OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR GREG ROMAN PRESS CONFERENCE
Opening statement:"I'd like to thank everybody for being here today. I'd like to thank Steve Bisciotti, John Harbaugh and Eric [DeCosta], specifically, for this opportunity – very excited about it. I'd also like to thank my comrades-in-arms, the offensive staff. David Culley is a new addition to our staff. Dave is going to factor in big to what we do and how we do it. He isn't here right now. He's on assignment, and don't ask me what that assignment is. (laughter) I'd also like to bring to light Bobby Engram, who is a very valuable member of our staff, who is moving over to lend his expertise to the tight ends with Andy Bischoff. I'd like to highlight, as well, Matt Weiss, who has been a very important member of this organization for quite a few years. He's moving into the running back coach role, so we're very excited about that. James Urban, who works directly with our quarterbacks on a day-in and day-out basis. Joe D'Alessandris, who works feverishly with our offensive line, along with Rich Angulo. And Craig Ver Steeg, another valuable member of our staff who has been here for quite a while and seen a lot of different kinds of offenses, been a part of many of them, and also Travis Switzer and T.J. Weist, who do a lot of the dirty work behind the scenes.
"I'm very excited for this opportunity to be the offensive coordinator of the Baltimore Ravens. It's a great organization, and there's a lot of knowledge in this building, a lot of experience. It's a first-class organization in every way, and we're in the throes right now offensively of pretty much reimagining our offense. Lamar Jackson is a unique, special player. I think we noticed that the moment he got here on campus, and with any quarterback, there's a curve to excel in the NFL game. And, we saw him do that this year, leading us to many victories and a playoff berth. So, we're trying to really, soup to nuts, from the ground up … I've mentioned we're really kneading dough, pouring flour on it, trying to hit the sweet spot with how we put this offense together. We're all excited about that, and we've been working pretty hard at it. It's been a lot of fun. I'll just throw it out to you if there are any questions."
You talk about an overhaul, but did the first big step occur at the end of last season? Are you basically honing on what the offense was there, or is it really something completely different than that? (David Ginsburg)"I think you're going to see a lot of elements of that this year, but I think it really behooved us to really look at everything we do and put a timestamp on it and how relevant all of it is in this day and age. [There are] a couple different angles I'd like to hit on here: No. 1, when you really look at college athletes, college football players specifically, today and how they learn the systems they're presented with, their experiences, I think, are very different than they were 10, 20 years ago. There has been a lot of innovation there, and I think when they get on campus here, it's different than it was 10 or 15 or 20 years ago. A lot of these guys haven't been in a huddle. A lot of these guys don't even call plays. They're signaled from the sideline, or they show them pictures, for example. So, to really simplify it, it's more of a bullet-point approach that they're exposed to, and that's what their experience is. I think we have run an offense here that has been kind of morphed over the years, and we really want to start fresh, start new, and from everything, from our language, from our formations, how we do everything, rebuild the thing from the ground up. And that's one angle. The other angle is, really, how do we want to move forward with Lamar Jackson? He's a unique player with a unique skillset, so let's build an offense that really accommodates that, as opposed to try to fit him into something that other people had once done."
You've been around for a while. How invigorating is it to have this opportunity to start something fresh and rebuild it? (Jeff Zrebiec) "It's really exciting. I think it all starts with the people you're with. I'm around some great people here, all around, so it's very exciting. [I'm] very excited about the players we have here, the type of guys they are and am looking forward to what the future holds as this roster gets shaped up. I'm very excited to be part of this organization, and I've got a lot of experience to lean on, and that's a great thing. But moving forward, myself and the entire staff, we've got a lot of big decisions to make, and we're really excited about that."
Clearly, everybody around here is excited about QB Lamar Jackson, but he presents a couple weaknesses as well – his inconsistency throwing the football and also putting the ball on the turf. Are you confident that you can get him to where those become less problematic? (Stan Charles) "Let me address the putting the ball on the turf first. I think he knows, we know, and we all collectively know that we can't do that. That's No. 1, and that's going to be a big emphasis. I feel very strongly that that's going to get taken care of without question. That is first and foremost. Secondly, Lamar has a unique skillset, and just like any young guy, he's going to develop. So, as far as him throwing the football, we feel great about it, and we saw a lot of improvement last year throughout the season. And really, he's only going to get better from here. And, I think there are some fundamental things that were exposed to him last year that he's really grabbed hold of, and we saw improve. I would say that I don't know how much they were really, really emphasized in the college game with him. He had a unique ability in college to play a unique style, and I think decisions were made to focus on certain areas when he was in college. The sky is the limit there."
