Who Will Be Ravens' Next Defensive Coordinator? Examining Five Possibilities
Dean Pees made his retirement from the NFL official yesterday, which leaves a high-profile vacancy on the Ravens' coaching staff.
Baltimore has a rich history of defensive masterminds, and the next could come from within the ranks or mark the return of a familiar face.
Don 'Wink' MartindaleThe Ravens linebackers coach since 2012, Martindale is considered one of the top candidates for the job. "Martindale has long been viewed as heir apparent to Dean Pees. Players love him," wrote Zrebiec. The NFL Network's Ian Rapoport said Martindale will get a "strong look" for the job.
Prior to coming to Baltimore, Martindale was the Denver Broncos defensive coordinator in 2010, when the defense finished last in the league. During his first year with the Ravens, Martindale coached a linebackers corps that included Ray Lewis and was part of the Super Bowl XLVII victory. He has been instrumental in the development of C.J. Mosley, Zachary Orr, Patrick Onwuasor and others.
"He always talked about wanting to be a coordinator," Mosley said yesterday. "I'm a little biased, because I've been with him my whole career and I know what kind of a person he is and what kind of a coach he is. But you never know how things will work out. There's always a business [side], [but] as long as he's here with us, I'll be happy."
One of the most popular candidates among fans, Pagano became available Sunday after the Indianapolis Colts fired him after six years as their head coach. The Colts plucked Pagano from Baltimore after he led the defense for one year (2011) and had a successful run as the secondary coach (2008-10).
"The one hire that would generate the most buzz and catch the attention of the Ravens' fan base (one that has produced an increasing amount of empty seats) is Pagano," wrote ESPN. "He's known for his fiery personality. And he had tremendous success in his one season as the Baltimore defensive coordinator."
Pagano had an aggressive defensive mentality while in Baltimore, and his unit ranked No. 3 in both yards and points allowed in 2011. He was beloved by players and fans, and Indianapolis fans witnessed his fighter mentality when he battled leukemia in 2012 and returned to coaching while in remission.
Russell Street Report's Tony Lombardi, who was one of the first to report Pees' retirement weeks ago, tweeted that he's hearing Pagano is the Ravens' top choice. But that's only if Pagano is available and wants to return to a coordinator position after so many grueling years in Indy.
Plus, Pagano will still be paid by the Colts as he had two more years on his contract, so he may want to take a break before diving back into coaching at 57 years old. He also said in September 2015 that the Colts' job would be his last.
Described as a hot candidate for several NFL defensive coordinator openings, Fangio has ties to Head Coach John Harbaugh. Fangio was the special assistant to the head coach in Harbaugh's first year in Baltimore and the linebackers coach in 2009.
Fangio was the defensive coordinator for Jim Harbaugh in San Francisco, and the unit ranked in the top 5 all four years he was there (2011-14). Fangio then went on to the Bears where he rebuilt Chicago's defense over the last few years. He is rumored to be in the running for the Bears' head coaching job, and if he doesn't get that, there will be plenty of suitors for defensive coordinator positions.
Austin was the secondary coach in Baltimore (2011-13), and followed Jim Caldwell to Detroit in 2014 when he was named the Lions head coach. With Austin as the defensive coordinator, the Lions only cracked the top 15 of NFL defenses once. Caldwell was fired by the Lions Monday, which likely means Austin will not return under the new regime.
"Austin has been among the top head coaching candidates recently (interviewing with nine teams over the past three years) and has garnered the reputation as a fine teacher and communicator," wrote ESPN. "The Lions defense fell to No. 27 under Austin in 2017, but Detroit was fourth in takeaways with 28."
As the defensive coordinator for Pagano in Indianapolis the last two seasons, Monachino's defenses each ranked No. 30 in the NFL. Prior to his time there, Monachino was the Ravens outside linebackers coach for six seasons (2010-15).
"He's a high-energy motivator whose expertise has been with the pass rush," wrote ESPN. "Monachino has a strong relationship with Suggs, having coached him at Arizona State and Baltimore."
Other potential candidates with ties to Baltimore are New York Giants Interim Head Coach and Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo and former Oakland Raiders Head Coach Jack Del Rio.
Some Reporters Hesitant to Speculate on Marty Mornhinweg, Others Wonder How Greg Roman Could Impact Things
After quarterback Joe Flacco told reporters yesterday that he expects Marty Mornhinweg will return next year as the offensive coordinator, many journalists were quick to point out the obvious. Flacco doesn't make the final decision.
"Of course, Flacco doesn't make the coaching staff decisions, but it's worth noting he had just met extensively with Harbaugh before speaking with reporters in the locker room Monday afternoon," wrote WNST's Luke Jones. "You wouldn't think the veteran signal-caller would have wanted to comment on his offensive coordinator's status if he was aware a change was coming, but that doesn't mean any decision has been made."
Flacco said his relationship with Mornhinweg is growing, and said continuity is huge (Flacco's had five coordinators in the past six years).
After finishing as the 27th-ranked offense in 2017, fans are pressing journalists on social media to speculate whether Mornhinweg will indeed return. But after incorrectly believing Mornhinweg would be replaced last year, some are not willing to speculate, especially Zrebiec.
"The status of Senior Offensive Assistant and Tight Ends Coach Greg Roman could also impact Mornhinweg's future if the Ravens do not want to lose the man who coordinated an improved ground attack in 2017," Jones wrote. "If Roman draws interest as a potential offensive coordinator elsewhere, might Harbaugh and the Ravens consider promoting him and parting ways with the current offensive coordinator?
"Retaining Mornhinweg this past year wasn't a popular decision among fans, so maintaining the status quo would be a tough sell despite the improvement shown over the final month or so. Regardless of the offensive coordinator, the Ravens must upgrade the talent level at the skill positions after pumping few resources into the offense last offseason."
Denver Broncos Want to Expand Kubiak's Role as Personnel Executive
One more note on Baltimore's offensive coordinator job …
Fans are clamoring for the return of Gary Kubiak, but they might not want to get their hopes up. Even if the Ravens wanted to move on from Mornhinweg, and there's no indication they do, Kubiak controls his own fate.
Plenty of teams would love to have his offensive mind on staff, but Kubiak left coaching because of the toll it took on his health. Yes, he always liked the Ravens culture and he knows it provides as healthy of an environment as you can get, but it's still coaching. As such, he might be more inclined to take a front-office job, which is being offered to him in Denver.
"In his new role in the Denver Broncos' personnel department, Gary Kubiak will relocate back to Denver," reported KUSA in Denver. "[H]e spent the past season serving as the Broncos' senior personnel advisor, where his primary role was scouting pro and college players while based at his offseason home near Houston.
"In his new role, Kubiak will be more involved in player evaluations on the pro side, in particular for the free agent period in March and then in helping the Broncos for the 2018 draft in which the team will have the No. 5 overall pick."
Ravens Face Difficult 2018 Schedule, Including Five Playoff Teams … on the Road
You can never *really *tell which teams are going to be good or bad in the NFL because of parity, but as of right now, next year's Ravens schedule looks like an uphill climb.
"The Baltimore Ravens won't get any help from their 2018 schedule in trying to end their three-year playoff drought," wrote ESPN.
That's because half of the Ravens' opponents next year are playoff teams, and five will be played on the road (Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Carolina, Kansas City and Tennessee). The five nonconference road opponents were a combined 28-12 (.700) at home in 2017, per ESPN.