Four Important Notes, Opinions And Questions About Standing Pat At Coordinator
It'd be an understatement to say Baltimore was surprised by Head Coach John Harbaugh's decision to retain Marty Mornhinweg as offensive coordinator.
Below are four important notes, opinions and questions about the decision:
1) Harbaugh's big gamble turns up the pressure.
Harbaugh made it clear that he makes coordinator decisions; it isn't Owner Steve Bisciotti or General Manager Ozzie Newsome. They consult and advise, but Harbaugh said that the call to keep or not keep a coach is completely his.
As such, fans and media say the move to retain Mornhinweg as the Ravens offensive coordinator after a season in which the unit struggled only turns the heat up on the head coach. ESPN's Jamison Hensley says sticking with Mornhinweg represents the "biggest gamble" of Harbaugh's nine-year career in Baltimore.
"Harbaugh's explanation for the way this nondecision was reached left little doubt whose job will be on the line if the Ravens don't enjoy a playoff renaissance next season," wrote The Baltimore Sun's Peter Schmuck.
"Harbaugh might live to regret his decision to maintain the status quo at offensive coordinator. Or the Ravens might end up making a deep playoff run in 2017. Regardless, Harbaugh took full ownership of the process Tuesday and said he can live with whatever comes."
Harbaugh was asked multiple questions about his own job status after making his coordinator announcements Tuesday. In the video to the right, he said he doesn't concern himself as much with keeping his job, as he concerns himself with doing his job. Everything else will fall into place if he does his job.
He added that he speaks frequently with Bisciotti and described their relationship as "great," but said he doesn't need constant validation.
And there is another side to this idea that retaining his coordinator turns up the pressure on himself.
The pressure to succeed as a head coach is always high, regardless of the circumstances. So even if Harbaugh moved on to a sixth offensive coordinator in as many years, would that really have decreased the pressure after missing the playoffs in consecutive years for the first time in his Ravens career?
NFL jobs change in the blink of an eye, and nobody is immune.
2) It may be a big gamble, but it's a calculated one, and there are reasons to stick with Mornhinweg.
It's fair to point out all the reservations that come with standing pat at coordinator, including whether the run-pass imbalance will be fixed, play calling will improve, or more points can be scored (the 22.6 average points under Mornhinweg ranked 18th in the NFL).
But as Harbaugh pointed out, it wasn't an "easier" decision to stick with Mornhinweg. In fact, it may have been easier to make another change. But, he put a lot of thought into who should lead the offense and he felt in his gut Mornhinweg was the answer.
"It was a stunning and unpopular move. But it was calculated," wrote Hensley.
"Harbaugh is taking into account that not all of the offensive troubles stemmed from Mornhinweg. Quarterback Joe Flacco didn't see the field well and rushed more throws one year removed from knee surgery. The offensive line didn't consistently protect Flacco or open up holes in the running game. And the offense lacked game-breakers at wide receiver, tight end and running back. In Harbaugh's mind, Mornhinweg wasn't the problem. He could, however, be part of the solution."
Here are some of those calculated reasons that Mornhinweg can be part of the solution:
- Consistency. Six coordinators in six years is too many. Players deserve to get acclimated to an offense and try to thrive in it.
- Mornhinweg's relationship with the players. "Harbaugh saw that Mornhinweg had the support of the players, especially Flacco," wrote Hensley. "The Ravens are banking on Mornhinweg's connection and rapport with the $66.4 million franchise quarterback."
- Keeping the West Coast offense, and using it in a way that suits Flacco.
"Trestman's system wasn't a good fit for Flacco as it required more interpretation and was more expansive than Gary Kubiak's black-and-white version of the West Coast offense," wrote WNST's Luke Jones. "The belief exists that Mornhinweg can cultivate a more cut-and-dry system this offseason more closely resembling Kubiak's structure, which should help Flacco play with more confidence. We'll see."
3) Harbaugh reportedly looked around, but was there really a better option?
It sounds like Harbaugh did some homework on other offensive coordinators candidates, but presumably didn't like anything better than what he already had.
NFL Network's Ian Rapoport was surprised by the decision because of Harbaugh's research.
"He had been mulling a potential offensive coordinator change, doing some background checks, reaching out on potential candidates," Rapoport said. "But in the end, decided to stick with Marty Mornhinweg."