How much input are you going to have as far as free-agent receivers and running backs and guys like that? (Todd Karpovich) "First off, we have a great personnel department here, and they're always going to ask for our advice and get our input. But they'll make those decisions, and we feel great about that. I don't think we really do anything without talking through it as a group, so I feel very good about that process."
We spoke to you before the changeover in quarterback. When QB Lamar Jackson did come in and was rolling for you guys, did anything change for you on a day-to-day basis? What was kind of a normal work week like for you when Lamar was there and the run game was so heavily-featured? (Jonas Shaffer)"I think we leaned on it more." (Reporter: "But just your day-to-day responsibilities, I guess?") "I think my responsibilities were pretty consistent, and I'd say it was definitely a group effort. Some of that stuff is certainly things I had done in the past, so I might have leaned on that a little bit more. But I think our staff has worked well together, and we look forward to continuing working well together."
Knowing you can't have contact with him, do you know what QB Lamar Jackson has been up to since the season ended? (Jerry Coleman) "Of course. Yes, good question. I think Lamar, there's a plan in place, and Lamar is working, and I think it's a really good plan. We feel great about it, and we'll say 'hi' and whatnot, but that's really the extent of it this time of year. So, I think before he left, there was a good plan put in place. He's a young man that is young, but he loves to win, and I think he has a great perspective on the NFL and what it takes to be successful. I do think, like most great players I've been around, that he's probably his harshest critic, and that's a beautiful thing. So, I do think that a great plan is there, and we'll see him in April when he shows up, and I'm sure he'll have another club in his bag." (Reporter: "Are you allowed to expand on the plan? Is he working…") "Yes, he's working and whatnot, but I'll leave it at that for now."
How much do you, in trying to build this new offense, do you go back and look at what you did with QB Colin Kaepernick with the 49ers in particular, or is there more, "Let's look more recently in college stuff or elsewhere in the NFL for more recent trends," or was that such a significant point in the similarity – while you mention "unique" a lot, there are a lot of similarities with him and Colin? (Pete Gilbert)"I'll tell you, like everything, for some reason I can't remember when my wife asks me to grab something at the store, I have to call her and say, 'What was that again?' But, I can remember everything that ever happened in football that I've been related to. So, I've got that stuff. We've done some of it, and that stuff is up in my mind, but we're always looking for anything that might help us. If we see things on college tape that would fit us, we would definitely talk about that. So, I think our offense moving forward, we'll have a very broad core of what we do, but there will always be ancillary things that we will get into as well."
How close were you to leaving? It seems like you were getting some nibbles, and things move along pretty quick. (Kirk McEwen) "I was never close to leaving at all. I think this just happened the way it did, and here we are. But no, I was never close to leaving."
I know you mentioned him earlier, but why did assistant head coach/wide receivers coach/passing coordinator David Culley fit what you guys wanted to do here, and what is that dynamic going to be like that you expect once things get rolling? (Aaron Kasinitz) "I think that's a great question. I've known David over the years. There are some of us. James [Urban] has worked with him before, coach [John] Harbaugh has worked with him before, but David has an outstanding history of getting players to perform. It's quite simply just production. He has a great background. He spent 18 years with Andy Reid, and I do think he's got a vast knowledge of football and what it takes to win in this league. So, he's going to be a huge part of what we do moving forward. I think, really, all of us, or any coach, really, getting players to perform consistently is the No. 1 task at hand, and he has done that as good as anybody in the National Football League for quite a while. And then, I think he brings also a unique perspective. He was part of a pretty prolific offense – several of them, most recently in Kansas City – so he's got some really good ideas that we can build into our system."
It seems like a prominent theme this offseason for the Ravens building an offense around QB Lamar Jackson. What sort of pieces do you think that requires to really highlight and get the most out of him? (Jeff Zrebiec) "I think your question is a very good one. We talk a lot about Lamar, and let's face it, it takes all 11 on the field to make it work. So, we talk about Lamar a lot and his unique skillset and his talent, but we've got to have a strong, powerful offensive line. That's where it all starts, is domination up front and control up front. I don't care what passes … Unless you want to be throwing one-step screen passes the whole game, you better be able to block people. And, I don't care what back you get. If there's no space to run, he's going to be fighting an uphill battle. So, it all starts up front. We've got a lot of really good pieces in place here right now, for sure, and we're always looking to get better. As far as running backs nowadays, I do think you've got to have a stable of them. So, however that unfolds, we could have a guy with one particular skillset. We could have the downhill guy. We like them all. We'll fit them in. We'll make them work. We're very flexible. We've got some really good, young tight ends. As far as the receivers position, guys that can get open, catch the ball, but I think one thing that's unique, we need that tough guy, too, here that can go out and block a nickel, block a safety and win that matchup. I think that's very important here as we move forward. And then, it's our job to put them in the best places, the best spots. But, we love the core of what we have here, and we're always looking to expand on it. It will be exciting to see how it unfolds."
