Calling the plays during games will be a major responsibility for new Ravens Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman. Play-callers are constantly scrutinized – praised when the offense does well but second-guessed by fans and media when the offense sputters.
Next season won't be Roman's first experience as a play-caller, having done so with both the San Francisco 49ers and Buffalo Bills. During his first press conference as the Ravens' coordinator Tuesday, Roman said he wasn't fazed by the attention his new position will bring.
"As far as the criticism, it comes with the job," Roman said. "The praise comes with the job, and neither of them really matter. I welcome both and look forward to a lot of success moving forward."
With the Ravens building their offense "from the ground up," according to Head Coach John Harbaugh, Roman and the offensive staff have been working diligently to create a successful formula. It will be intriguing to see how the Ravens redesign their offense around the unique talents of quarterback Lamar Jackson, and how Roman finds his rhythm as a play-caller on Sundays. How much will game plans differ from week to week? Will the Ravens run less next season, or more?
Whatever the new-look Ravens becomes, Roman sounded certain about one thing. They plan to be a physical offensive team. And statistics will take a back seat to winning.
"My philosophy is winning comes first," Roman said. "I'm not chasing stats. Job justification stats, water cooler talk – I'm not really into that. I'm into whatever helps the team to win. Along with that, though, a physical style. Meaning we're in control. It starts up front, but it extends everywhere. It's a mindset. [I'm] very big on approaching the game from that perspective."
Roman doesn't buy the notion that the Ravens' offense will be easier to stop as teams become more familiar with Jackson's running ability. Playing Baltimore for the second time in three weeks, the Los Angeles Chargers defeated the Ravens, 23-17, during their playoff game in January. Jackson was held to 54 yards rushing and the Ravens were held to 229 yards total offense.
The Chargers often played seven defensive backs to negate Jackson's speed, but Roman said it was the Ravens' poor execution that led to their downfall, not the Chargers' strategy.
"I think our approach and how we turned the ball over, we had some bad field position on offense – we're just not very happy with how we performed or coached in that game," Roman said. "They didn't really do anything different than the game we played in California. They played maybe slightly different technique. They played a really good game – hats off to them. Each week is a challenge, and I don't think there's a code you can crack."
No matter what play he calls, Roman wants the Ravens' formations to be deceptive, difficult for defenses to read before the snap. He is known for designing innovative and complex running schemes, and having an elusive quarterback like Jackson allows for creative play-calling in the running game.
"The more we move into this offense with Lamar, we'll be able to do a little bit more and present more problems for people to have to worry about," Roman said.
"[We] want to put our players in positions where the defense can't call out our plays before the play. ... From a play-calling standpoint, I don't like to leave popcorn on the ground. I don't like to leave that trail. I like to make my thumbprints a little bit fuzzy to figure out what we may or may not do."
Roman didn't make any bold statements, like predicting the Ravens' would finish No. 1 in rushing yards, or in total offense. If the Ravens lead the NFL in victories, he will consider his first season as the team's play-caller a success.
"I'm not really looking to blow up a statistical category," Roman said. "I'm looking to blow up the win column."