The offense Greg Roman and the Ravens built in 2019 was "revolutionary." Now the Ravens are looking for the next step of their evolution.
On the same day the Ravens and Roman parted ways, Head Coach John Harbaugh talked about his vision for the offense ahead, and he described as moving from one "era" to the next.
Baltimore built a record-breaking running machine over the four years with Roman, but the passing game lagged behind. Moving forward, the Ravens want to hold onto what was working well, but improve and update what wasn't.
That starts with still playing tough, physical football on both sides of the ball.
"In terms of the vision for the offense, the identity of the offense is what is important in that vision," Harbaugh said. "We've established an identity for our offense; I think everybody knows that who plays against us and watches us play. That's important; that's a good identity. That's an identity that we're going to carry forward. It speaks well of the organization, the city, kind of, what we're all about.
"Within that, the schemes that you run, the formations, the type of players you put out there, that's all kind of methodology. You kind of work through that as you go. So, I'll be looking to explore into that some more too – What kind of ideas come up in these interviews? What kind of ideas do guys have? How can they merge their thoughts and their vision for this offense with what's been done here in the past, too? How does it all fit together with the players? Those are all the questions you ask."
Harbaugh said he will be looking at internal and external candidates for his next offensive coordinator. With 10 teams currently searching for their next offensive coordinator, it's going to be a competitive and fast-paced hiring process across the league.
While Harbaugh is proud of what the Ravens offense accomplished the past several years, it was time for a change. How much Baltimore's offensive style changes is the question.
"Everything changes, [and] everything evolves," Harbaugh said. "You have to keep it moving. So, we'll definitely keep it moving in ways that fit the players that we have, but it'll definitely be within the identity that we have for our offense."
The Ravens are currently built to keep running the ball well. Harbaugh and General Manager Eric DeCosta made it clear that they intend to have Lamar Jackson running the offense in 2023 and hopefully beyond. That gives them the best running quarterback in NFL history.
Baltimore will have at least four-fifths of its starting offensive line back, as left guard Ben Powers is the only pending unrestricted free agent. J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards are both under contract and should both be stronger one more year removed from their major 2021 knee injuries. Tight end Mark Andrews will still be a top receiver, and rookies Isaiah Likely and Charlie Kolar will take on bigger roles.
"That makes me happy, because I feel like we've got a lot of guys who know ball and have had a lot of experience here," Harbaugh said.
The Ravens don't want to throw out the baby with the bathwater. There were strong elements to the offense that Roman built, especially with the run schemes that constantly kept opponents guessing what was coming next and often outnumbered, even when steadfast in trying to stop it.
With many of the same players who have executed that scheme returning, and the possibility of assistant coaches who taught it also being retained, the Ravens have a chance to keep a good thing rolling while trying to improve on their weaknesses.
"You want to be able to hold onto those things," Harbaugh said. "And we've got coaches here, players here who have run those schemes, that have a feel for those schemes, so yes, that'll be part of the new process. I mean, I'd like to keep a lot of those schemes around."
From a personnel standpoint, the "new" in the Ravens offense will be the wide receiver room. Rashod Bateman and Devin Duvernay will return from season-ending injuries, but Harbaugh and General Manager Eric DeCosta both acknowledged the need to build up more talent around them.
How much the new offensive coordinator opts to utilize the wide receivers over heavy tight-end and fullback formations remains to be seen, but Harbaugh doesn't envision his offense doing a 180-degree turn from what it's been in the past. The goal is balance, Harbaugh said.
"We're going to always believe in running the ball, and we've done that really well over the last number of years," Harbaugh said. "With that, you've got to have a complementary passing game. You've got to have a standalone passing game – with dropback passing, situational passing, third downs, especially long and in the red zone. And then you've got to have a play-action passing game that goes with whatever runs you run, whether it's quarterback-driven runs or power runs or whatever, and they've got to fit your run game. So, those are the things that kind of play off of each other. It's just a well-rounded, balanced offense."