You made it clear that you're not part of the personnel department, but with QB Lamar Jackson's skillset comes the risk of injury. Would you prefer to have a backup quarterback that has his same sort of skillset? (Stan Charles) "I think the No. 1 criteria for the backup quarterback position is that he is a good quarterback. Now, if he happens to be a very athletic, good quarterback, I think now we're really hitting on all cylinders. Now, we can really keep some cohesion if either were to be in the game. But, I don't think we want to sacrifice overall production for a particular style. If we can eat the whole cake, we would prefer to."
Offensive coordinators, a lot of the focus is put on play-calling, often praised or criticized for play-calling. How much are you looking forward to that part of the job as a play-caller, and do you have any basic philosophies as a play-caller? (Cliff Brown )"Let me answer your last question first. My philosophy is winning comes first. I'm not chasing stats. Job justification stats, water cooler talk – I'm not really into that. I'm into whatever helps the team to win. I think along with that, though, certain things … A physical style, meaning we're in control, and it starts up front, but it extends everywhere; it's a mindset. [I'm] very big on approaching the game from that perspective. I also want to stress balance. [We] want to put our players in positions where the defense can't call out our plays before the play. Now, if they can, and we're still doing good, we're pretty good. (laughter) But in this league, everything is so competitive that we want to grab every edge we can and put our players in the best situations as we can. From a play-calling standpoint, I don't like to leave popcorn on the ground. I don't like to leave that trail. I like to make my thumbprints a little bit fuzzy to figure out what we may or may not do. I'm not really looking to blow up a statistical category. I'm looking to blow up the win column. And then, when that happens, that really frees things up for you to really kind of go off in different directions. I hope that makes sense. Now, as far as the criticism, it comes with the job. The praise comes with the job, and neither of them really matter. They just come with the job, so I welcome both and am looking forward to a lot of success moving forward."
When people talk about QB Lamar Jackson, they talk about the improvement he must make as a passer. What excites you the most when you see Lamar as a passer?_ (Jamison Hensley)_"I'll tell you what, he has a great feel for the game, and he can do things you can't coach in the passing game. He has really, really good field vision, and that's something we noticed last spring. You could put a progression to a passing route, like, 'Hey, I'm going one to two to three.' You could have him read the coverage and figure out where to throw it. But often times, he'll just see guys open. He'll see leverage take place. Not all guys are like that, so that is a great starting point. I feel like even last spring we felt like, 'Wow, this guy Lamar – he can see things.' He's not going to be the guy that's [like], 'Oh man, they dropped coverage on him, and he just didn't see it.' I think that is a critical … It's hard to measure or see, but moving forward, what does that do? It takes the ceiling and moves it up, because we know that ceiling is going to be even higher. Steve McNair was like that, for example. Steve had an uncanny ability to just see guys that might not have been part of the progression as having good leverage. I want to say maybe the second week [Jackson] was here last year, I was like, 'Wow, that's something Steve would've done in practice.' I feel great about that."
Are you going to be calling plays from the sidelines or in the box? (Jerry Coleman) "Not sure yet. I've kind of done both, and there are plusses and minuses to both. We'll see how we, as a staff, feel like the best system will be. But that might be a late add. I might mix it up in the preseason; I might do a little bit of both."
A lot of people say the Chargers, the second time looking at QB Lamar Jackson, figured it out and were able to shut this offense down. Was that a simple case of the Chargers just playing a terrific game? Is there something to seeing Jackson a second time? Is there a novelty that's an advantage that goes away? You're going to see each AFC North team twice, and I wonder how you assess that? (Bo Smolka)"I definitely think it's an advantage, like when you're facing a pitcher in baseball, and he strikes you out a couple times, and you get a feel for him. There's probably an advantage there, right? I definitely feel like that had really nothing to do with the game. I think our approach and how we turned the ball over, [how] we had some bad field position on offense – we're just not very happy with how we performed or coached in that game. They didn't really do anything different than the game we played in California. They played maybe slightly different technique. They played a really good game – hats off to them. But to answer your question: Each week is a challenge, and I don't think there's a code you can crack. I definitely think the more we move into this offense with Lamar, we'll be able to do a little bit more and present more problems for people to have to worry about. It's a good question, and an interesting question. But I think it comes down to our plan and how that plan was executed."
