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Eisenberg: Marc Trestman Has Earned Another Year As Offensive Architect


The Ravens are known for their stability, but the offensive coordinator job has been an exception in recent years. A different coach has held the position at the start of each of the past four seasons – Cam Cameron in 2012, Jim Caldwell in 2013, Gary Kubiak in 2014 and Marc Trestman in 2015.

The fact that Trestman signed a three-year contract in January 2015 seemed to indicate the Ravens wanted the merry-go-round to stop with him. I think it will, and not just because he is under contract. Trestman has earned the right to continue as the architect of the team's offense.

Has his first year gone as hoped? Hardly. The Ravens are finishing up their first losing season under Head Coach John Harbaugh, and the offense has struggled at times. The running game has a No. 24 league ranking, near an all-time low for the Ravens. Few teams have committed more turnovers. Trestman told reporters last week he was "disappointed" and his "expectations are the opposite of what has happened."

But considering that his unit was devastated by a catastrophic injury bug that claimed rookie receiver Breshad Perriman in July and five starters, including quarterback Joe Flacco, running back Justin Forsett and receiver Steve Smith Sr. – the team's top playmakers – Trestman has persevered impressively. Overall, the Ravens are ranked No. 14 in total offense, and that's with rookies and newcomers filling numerous roles in recent weeks. I call that a triumph.

If someone had told you in September that the Ravens would have the league's No. 8-ranked passing offense in late December after weeks of Ryan Mallett, Matt Schaub and Jimmy Clausen throwing to Kamar Aiken, Chris Givens and Jeremy Butler, would you have believed it? I didn't think so.

It's enough to make you wonder what Trestman might do with an offense that isn't constantly adjusting to new personnel and new combinations.

Mallett, who has been with the Ravens for two weeks, engineered an upset of the Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday, establishing his single-game career high in passing yards in the process. Before that, Clausen also established career highs in passing yards in consecutive games as the Ravens lost to Seattle and Kansas City.

Trestman was the common denominator in those performances. He's an offensive football wonk, hard to stump on schemes and adjustments, obviously able to tailor game plans to his available talent. His low-ego personality is refreshing. Some critics believe his play-calling has been predictable, but I don't think that's fair. Put it this way: this season is almost over and the Steelers sure didn't seem to know what was coming Sunday.

Oddly, the Ravens' fill-in quarterbacks have come closer to reaching their ceilings than Flacco, who started and finished the team's first 10 games. Trestman is known as a quarterback whisperer, but Flacco wasn't having a stellar season before he suffered a knee injury on Nov. 22. He had thrown a dozen interceptions, matching his total for all of 2014, and admitted he was throwing off his back foot too often.

The top item on Trestman's to-do list going forward is to get Flacco playing more effectively – provided Flacco recovers in time to step back under center in 2016.

Actually, the top item on that to-do list might be to figure out how to better establish the Ravens' running game. Barring something weird occurring in Sunday's season finale, the 2015 Ravens are going to easily set a franchise record for fewest rushing attempts in a season. That's hardly preferable for a team that wants to play a physical style.

True, the falloff in rushing attempts and production is attributable at least partly to the fact that the Ravens were so often behind on the scoreboard this season, forcing them to go to the air more. Nor did it help that Forsett, a Pro Bowl back in 2014, was injured.

Nonetheless, a firmer commitment to the ground game is needed. The Ravens tend to win when they achieve the right run-pass balance.

Through all the adversity, though, Trestman has coaxed enough from the offense to keep the Ravens competitive in all but a couple of games, and that's with the defense experiencing glaring woes, especially early in the season.

Having survived a season in which his salary could qualify as hazard pay, he deserves the chance to continue to develop the offense after General Manager Ozzie Newsome gives it a makeover in the offseason.

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