Ravens Could Lose Greg Roman to Another Team After Resurrecting Run Game
When Head Coach John Harbaugh announced Thursday that he isn't making any changes to his coaching staff, he added one caveat …
"If guys get opportunities to go somewhere and do some different things, we will see how that goes over the next couple of weeks," he said.
One of the people that could get an opportunity elsewhere is Greg Roman, the man brought to Baltimore last year to help resurrect the Ravens' rushing attack. That goal was largely accomplished, as Baltimore went from the NFL's 28th-ranked rushing game to the 11th.
"His departure would renew fears about a ground attack that improved markedly this season after being woefully inadequate the previous two seasons under Marc Trestman and then Mornhinweg," wrote WNST's Luke Jones. "A fair argument could be made to promote Roman and hire an outsider to work with Flacco and oversee the passing game, but the status quo will instead remain at the coordinator spot."
The Ravens improved by 24.6 yards per game, which is even more impressive when you remember they lost starting guards Marshal Yanda and Alex Lewis to season-ending injuries. Early in the year, the Ravens also dealt with starting running back Terrance West's injury, which ultimately gave way to the emergence of Alex Collins.
"The Ravens' running game was one of the most consistent parts of the team this season," wrote ESPN. "Roman mixed up the running schemes for each game, and Collins went from being cut by the Seattle Seahawks to the NFL's 10th-leading rusher. … How important is the Ravens' running game? Baltimore is 24-8 (.750) under coach John Harbaugh when producing a 100-yard rusher."
If Roman ends up getting an offensive coordinator position elsewhere, the Ravens obviously won't want any drop-off in production. There's reason to believe that could happen. The improvement was a team effort.
In addition to Roman's impressive schemes and coaching, the emergence of a dynamic and explosive back like Collins can't be denied as having a major impact. As an exclusive right free agent, Collins is expected to be back next season, along with Buck Allen and the return of Kenneth Dixon (injured reserve/suspension).
Another interesting note is the Ravens actually had the exact same average of 4.0 yards per carry in both 2016 and 2017. It suggests that, perhaps just as much as anything else, it was Baltimore's commitment to the run that helped sway the improvement.
The Ravens only had 343 rushing attempts in 2016, which was the NFL's third least. Mornhinweg called running plays a whopping 93 more times in 2017, the seventh most in the league. It resulted in the same average yards per carry, but demanded more respect from defenses and opened up play-action passes for quarterback Joe Flacco.
Obviously, the flow of the game dictates how many run plays can be called, but if Mornhinweg can show the same commitment to the run in 2018 that he showed this season, then the revival has a chance to continue.
"Now, the Ravens' run game is back on track," wrote ESPN. "The challenge next season could be repeating the success without Roman."
UPDATE 12:55 – Sporting News is reporting that Roman will indeed stay in Baltimore, and will get a new title – assistant head coach – as part of his new deal. "Baltimore stepped up to keep him in the fold," wrote Alex Marvez. "Roman is expected to continue to work closely with Ravens Offensive Coordinator Marty Mornhinweg."
Are Ravens Waiting on Chuck Pagano to Make a Decision?
There was thought that Harbaugh would announce the Ravens' next defensive coordinator at his press conference yesterday, but he did not. Instead, he shed light on the criteria he's using when choosing the next man for the job.
He said he would hire somebody that knows the Ravens' defensive system. He is open to somebody either inside or outside the organization, as long as the whole system doesn't change.
The fact that it's taken several days since Dean Pees announced his retirement Monday has left some wondering whether Harbaugh is waiting for a decision from former Indianapolis Head Coach Chuck Pagano, who was the Ravens defensive coordinator in 2011. Baltimore has reportedly been in touch with Pagano, trying to lure him back.
"By holding off on an announcement, the perception is Baltimore is waiting on a candidate outside the organization – likely former Indianapolis Colts coach Chuck Pagano – to decide whether he wants the job," wrote ESPN. "The Ravens traditionally promote from within, but they could've named linebackers coach Don 'Wink' Martindale this week if they wanted him to replace the retired Dean Pees."
Jones Believes Ravens Appear 'Too Comfortable'
There was never any indication that Harbaugh was going to move on from Mornhinweg as offensive coordinator, but many fans and several media members thought there was a chance after the offense finished 27th in the league in yards per game (305.4) and ninth in scoring (24.7 points).
Harbaugh said he thought Mornhinweg did an admirable job considering early injuries to key players and the lack of playmaking pass catchers. The injuries included Flacco (back), Yanda (ankle), Lewis (shoulder) and running back Danny Woodhead (hamstring). Harbaugh said it's "no secret" to the rest of the league that the Ravens' focus will be to add a playmaking wide receiver this offseason.
Despite it all, Harbaugh was encouraged by the improvement in the second half of the season once Flacco was healthy and the new offensive line gelled.
After having five coordinators in the past six years, Harbaugh and Flacco have both spoken this week about a desire to finally have continuity and let the offense get into a rhythm.
Outsiders are questioning that move.
"Is it continuity or complacency?" asked Jones. "Many are wondering if the Ravens are just plain comfortable these days despite having missed the playoffs in four of the last five seasons. Harbaugh's decision to retain Mornhinweg certainly doesn't do anything to debunk that perception.
"Having just finished his first decade in Baltimore, Harbaugh began Thursday's press conference not by lamenting his team not being good enough in 2017, but he instead expressed deep pride in his players' hard work to be the best they could be. That's a noble sentiment and not necessarily untrue, but it's not the opening message your fan base wants to hear four days after one of the biggest collapses and worst home losses in team history. This is a results-driven business in which praise for hard work and doing your best rings hollow when you fail in such a crucial situation."
Jones cited Harbaugh's bold move in 2012 to fire Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron in mid-December when the team was 9-4. The Ravens were on a path headed straight for the playoffs, but Harbaugh shook things up and Flacco went on to have an historical postseason run.
Jones wants to see a similar sense of urgency after missing the playoffs for the third consecutive year and a 40-40 record since lifting the Lombardi Trophy.
"The Ravens can't keep using the 'one play away' argument and expect their fans to buy it, evident by the thousands of empty seats at M&T Bank Stadium down the stretch," Jones wrote. "It will now be up to the front office to change the Ravens' perception to offer fans more hope for 2018 and beyond.
"[W]ill General Manager Ozzie Newsome and the Ravens finally change up their post-Super Bowl XLVII approach or offer more of the same? Will this organization do something to finally address its blind spot at the wide receiver position? Or will they stick with what's comfortable?"
Ravens and Bills' Crazy Paths/Graphs to the Playoffs
If you don't want to be reminded of just how oh-so-close the Ravens were to advancing to the postseason, don't look at the graphs below.
Numbers Fire plotted out the weekly playoff odds of each team, and it's fascinating to study. You can see how some teams really never had a chance starting from Week 1 until Week 17. The Cleveland Browns, San Francisco 49ers and Chicago Bears never had hope.
Other teams like the Oakland Raiders, Green Bay Packers and Denver Broncos started out with strong odds and then plummeted.
And then there's the Ravens and Buffalo Bills. You won't find a sharper change in opposite directions than these two teams had in Week 17. It's astounding and feels like a kick to the gut all over again.