As the Ravens continue their search for the next offensive coordinator, with the backdrop of conference championship games being played, here are my thoughts, all in 50 words or less:
One of John Harbaugh's greatest strengths is he's a perpetual learner. He's always striving to get more information, look at different ways to improve. That's part of his process during his exhaustive offensive coordinator search. "What kind of ideas come up in these interviews?" Harbaugh excitedly said last week.
Harbaugh isn't hurrying to beat the hiring rush. He's more interested in getting it right. Three hot names linked to Baltimore, the Chiefs' Eric Bieniemy, Eagles' Brian Johnson and 49ers' Bobby Slowick, are still in the playoffs, so the Ravens cannot submit interview requests. The search may heat up soon.
Harbaugh's last two coordinator hires, Mike Macdonald and Greg Roman, certainly were among his hits. Roman was the offensive architect of some of the Ravens' best offenses in franchise history. In his first year, Macdonald led a top-10 defense that rounded into one of the league's best by season's end.
The Ravens’ reported interviews so far have skewed towards pass game coordinators and quarterback coaches that suggest a shift toward a more aerial attack moving forward. Improving that is paramount. But the key will be marrying the passing game with what Baltimore will continue to do on the ground.
Whoever the Ravens hire as offensive coordinator has great tools to build a strong play-action passing game. Baltimore still intends to deploy some of Roman's run concepts and has the personnel to be dangerous on the ground. Improvements in play-action passing would go a long way.
The Bengals and Chiefs are in the AFC championship for the second straight year, suggesting that it's them and everyone else. The Bills often get thrown into that mix too, even though they've been knocked out in the divisional round two straight years. I'm not signing up for that narrative.
The Ravens had the Bengals on the ropes – without Lamar Jackson. Baltimore would have probably won had it not been for a fluky play. The conversation over the second half of the Ravens' 2022 season was whether they were good enough to hang with the big dogs. Clearly, they were.
It doesn't matter now as we watch the AFC championship from the couch, but it does back up the Ravens' belief that they're close to building a champion. Will they reach the pinnacle? Sometimes that's the difference between a 98-yard fumble return and a "Mile High Miracle."
You have to imagine that Chiefs Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, a former Ravens defensive assistant, has studied what Macdonald did against the Bengals in three meetings this year. The Ravens held Joe Burrow to 217, 215 and 209 yards passing, respectively.
The Ravens' intention to have Jackson under center next season and beyond was clear. Even if he's not, building a stronger wide receiver corps is paramount to helping whoever is at quarterback, especially because chances are they won't be nearly as good a runner as Jackson.
It's a shame the Ed Reed and Bethune-Cookman coaching gig ended before it began. I believe Reed's intentions to build up that program and benefit the lives of those players is genuine. I also believe Reed always keeps it real, including when he doesn't like something, for better or worse.