Will Ravens Call Gary Kubiak After He Steps Down in Denver?
The Ravens haven't announced any coaching changes after finishing their 8-8 season, but the man who led their most productive offense in franchise history is stepping down as the head coach of the Denver Broncos.
Naturally, everyone in Baltimore wants to know if there's the slightest possibility of Gary Kubiak returning to the Ravens.
The same issue is cited as both the reason for and against the idea: Kubiak's health.
Despite having two years remaining on his Broncos contract, Kubiak reportedly told his players after Sunday's regular-season finale that he would step down from his position. He attributed the decision to family concerns about his long-term health.
Players told reporters they could tell it was a hard year on Kubiak as he tried to lead the defending Super Bowl champion Broncos with an inexperienced quarterback. Kubiak was taken by ambulance from the stadium to a hospital after an Oct. 9 loss and was diagnosed with a "complex migraine condition." He stayed away from the team the following week. This happened after Kubiak suffered a mini-stroke as the head coach of the Houston Texans in 2014.
As such, it appears doubtful that Kubiak would leave what he called his "dream job" as a Super Bowl-winning head coach, only to put his health at risk again as a coordinator. The Ravens would also want to put Kubiak's health first.
Still, some wonder whether a coordinator job in Baltimore would allow Kubiak, 55, to continue his love of coaching, but without all the pressures, and potential health concerns, that come with being a head coach.
Kubiak was mum in his post-game presser Sunday night about what his next step could be, telling reporters that he wanted to focus on the players and would reveal more about his situation Monday.
Even if he wanted to be a coordinator again, there would probably be some legal issues to work out because he's still under contract with Denver. But the more likely scenario is that Kubiak follows the advice of his family, which wants him to move to its retirement ranch in Texas, per ESPN.
And, again, the Ravens haven't indicated that anyone other than Marty Mornhinweg will be the offensive coordinator in 2017. But if they do take a look around the league, and Kubiak isn't a realistic candidate, ESPN's Jamison Hensley says the Ravens should focus on Kubiak's long-time assistant and right-hand man for job.
"[T]he Ravens' top candidate should be Broncos Offensive Coordinator Rick Dennison, who was [Joe] Flacco's quarterbacks coach in 2014 and can bring back the successful Kubiak system," Hensley wrote. "The pressure is on for Baltimore to find someone who can tailor an offense that suits Flacco's strengths and add some cutting edge design to an offense that routinely struggled to get to the end zone."
Update: Kubiak held a press conference in Denver this morning and made it clear that he is getting out of coaching altogether, squashing any chance there may have been for a reunion with the Ravens.
Ray Lewis Called Smith Sr. Minutes After Final Game
An amazing career is officially over.
If there was any lingering doubt about whether wide receiver Steve Smith Sr. would officially retire after 16 years, he made it clear in the teary-eyed interview below with CBS immediately after his final NFL game ended.
"Yeah, this is it," he said as his voice trembled.
It's hard for most people to truly understand the emotions of walking away from a professional football career after sacrificing so much. One person who could certainly identify with what Smith was feeling yesterday is future Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis.
You'll notice that at the end of that CBS interview, Smith was handed a phone while he was still saying his goodbyes to players on the field. Only one person could be given that type of access.
Smith was asked last night if there was a moment during the day when his impending retirement "hit" him most. He pointed to a text message his wife sent him before the game. He revealed what that message said to the MMQB.com's Peter King:
"Meant a lot … I'll read it to you: 'Baby I know today is probably very emotional for you. But if your life is a book, this is just one chapter. It's been one crazy roller coaster of a chapter. There's a lot to be written now. I am excited to see what God has planned for you next. It will be different, but I believe it will be good. I am going to miss watching you play. Do your thing out there, one last time. I am proud and I love you very much.'
"Right now, a weight has been lifted. How will it all turn out? I don't know … One thing I know I will like is not trying to jam everything in before July, like, 17th anymore, hurrying to do things before training camp … What I am looking forward to NOT experiencing is the pressure to perform. I get in the huddle so often, and the linemen are like, 'Hey Steve, we need a play.' As you get older, the stress is more. That's the part of the game that's tough … [On his legacy] People are gonna think, 'He's a thug, a punk.' I've been called a lot of things. But I'd rather be known as a competitive guy, a tough guy, than a nice guy or a brown-noser … My kids miss me. I miss them … I am very happy. It's not time for a new life. It's time for a new direction."
