the division-winning Cincinnati Bengals, on Sept. 7. Then it’s fellow AFC North rivals Pittsburgh and Cleveland the next two weeks.
Harbaugh was asked whether Kubiak’s system will take a full year to truly be installed.
“I’d like to think that we’ll be better at it a year from now than where we are this year, but we can’t be thinking about it that way,” he said. “We’ve got to get great at it right now, because we’re going to be playing a football game very soon.”