Eisenberg: R-E-L-A-X And Don't Sell Ravens Short


Sunday night wasn't the best of times in Ravenstown, with the news of Gary Kubiak's departure breaking while the New England Patriots secured a trip to the Super Bowl by thrashing the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC title game.

The Kubiak news was no surprise, of course, at least not to anyone who knows how these dalliances work. The Ravens' offensive coordinator in 2014, Kubiak was such a natural fit for the Denver Broncos' head coaching vacancy that he was all but gone once he decided to interview.

To reiterate, I believe Kubiak should only receive applause for a job well done here, not criticism for going back on his pledge to stay, which was stated in earnest before a wonderful personal opportunity presented itself. Denver is Kubiak's pro football home. The Broncos have won four straight division titles, so there's a lot to work with, including, possibly, Peyton Manning.

Sure, it's unfortunate for the Ravens that Kubiak won't be around to continue what he started in 2014. He worked wonders in his year here. While his offense set franchise records for points scored and yards gained, sacks of quarterback Joe Flacco dropped precipitously and the running game rose from No. 30 in the league to No. 8. The Ravens wanted continuity, but now, with his departure, there are questions. It's a setback.

The Ravens could have maintained continuity by promoting Quarterbacks Coach Rick Dennison to OC, but he's going to Denver. And another Kubiak protege, Kyle Shanahan, also is out of the picture. His hiring as Atlanta's OC was announced during Sunday night's run of bad news.

But to borrow Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers' comment from earlier this season, my suggestion to Baltimore's fans is r-e-l-a-x.

Watching the Patriots devastate the Colts, it certainly seemed that, in the final accounting, the Ravens were the AFC's second-best team this year. They played far better against the eventual AFC champs in the playoffs, actually had the game in hand, just couldn't finish the deal.

That defeat became doubly frustrating Sunday night when the Ravens saw the team they would have faced in the conference title game had they held on to beat New England. The Colts played well to get that far, but they couldn't run the ball Sunday night, really couldn't do much of anything, and looked soft. The Ravens certainly would have liked their odds of winning in Indianapolis.

While listening to all the huzzah-huzzah about New England you're going to hear in the next two weeks leading up to the Super Bowl, remember, the Patriots were sweating bullets against the Ravens.

My point is this: Even though several of the most logical candidates for their OC job are off the market, the Ravens are still going to entertain plenty of quality candidates. Coaches like to win, and the Ravens look like they're going to be serious playoff contenders in 2015.

Frankly, their OC job is something of a plum in the wake of Kubiak's year here.

Sure, a long offseason lies ahead and the Ravens' top running back, top tight end and top scoring receiver from 2014 are all set to hit free agency, so there's uncertainty. But their offensive line was one of the league's best and returns intact. Flacco is coming off his best season, with his fundamentals honed by Dennison and Kubiak. His stellar postseason emphasized that he can take you where you want to go.

If I'm the Ravens, I'm looking for an OC willing to keep the bulk of Kubiak's system and principles in place. They all bring their own ideas, but why tinker with what worked?

Either way, change of this ilk actually is routine stuff for NFL teams. They all go through it, all the time, as various head coaches come and go and unit coordinators hop around from job to job as if their feet were on fire. While Baltimore fans watched in dismay as the bad news piled up Sunday night, I'm sure the Ravens were already talking to potential candidates and/or performing due diligence.

This is what happens in the NFL. There's change. And then there's more change. If you think the Ravens aren't used to dealing with it and surviving it, you're selling them short.

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