Ravens Played Like You'd Expect After Getting Heart Ripped Out
I'm not going to dissect Sunday's game as much as I usually do on Monday mornings. I get the feeling most fans don't want to relive the 27-10 loss and what Head Coach John Harbaugh called "the worst game of the season."
But one thing to note was the Ravens' lack of emotion from the moment the game started.
After talking all week about how important it was to finish on a high note despite playing in a meaningless game, the Ravens fell flat. The Bengals didn't have their top playmakers in wide receiver A.J. Green, tight end Tyler Eifert or running backs Giovani Bernard or Jeremy Hill, but the unit still seemingly scored at will in the first half.
Harbaugh admitted his team didn't play at a high emotional level, and said it probably had something to do with last week's gut-wrenching loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
"The Ravens delivered the type of clunker you'd expect from a team that got its heart ripped out seven days ago and had nothing on the line in Week 17," wrote The Baltimore* *Sun's Mark Selig. "Who knows how they would have played if the division was at stake? But if it was anything like they did Sunday, it would have been one of the more frustrating days in team history."
"The organization won't be making any significant decisions based on one game. But make no mistake, this was a bad look," The Sun's Jeff Zrebiec added. "After talking all week about the importance of the game, the Ravens' play on both sides of the ball exhibited absolutely no sense of urgency. A Bengals' offense that was without their top playmakers shredded a defense that was ranked No.1 in the NFL not too long ago. The offense was poor all afternoon, culminating a poor season for Joe Flacco. The Ravens have a ton of work to do. This was a flawed team all year and the Ravens went out with a whimper."
Expect Offseason To Feature Many Changes
Looking forward to offseason changes is one of the few things that can help erase the sting of missing the playoffs for the third time in four years.
And you should expect a healthy amount of changes,* *says Zrebiec.
"That is probably for the best, because if the 2016 Ravens proved anything this year, it was that they weren't quite good enough," he wrote.
"Flacco will surely be back, and Harbaugh, the only head coach he's ever had, is expected to return as well for his 10th season at the helm. Beyond that, Harbaugh's coaching staff and roster is littered with question marks. Harbaugh will likely have to make at least one coordinator hire with play caller Marty Mornhinweg not expected back in his current role. Accomplished veterans such as [outside linebacker Elvis] Dumervil, tight end Dennis Pitta, center Jeremy Zuttah and safety Lardarius Webb could be in jeopardy of not returning because of high salary-cap numbers and the organization's desire to get younger. Fullback Kyle Juszczyk, starting right tackle Rick Wagner and nose tackle Brandon Williams head the list of Ravens free agents."
The Ravens learned Sunday night that they will get the No. 16 pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. That is a high enough position to address a need with a player who can make an immediate impact.
"The Ravens' biggest needs at this point are pass-rusher, wide receiver, cornerback, running back and center," wrote Hensley.
C.J. Mosley Leaves Locker Room In Boot
Harbaugh stuck to his plan to play all of his regular healthy starters in Week 17 despite there being no chance of a playoff berth. One player suffered an injury, but it doesn't seem significant enough to require offseason surgery.
Linebacker C.J. Mosley was carted off the field in the fourth quarter after sustaining an injury to his leg while trying to make a tackle on Bengals running back Rex Burkhead.
"I don't have an injury report on him," Harbaugh said. "I don't think it was anything major though. We will know tomorrow, but I don't think there was anything serious."
Mosley was walking in a large protective boot after the game and told Zrebiec that he believes he suffered a calf strain, but won't know until he undergoes an MRI.
"Nothing that's going to require surgery or anything," Mosley said.
Mosely was voted to participate in the Pro Bowl later this month, but his attendance now seems to be in jeopardy, says Zrebiec.
Why Promote Reynolds, But Not Play Him?
The Ravens promoted sixth-round receiver/returner Keenan Reynolds from the practice squad Friday, causing many to think he would be getting a taste of his first NFL action.
But a couple hours before the game started, the Ravens announced the former Navy quarterback would be inactive in Cincinnati.
Why promote him to the 53-man roster if they weren't going to play him?
"In promoting Reynolds when they did, the Ravens made sure he'll be on their roster heading into next season," wrote Zrebiec. "If he ended the season on the practice squad, Reynolds, a sixth-round pick in the 2016 draft, would have been able to sign a reserve-future deal with another organization."