Jets Request Interviews With Kubiak, DeCosta
It didn't take long for the aftereffects of Black Monday to reach the Ravens.
And it's no surprise that at least one struggling franchise – and maybe more to come – is interested in two men who played a key part in Baltimore's sixth playoff berth in the last seven years.
The New York Jets requested interviews with Ravens Offensive Coordinator Gary Kubiak and Assistant General Manager Eric DeCosta, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter and the New York Daily News' Manish Mehta, respectively.
From the moment Kubiak was hired, speculation ensued that he could be one-and-done in Baltimore. But he has been focused on the task at hand.
Under Kubiak's leadership, the Ravens offense reached its highest ranking in 17 years. The unit reached franchise single-season records in points scored (409)* *and total yards (5,838), and quarterback Joe Flacco reached career highs in touchdown passes (27) and passing yards (3,986). The run game improved from No. 30 last season to No. 8 this year.
Asked whether he'd want to be a head coach again before the Week 15 matchup against the Houston Texans, who Kubiak coached for eight years before joining the Ravens, the 53-year-old Kubiak said:
"I'm consumed with what I'm doing. Every opportunity I've ever had in my life hopefully is because I'm doing a good job and working my tail off where I'm at. If you're worrying about those things, you don't enjoy what you're doing at the time. And boy am I enjoying what I'm doing right now."
Schefter's report did not indicate whether Kubiak would accept the interview, but conventional wisdom suggests he wouldn't officially accept or decline while the Ravens remain in the playoffs. The Jets also have a list of five other candidates.
"If Kubiak were to leave, Flacco would be getting his fourth offensive coordinator in four seasons," wrote ESPN's Jamison Hensley. "With the way Flacco has played, the Ravens would want to hire someone familiar with Kubiak's style of West Coast offense."
Meanwhile, the annual flirting with DeCosta began right on cue.
DeCosta is typically a top candidate for general manager positions each January, but he has decided not to leave because of his position and contract with the Ravens.
His contract reportedly compensates him at the level of an NFL GM and sets him up as the general manager when Ozzie Newsome decides to retire. DeCosta has turned down teams in the past for their GM vacancies, including the Chicago Bears, Seattle Seahawks and Oakland Raiders.
Can the Jets succeed where other teams have failed in luring away DeCosta? It would be considered an upset if they did.
DeCosta has yet to formally accept or decline a chat with the Jets.
He spoke with The Baltimore Sun, and didn't give any indication that he will,simply praising the men with whom he works.
"It's a relationship business," DeCosta told Aaron Wilson. "I'm fortunate to work with a bunch of great guys. It's a great place to work. I appreciate that side of the business. Individual achievement comes and goes. At the end of the day, you look at the guys you work with, and the friendships you develop, and that's the most important thing. We have a great team of guys who have their roles … we work very well together."
Did One Catch Secure Return Of Torrey?
Did this one catch secure the return of Torrey Smith next season?
That is the question Baltimore Beatdown's Jason Butt is asking as the Ravens wide receiver is scheduled to become a free agent.
Smith's 53-yard catch snapped the Ravens out of a three-quarter funk, and has been credited as a season-saving reception, along with his 16-yard touchdown catch on the very next play.
"Smith has had a knack for coming down with clutch passes in the past. This catch was the most clutch this season," Butt wrote.
"The Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee is the kind of player you want representing your franchise. He's constantly doing community work when he's not on the football field. He never complains if the ball isn't going his way in a given game. He plays through injuries. He's played a huge role in team wins over the past four years. A durable receiver, Smith has yet to miss a game in his career."
Smith hasn't posted the best numbers of his career. The opposite is actually true in many categories. He had career lows in catches (49), yards (767) and average yards per catch (15.7). But he's had a career high in touchdowns (11), perhaps the most important stat of all.
His lows could be attributed to the arrival of Steve Smith Sr., who notched over 1,000 yards, and Kubiak, who installed a new offensive system. It may have taken time for Torrey Smith to adjust.
Regardless of his numbers, if the younger Smith comes up big in the playoffs, he could earn valuable leverage come negotiation time, like Flacco did two years ago.
For Butt, the four-year receiver has already done enough to prove he belongs in a Ravens uniform for years to come.
"Smith is entering the prime of his career and showed why he's a valuable asset to the Ravens," Butt wrote. "It could be a difficult negotiation process with the Ravens wanting to get the best value possible with Smith feeling he deserves more. But despite the dip in his yardage total, Smith has proved over the past four years that he's worthy of being back with the franchise.
"The Ravens should do the right thing and lock him up this offseason."
