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Eisenberg: Difference Between Ravens And Dysfunctional Teams


People are going to believe what they want about the Ravens' hiring of Gary Kubiak. And of course, nothing stirs the drink like a good conspiracy theory.

But if I were you, I wouldn't fall too hard for the idea that Head Coach John Harbaugh essentially was told he had to hire Kubiak. Owner Steve Bisciotti doesn't operate that way. Period.

Yes, there was a lot of dialogue among the front office population as the search unfolded. And yes, everyone had opinions. They're paid for those.

But Bisciotti's first operational commandment is to let people do the jobs they were hired to do. The higher-ups pick the head coach. The head coach picks his staff. The Ravens will adhere to that as long as Bisciotti is in charge.

Plenty of teams ignore that fundamental chain of command. They operate in dysfunction, and not coincidentally, also usually pick high in the first round of the draft.

The Ravens know better than to undermine the chain of command. Paying heed to it is THE reason they're annually in playoff contention.

It was Harbaugh's hire all along. And it was Harbaugh, no one else, who found out late in the process, from Rick Dennison, that Kubiak was interested in the job – a discovery that sent the search swerving in a new direction and ultimately led to Kubiak's hiring.

Now that a new guy is designing and calling the plays, what's the next crucial step in the Ravens' offensive overhaul?

That's easy. It's getting Joe Flacco to go all in.

Like most successful NFL quarterbacks, Flacco believes in himself and wants to run the show. He had his battles with former Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron, wanting more say as he gained experience. He earned currency by winning a Super Bowl, but now he is coming off a follow-up season that wasn't so hot.

Kubiak is coming in with some new terminology, a new approach. It's his baby. The offense is going to have his signature on it, above anyone else's. And people who know him say he is going to challenge Flacco to set the bar higher.

It's a bigger change for Flacco than for anyone else, and some veterans nearing 30 don't care for change.

It's in the Ravens' best interests that Flacco sees the big picture, understands why it's happening and buys in with both fists.

I'm guessing he will.

I'm sure Kubiak is excited the Ravens have fullback Vonta Leach under contract for 2014. And I'm sure the feeling is mutual. Leach developed into an All-Pro under Kubiak in Houston. The fullback has a larger role in Kubiak's running game than it did in the Ravens' recent plans.

But Leach's return isn't guaranteed. As Kubiak will learn while he gets his feet wet here, General Manager Ozzie Newsome picks the roster. That's HIS job, and salary cap concerns weigh heavily. Leach was regarded as a likely casualty before Kubiak arrived. The Ravens reportedly can clear $1.75 million in space by releasing him. His replacement, Kyle Juszczyk, is already here.

It's too soon to know how things will play out. I'm sure Kubiak wants Leach, but the salary cap rules. His roster spot is precarious.

Jacoby Jones' return is also still in jeopardy even though he is so close with Kubiak that he joked the new OC might be his biological father.

Again, the cap is the issue. The Ravens are going to have some new people catching passes from Flacco in 2013 – not all new people, but some. If I had to guess, I would say Jones' role in the offense is likely to contract more than expand.

Yes, he had another difference-making season as a kick returner in 2013, and the Ravens would love to bring him back, paying him primarily for that role as well as an in-the-mix pass catcher. But he's a pending free agent, and if some team is willing to pay him as a starting receiver, his price might be too high for the Ravens.

These situations are never uncomplicated, and only one thing is certain: The Ravens don't let their emotions govern their decision-making.

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