Eight NFL teams are searching for a new head coach, and Ravens first-year Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale's unit finished ranked No. 1 in the league.
After such a strong season, it wouldn't be surprising to see Martindale get some calls, and on Wednesday, Head Coach John Harbaugh and safety Eric Weddle essentially gave their recommendation.
"His personality, his openness, his belief in us and how honest he is," Weddle said. "Good, bad or indifferent he always is up front with us. He makes a bad call, he mans-up to it. We're all one in that room. Guys play hard for him. I know a team would play lights-out for him if he ever got the opportunity. We love him to death. He's done an amazing job."
Harbaugh also had glowing words for Martindale, who took a defense with the same starters as last year and turned them into a more aggressive, cohesive unit. Martindale gave some of his key veteran players more power to react to what they see on the field, and he's motivated by setting high goals.
"Don Martindale did a great job. Not at all unexpected in any way. I've known him for 20, 25 years. We've coached together on-and-off; he's been with my dad. Just think the world of him, always have," Harbaugh said. "He's a great coach, he's great with people, very creative guy, just the whole package."
If any of his assistant coaches is asked to interview for a coaching vacancy, Harbaugh would be in full support.
"We give them every opportunity to look at that, specifically a head coaching job," Harbaugh said. "That would be something we would encourage.
"I think we have a great staff. I think we have a number of coaches that would be great head coaches. We already mentioned Don Martindale, [Offensive Coordinator] Marty Mornhinweg, [Assistant Head Coach/Tight Ends] Greg Roman, those guys because those guys are coordinators. [Special Teams Coordinator/Associate Head Coach] Jerry Rosburg would be a phenomenal head coach in this league, he's a tremendous leader. Those are the coordinator-type guys, but the other guys are going to be coordinators in this league and we have other great leaders too. We just have a phenomenal staff. I would hope they would get those kinds of opportunities."
Ravens Feel Less Pressure Now That They're in Playoffs
The Ravens had little margin for error the past two months, needing to win six of seven games to make the playoffs. This is no time to relax, facing a playoff game Sunday against the Los Angeles Chargers.
But Weddle thinks the Ravens are in a perfect place mentally to perform well in the postseason. After falling just short of making the playoffs in both 2016 and 2017, the Ravens ended a three-year playoff drought by playing their best football in November and December.
"It was a long offseason, everyone knows it," Weddle said. "(People) telling us how bad we were, guys can't play, can't finish games, yada-yada-yada. That was the motivation.
"We got in that situation on Sunday, there wasn't a guy that blinked or wasn't confident in the situation that we were going to go stop them, because we had been preparing for that moment for a year. That's what's driven us to be where we're at."
The playoffs are like a second season, and the Ravens are part of it. Harbaugh senses the players' excitement.
"There's energy," Harbaugh said. "The guys have been great all year. The energy's been there every week. We didn't lose any of that. Even when things looked daunting from the outside, our guys on the inside were great. It's been a long season, certainly. We played a lot of games, we were early. It's pro football. You bounce in the building playoffs week, you certainly feel like you're refreshed. It doesn't take a lot of sleep to get refreshed for playoffs."
RT Orlando Brown Jr. Modest About Not Allowing a Sack
How well has rookie Orlando Brown Jr. played since taking over as the starting right tackle? Not only is he throwing punishing blocks in the running game, but Brown has not allowed a quarterback sack in his 10 games as a starter, according to Pro Football Focus.
Brown is aware of that no-sack stat, but he doesn't take full credit.
"I should have given up two," Brown said. "[Chargers defensive end Melvin] Ingram beat me on a play last time we played them. It was a play-action pass and he beat me inside. Lamar (Jackson) made him miss. And I had a holding penalty against the Raiders on that John Brown pass, which I think would have been a sack.
"I set my standard at perfection and that's where I want to go. Be as perfect as possible. While I understand it's not going to be perfect all the time, I'm going to do my best to make sure I keep him protected."
Brown's constant quest to improve is one of the many reasons he is popular among players and coaches. Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda has been impressed with Brown's work ethic since Day 1.
"I think the kid's getting better every single week," Yanda said. "I think he's grown mentally, and I think he's definitely getting some confidence that he can play in this game. He's a big, strong man. He's doing a good job for us."
Sunday will be Brown's first taste of NFL playoff football, an experience he eagerly awaits. He was fortunate to reach the playoffs as a rookie, but he knows he shouldn't take that for granted after talking to veterans.
"It's an opportunity to go out here and play for these vets – to play for Marshal, Joe (Flacco), Smoke (John Brown), all of these older guys, Sizz (Terrell Suggs)," Brown said. "It's an opportunity to play my best ball for them."