McPhee Is Going To Get Paid
It seems counterintuitive to be discussing offseason moves with Kubiak, DeCosta and Smith, but we're on a roll, so let's just finish up with Pernell McPhee.
The outside linebacker set a career high in sacks with 7.5, and he's been an all-around wrecking machine this season, leading The Sun's Childs Walker to believe the pending free agent will cash in.
"McPhee is going to get paid this offseason," Walker wrote. "This year, he has emerged as a steady force, every bit as important as Terrell Suggs or Elvis Dumervil. He has done it just in time to hit the free-agent market in the offseason. Name me a team that wouldn't want a top-notch pass rusher with the size and speed to line up anywhere from outside linebacker to defensive tackle.
"This could be yet another case of the Ravens identifying and developing an underappreciated talent, then losing him to an aggressive market."
Hensley: Ravens Don't Appear Overly Concerned With Monroe
Starting left tackle Eugene Monroe reportedly missed practice again after not practicing last week and missing the Browns game with an ankle injury.
That means the Ravens may have to turn to undrafted rookie James Hurst again to protect Flacco's blindside against the Steelers' pesky pass rush.
But to Hensley, the Ravens didn't appear overly concerned that they might not have their veteran tackle. Head Coach John Harbaugh told media Monday that he "doesn't have a problem" with Hurst playing the position after not allowing a sack or hurry in Sunday's game against the Browns.
"To insinuate there's not much of a drop-off is a telling comment about Monroe, who has been among the bigger disappointments this season," wrote Hensley. "The Ravens signed Monroe to a five-year, $37.5 million deal nine months ago, and he hasn't lived up to his $17.5 million guaranteed money (which ranks 15th among offensive tackles)."
Monroe has missed five games due to injury this season, and is ranked No. 119 among tackles by Pro Football Focus. Hurst is ranked No. 137.
Protecting Flacco is one of the top priorities Saturday against the Steelers.* *When trying to pinpoint the difference in Flacco from his struggles in the first three quarters to the clutch Flacco in the final quarter, the stats suggest protection played a key role.
According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Browns stopped sending pressure. They only blitzed once in the fourth quarter, after doing it one-third of the time in the first three.
"Flacco can expect more pressure Saturday, when the Ravens play the Pittsburgh Steelers in the first round of the playoffs. In two meetings, the Steelers blitzed Flacco on 38 of his 55 dropbacks (69 percent)," wrote Hensley.
Skip Bayless Says Ravens Are Biggest Threat
Several analysts are predicting a one-and-done playoff appearance by the Ravens (even though that's never happened under Harbaugh), but there is at least one person who views them as a real threat.
And it comes from one of the unlikeliest pundits: ESPN's Skip Bayless.
Bayless has frequently criticized the Ravens in the past, especially Flacco, who Bayless likes to call Joe Fluke-o.
In the video below, both Bayless and Steven A. Smith discuss which team has the best chance of knocking out the Patriots, who are considered the AFC favorite.
"Baltimore is the classic 'on any given Sunday' team," Bayless says in the video below. "When you least expect it [the quarterback] will go from Fluke-o back to Flacco. And when he's on, he is really on. I'm gonna go with Baltimore winning that game, and I'm gonna go with Baltimore being the biggest threat to New England."
- The Steelers open as field-goal favorites over the Ravens in the wild-card round. [ProFootballTalk.com]
- Former Ravens safety and future Hall of Famer Ed Reed feels Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh should have received more than a one-game suspension for intentionally stepping on Packers quarterback Aaron Rodger's injured leg. "When you have stuff like this in the game, that shouldn't be tolerated," Reed said on Inside the NFL. "He probably should have [been suspended more than one game] because of the things that he's been doing up to this point – kicking guys and really disrespecting the game of football and the brotherhood that we have. Some things you just don't do." Turns out, Suh won't be suspended at all anymore. He won his appeal and will instead be fined. [ProFootballTalk.com]
- The Steelers signed running back Ben Tate Tuesday as an insurance policy to starter Le'Veon Bell (knee). They aren't ruling Bell out, however, and he has been working out on a stationary bike and receiving treatment. "If you're looking for comfort, it is [a good sign]," Tomlin said at his weekly news conference, "but there won't be any bikes on the field Saturday night." Meanwhile, Harbaugh is not for one second buying that Bell won't play. [ESPN]
- "Ngata didn't exude much remorse while talking to reporters, failing to apologize to his teammates, coaches or fans," wrote Hensley. My take? While Ngata didn't technically say "I apologize" my impression is that he was apologetic based off his opening statement to media. "I just want to start off by saying I did make a mistake," he said. "I'm glad the team was able to get us in the playoffs. Hopefully I can help them out on this playoff run. … I feel like I owe these guys." [ESPN]