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Eisenberg: Greg Roman Returns to Buffalo as NFL's Hottest Offensive Mind


Sunday's game in Buffalo is a reminder that Lamar Jackson wasn't the only Ravens employee who began the 2019 season with something to prove.

The team's trip to Western New York brings Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman back to where he experienced what surely is his low point as an NFL coach. The Bills fired him from his job as their OC just two games into the 2016 season.

He was no longer a coordinator when he got back into the game with the Ravens in 2017. His official title was senior offensive assistant/tight ends coach. His unofficial title was run-game guru/whisperer/fixer. He had an important role, but he was no longer in charge of an offense or calling plays.

Head Coach John Harbaugh elevated him to OC this season and charged him with reinventing the Ravens' offense to take full advantage of Jackson's unique skills. Saying the project has succeeded is an understatement.

The Ravens are No. 1 in the league in scoring and rushing, and No. 2 in total yards. Advanced metrics suggest they have one of the most efficient NFL offenses ever. Oh, and they've won eight straight games.

It's certainly a triumph for Jackson, now a leading candidate for league MVP. But it's equally triumphant for Roman, now the hottest of coaching commodities.

Predictably, Roman wanted no part of casting this trip to Buffalo as some sort of personal Revenge Bowl. The Ravens are still trying to secure a division title and home playoff dates. They don't have time to contemplate anyone's personal concerns.

Asked earlier this week about returning to Buffalo, Roman shrugged and said, "Just the next one up."

That fits with the general approach to such matters among coaches, whose profession is so transient they tend not to take any comings and goings too personally. (Roman has coached for five NFL teams, Stanford and his high school alma mater.)

It also would be a stretch to call Sunday's game a Revenge Bowl because the head coach (Rex Ryan) and general manager (Doug Whaley) who dismissed Roman in 2016 are no longer with the Bills. Both were gone within months of his departure, in fact.

On the other hand, the Bills' ownership is the same, and I'm guessing the team's spirited fan base probably doesn't have the fondest memories of Roman. It's only natural to want to put your best foot forward in such a situation.

When the Bills hired him in 2015, Roman was coming off running the San Francisco 49ers' offense with Colin Kaapernick at quarterback. Kaepernick, like Jackson now, was a dual-threat talent who took the league by storm. But Roman was out as OC when Jim Harbaugh left the 49ers to coach at Michigan.

His hiring in Buffalo made sense, as the Bills were going with Tyrod Taylor, another mobile quarterback. In 2015, the Bills ranked No. 1 in the NFL in rushing, No. 12 in scoring and went 8-8.

From the outside and in hindsight, Roman's firing just two games into the next season certainly looks like a quick hook, less than fair. But everyone has benefitted in the long run. The Bills' new regime is faring well; they're 9-3 this season. Roman also is in a better place, orchestrating an offense built around the NFL's most electric player.

Roman readily admits his prior OC experiences helped prepare him for building and running the Ravens' offense. He also has suggested those other offenses weren't as sophisticated as Baltimore's in 2019. "This is the next level," he said. His masterpiece.

His stock has soared to the point that it'll be a surprise if teams don't come after him to become their head coach in 2020. The Ravens obviously want to keep him and surely will try.

Regardless, it's a long way from getting canned two games into a season. Even if he were tempted to comment, take a victory lap, Roman knows he doesn't need to utter a word. His record-setting offense does the talking for him.

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