The Ravens closed their offices Monday and Tuesday to give staff a break after the season (Thank you! I happily slept in.), so it feels like ages since the last installment of Late for Work Friday.
As such, we haven’t covered reaction to the new defensive coordinator hire, retention of Greg Roman, college national championship, wild-card weekend and much more. Let’s get started …
*Reaction to Don Martindale as Defensive Coordinator. Any Word From Chuck Pagano? *
The Ravens announced Tuesday afternoon that Don “Wink” Martindale would become the seventh defensive coordinator in franchise history, and the sixth that would be promoted from within.
In terms of fan reaction, it wouldn’t be fair to say they were disappointed with the move; it was just a little anticlimactic after reports that Head Coach John Harbaugh had reached out to Chuck Pagano about a potential reunion. Pagano, who was fired by the Indianapolis Colts as their head coach after the season, became uber-popular in his one year as the Ravens defensive coordinator in 2011.
“The announcement was met with a lukewarm response from those fans wanting the organization to bring back Chuck Pagano,” wrote WNST’s Luke Jones.
“The reception by some to Martindale’s promotion seems more a negative reaction to coaching continuity than any dissertation on Martindale,” wrote The Baltimore Sun’s Zrebiec. “Plus, fans love the bigger names.”
There has been no word from Chuck Pagano himself. If he was the top candidate (and we don’t know that, we just know the Ravens reportedly contacted him), the assumption is he isn’t interested in coaching at this time. There have been no other reports of his interest in other positions.
“It was widely believed Pagano, who ran the Ravens defense in 2011, was one of Harbaugh’s top candidates,” wrote Zrebiec. “However, it never was certain Pagano would want to jump immediately back into coaching after he was fired by the Colts last week after his sixth season at the helm.”
He later added: “The Indianapolis Colts defense was very bad for much of Pagano’s six seasons with the team, finishing 30th the past two seasons. Yes, Pagano was the head coach and not the defensive coordinator, but you’re being totally naive if you don’t think he was heavily involved with that unit given his background. That doesn’t mean Pagano isn’t a good defensive mind and wouldn’t have done a great job with the Ravens.”
The Ravens were also reportedly interested in other former defensive assistants in order to keep continuity and avoid a major defensive overhaul.
However, according to recent reports, Vic Fangio looks primed to return to Chicago as their defensive coordinator for the fourth year. Teryl Austin was hired as the Cincinnati Bengals defensive coordinator and Steve Spagnuolo is still in the running for the Giants head coaching job. Ted Monachino appears to be available still, but his Colts defense ranked No. 30 in each of the last two years.
Harbaugh was in no rush and had time to explore all options available to him, and just because he did so doesn’t mean all or any of the candidates ranked ahead of Martindale.
“An internal hire is rarely an exciting one, but Martindale has roots with the Ryan family and coached with former Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan at the University of Cincinnati from 1996-97 and with Rob Ryan in Oakland from 2004-08,” added Jones. “It’s also worth noting that the popular Pagano was an internal Ravens hire who replaced Greg Mattison, who wasn’t exactly a popular defensive coordinator in the eyes of many Ravens fans.”
The knock on Martindale was that the one year he was an NFL defensive coordinator with the Denver Broncos, his unit ranked last in the league. Several have pointed out that he didn’t have a star-studded lineup, and some of those that he did have were injured, including Elvis Dumervil.
In Baltimore, Martindale will inherit a defense with several Pro Bowlers that will remain largely intact, as defense end Brent Urban is the only starter scheduled for free agency. Martindale received endorsements from several Ravens players, including Pro Bowlers C.J. Mosley, Terrell Suggs and Eric Weddle. He’s been instrumental in the development of Mosley, Zachary Orr and Matthew Judon.
“He’s long been a favorite of the players, who appreciate his direct and personable coaching style plus his ability to make a point without screaming or yelling or belittling a player,” wrote Zrebiec. “Orr … said last year that Martindale is one of the best teachers the Ravens have in the organization.”
In the end, Martindale will be judged on how the defense performs. One of the biggest things fans and media will be looking at is how the unit finishes games after surrendering several late leads over the last two years.
“Martindale deserves a clean slate,” Zrebiec wrote. “He deserves to be judged on what happens with the team’s defense going forward.”
Relief that Greg Roman Stayed in Baltimore … Light-Hearted Jokes About His New Title
After several reports indicated that run-game guru Greg Roman would leave Baltimore, the Ravens announced Friday that he would remain and was promoted to assistant head coach.
“Roman could’ve signed anywhere after completing his one-year contact in Baltimore,” wrote ESPN. “There were reports that Roman was going to become the offensive coordinator at the University of Michigan under Jim Harbaugh. But Roman stayed with John Harbaugh after a successful season as senior offensive assistant and tight ends coach. He was essentially the run-game coordinator and made a major impact in his first season with the Ravens, who went from No. 28 to No. 11 in the NFL in rushing.”