Some popular potential candidates included Norv Turner, Mike McCoy, Greg Roman and Rick Dennison. Hensley explains why none of them were clearly better than Mornhinweg.
"The only proven upgrade over Mornhinweg would've been Gary Kubiak, who got Flacco back on track in 2014," Hensley wrote. "But Kubiak is retiring after stepping down as the Denver Broncos head coach.
"The other options obviously didn't excite Harbaugh enough to make the change at coordinator. Norv Turner turns 65 next season. Mike McCoy would've forced the Ravens to go back to Cam Cameron's system. Greg Roman doesn't have a history of devising strong passing attacks."
Harbaugh said Monday that while he isn't changing his offensive coordinator, he does anticipate some changes on the offensive staff. He is already scouting candidates to help bring more creativity to the scheme, and there is a vacancy for the quarterbacks coaching job.
"An intriguing choice would've been Broncos offensive coordinator Rick Dennison because of his familiarity with Kubiak's system," Hensley wrote. "It wouldn't be shocking if the Ravens bring back Dennison in another role to help with game planning."
4) Does Mornhinweg deserve a fair chance to succeed?
When the Ravens made an in-season change from Trestman to Mornhinweg, comparisons were immediately made to when the Ravens fired Cam Cameron and promoted Jim Caldwell. The move sparked the offense, and the team went on to win Super Bowl XLVII.
In hindsight, that comparison and high standard may not have been appropriate.
"To be fair, Mornhinweg was put in a tough spot taking over for an offense that had been a mess since the start of the 2015 season," wrote Jones. "For every success story like Jim Caldwell taking over for Cam Cameron late in the 2012 season, there are countless examples of an in-season coordinator change making little or no impact. With a full offseason to revamp the offense, Mornhinweg could very well make improvements as he has orchestrated viable offenses in the past.
"Ultimately, Harbaugh's decision to retain Mornhinweg reflects a belief that the Ravens need more talent rather than better coaching. The two aren't mutually exclusive, of course, but no one would argue that the Ravens' skill players on offense have been on par with those of Pittsburgh and Cincinnati in recent years. Even with a blue-chip coordinator — and I'm not sure there's truly one out there with Kubiak not only stepping down in Denver but retiring from coaching altogether — it's difficult to imagine this offense blossoming without significant upgrades at wide receiver and center at the very least."
Hester Finds His Way Into Playoffs
Three weeks after being released from the Ravens, veteran returner Devin Hester has found his way into the playoffs with the Seattle Seahawks.
The Seahawks needed to make a move after losing speedy second-year return man Tyler Lockett, who broke his leg in Week 16. Hester will have to get acclimated to his team quickly, as Seattle opens the playoffs Saturday night against the Detroit Lions.
Hester has the NFL's best credentials as a four-time Pro Bowl returner and holds the NFL record for career return touchdowns. But, he didn't look like his former self in Baltimore, where he shied away from fielding punts and struggled securing the ball.
"He lost one fumble and regularly cost the team field position by failing to step up and field punts in traffic," wrote the Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec.
Could Ravens Be Featured On 'Hard Knocks' Again?
The Ravens kicked off HBO's "Hard Knocks" after winning Super Bowl XXXV, and the show still continues to go strong. Baltimore hasn't been featured again, but that could change this year.
The team became eligible for the documentary series after missing the playoffs for the second consecutive year.
"Any NFL team can volunteer to be featured on 'Hard Knocks,' but the league typically appoints one," wrote The Baltimore Sun's Jonas Shaffer. "The preconditions, established during an NFL owners meeting in 2013, protect the league's most successful and most turbulent teams: 'All organizations will be eligible with the exception of those that have a first-year head coach; teams that have made the playoffs in at least one of the last two seasons; and teams that have participated in the previous 10 seasons.'
"The Ravens do not have a first-year head coach. They did not make the playoffs in either of the past two seasons."
Urschel Named To Forbes' '30 Under 30' In The Field Of Science
Congratulations to Ravens guard John Urschel for being name to Forbes' "30 Under 30" in the field of science.
"Urschel has published six peer-reviewed mathematics papers to date and has three more ready for review," Forbes wrote. "That's a respectable publication history for someone who only started pursuing their PhD at MIT this year. He's won academic awards for his math prowess. All this while playing guard for the Baltimore Ravens."