Roman will essentially continue his same duties, which is good news for the run game. It could get even better next season with the return of guards Marshal Yanda (ankle) and Alex Lewis (shoulder).
Fans and media had a little fun with Roman’s new “assistant head coach” title, which is similar to Jerry Rosburg’s “associate head coach” title. It’s unclear where they fall in the hierarchy under Harbaugh, and reminded several of the running joke in NBC’s hit comedy “The Office.”
Eric DeCosta Turns Down GM Opportunity … Again
Not only will the Ravens see continuity among their coaching ranks, but they’ll have it on the personnel side too.
In not surprising, but much-appreciated news, it appears Assistant General Manager Eric DeCosta once again turned down an interview for another NFL team’s general manager vacancy. And the latest comes from a very well-respected franchise in the Green Bay Packers.
After DeCosta turned down the invitation, the Packers continued with their search and eventually hired Brian Gutekunst as their newest general manager.
Ozzie Newsome Got a Good Look at Alabama Players in the National Championship
Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome may have had a little extra pep in his step the last couple days after his alma mater Alabama won an overtime thriller in the college national championship game over the Georgia Bulldogs.
Jokes immediately ensued about how many Alabama players he could draft this April, including with his No. 16 overall pick.
Newsome used the 16th-overall selection on Alabama cornerback Marlon Humphrey last year and that has turned out very well so far. There’s also been success with other Crimson Tide picks, including Mosley (No. 17 overall, 2014), Courtney Upshaw (No. 35, 2012), Le’Ron McClain (No. 137, 2007) and Jarret Johnson (No. 109, 2003).
Terrance Cody (No. 57, 2010) didn’t pan out, and last year’s third-round pick of Tim Williams is still one to watch.
Quality of Wild-Card Weekend Games Makes Fourth-and-12 Hurt Even More
As if the fourth-and-12 play that knocked the Ravens out of the playoffs didn’t hurt enough, the dagger was twisted even more after watching the quality of the wild-card games.
In fact, the Jacksonville Jaguars and Buffalo Bills’ 13 combined points were the fewest ever in an NFL wild-card game. And nobody would’ve discounted the Ravens beating the Kansas City Chiefs, who surrendered a 21-3 halftime lead and ended up losing to the Tennessee Titans, 22-21.
Revisiting the Jalen Ramsey Draft Selection
After watching Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey notch an amazing game-sealing interception in the wild-card round, ESPN reminded people that the Ravens had a chance to get the Pro Bowler in the 2016 draft.
However, “they wouldn't give up first- and third-round picks to the Cowboys to move up. The third-round pick that Baltimore chose to keep turned out to be defensive end Bronson Kaufusi, who was inactive 12 times this season.”
That started a major debate on Twitter about whether that was the correct decision.
Nobody in Baltimore would be sad if the Ravens pulled off the trade, but at the same time, nobody’s complaining about selecting franchise left tackle Ronnie Stanley at No. 6, and then going on to nab Tavon Young and Maurice Canady later that year. Plus, Newsome got Humphrey in the first round the next year, and after his rookie year, Humphrey looks primed for a future Pro Bowl bid of his own.
Haloti Ngata Isn’t Retiring, But Is a Scheduled Unrestricted Free Agent
I can already tell there will be calls for the return of another former Raven who was a fan favorite.
It looked as though Haloti Ngata was going to retire after the 2017 season, but now it appears he’s having second thoughts after a torn biceps muscle last October ended his year prematurely.
"I think if I finished the year healthy I would have been a little closer to probably retiring, but I want to finish the season so I think I want to keep on playing," Ngata said on The Jamie & Stoney Show in Detroit.
For those that would like to see a reunion in the middle of the defense with Brandon Williams, there’s a shot of that happening because Ngata is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent. His two-year contract with the Lions expires in March.
That said, Ngata is interested in returning to Detroit.
"Definitely I loved being able to be here and help Detroit have more dominance in this league,” Ngata said. “We've had winning seasons, I just want to continue to build this franchise and get it to where it can be a dominant franchise and a great team. So I definitely want to be here, I definitely want to keep on playing, but we'll have to see once free agency hits."
Ngata, who turns 34 later this month, had a major impact on the Lions’ run defense. When healthy, Detroit allowed just 74.6 yards rushing per game, but after his injury, the Lions gave up 129.7 yards rushing per game.
Justin Tucker Named All-Pro, But Didn’t Make Pro Bowl. Huh?
It was nice to see kicker Justin Tucker get due credit for the outstanding season he had.
He and Mosley were named to the All-Pro second team over the weekend, which is well deserved, but it only highlighted how Tucker should’ve also been voted into the Pro Bowl.
Tucker finished the season with 141 points, which tied the franchise’s single-season high … that he set in 2016.