While you were in San Francisco, you used a lot of 12 personnel with TE Delanie Walker and TE Vernon Davis. Now you have TE Mark Andrews and TE Hayden Hurst. How do you plan to use them in a similar way, if you do it all? (Kyle Andrews)"Wow, that's a great question. Those two young guys, we're really excited about. We could get in to three tight ends based on what happens with our other tight end position as well. We could incorporate a fullback into that. We could be in 12 personnel quite a bit. So, we'll just see how it all shakes out. But those two young guys I feel like … Mark had a rough training camp, and then all of a sudden, before we play the Redskins in the preseason, he really came on big, grabbed the brass ring. Hayden was at that point and had an unfortunate injury with his foot, took about two months to come back from. But they both finished the year strong, and I think with a year under their belt, you're going to see a lot more of them this coming year. They might not just be lined up in traditional tight ends role either; they might be anywhere. It's going to be fun to really expand what they do."
You touched on the running backs earlier, but how much of a priority do you think it is to identify someone – whether it's someone you already have or someone outside – that can give you more as a receiver out of the back end? Not just making catches, but yards after the catch? It seems like that's an element this offense hasn't had for a few years. (Luke Jones) "That's definitely part of the equation. I wouldn't put it – for us – at the top of the list. Now, if we had a guy present himself [and] really showed that he could excel in that area, and we felt great about how the rest of the stable shaped up as far as running the ball – I think, if that makes sense, that might be more of a priority. However they present themselves, we'll use them in such a way. I do feel though that in our system, the ability to run the ball comes first. Then, if we can find a guy that really excels in that [receiving] area – we'd love to have him. But el numero uno for us is: Here's the ball, and now go run with it."
Everywhere you've been as a coach, your teams have run the ball. The question I'm sure you faced throughout is [about] the passing game. Is that an unfair question given how those teams have been built? How important is it going to be marrying both of those as you guys move forward? _(Jeff Zrebiec) _"If you look at total yards and whatnot, I think it's a pretty obvious question. But if you look at efficiency, wins and losses and yards per attempt – things like that, more relevant stats – I think if you dig deeper, you'll find that it really added up to a really good winning formula. I made this statement before: Those obvious stats sometimes aren't the most important. Like yards, for example, if you look at all the 300-yard passers from this past season. There's nothing wrong with passing for 300, but when you look at how many of those games were attached with a win, you might be surprised. I'm looking for more of an efficient passing game that we build, that can take advantage of all the looks we get to stop the run and create point producing plays, big chunk plays and efficiency situationally – third down, in the red zone, two-minute, all those clutch situations. That's when you find out how good your passing game really is. I feel good about our staff, what we're putting together now, and we'll see how the roster shapes up. I think that's a 'wait and see' thing. I feel very confident about it though."
Obviously, QB Lamar Jackson is relying on the 10 people around him. When he was struggling as a passer, what were some of the things that were tripping him up? (Jonas Shaffer)"I think fundamentally is where he needs to put most of his work into. I think where to throw the ball, seeing guys open, those are the things he just naturally has. I do think those innate abilities have allowed him to get to where he's been. Moving forward, the consistent fundamentals are really going to take him to the next level, because he has all the ability in the world. He has the right mindset – nothing fazes him either. He has all those intrinsic things. I think he's one heck of a natural leader, too. But time on task fundamentally is really what's going to bring him to the next level." (Reporter: "Do you think this being his second offseason, and not having to worry so much about his head swimming with all that NFL Combine stuff, would be the offseason to make that leap fundamentally?") "It's really his first offseason when you really think about it. Those guys, that treadmill they get on pre-draft and whatnot — the banquet circuit and whatnot — you know, this is really his first offseason."
In several games, it seemed like QB Lamar Jackson ran the ball over 15 times. Everybody that I talk to say he can't continue to do that. There's an expression that "discretion is the better part of valor." When he's outside, would you like to see him get out of bounds without taking a hit? It seems like several times he would think he could get another two or three yards. Are those yards worth the hit? (Stan Charles) _"Does it get us a first down?" _(laughter) (Reporter: "I don't know. I can't say.")"OK. Well, I think he's got to kind of know the situation. One thing I've learned — I've worked for quite a while with very athletic quarterbacks that could impact games with their legs — is I think it's a little overrated, the whole danger thing. Why? Because, and this is empirical data here, over the years you kind of realize that when a quarterback decides to run, he's in control. So now [if] he wants to slide, he can slide. If he wants to dive, he can dive, get out of bounds – all of those different things. He can get down, declare himself down. A lot of the time, the situations that [have] more danger are when he doesn't see what's coming — my eyes are downfield, I'm standing stationary from the pocket, somebody is hitting me from the blindside. My experience, and I kind of learned this, is that when the quarterback takes the ball and starts to run, there's not a lot of danger involved in that relative to other situations. Now, how does he handle those situations, to your point? Yes, last year for example, was a learning curve for him on how he would handle a situation. Do we really want to take those hits? Why would I cut back against the grain when I could take it out the front door into space? All of those things started last year." (Reporter: "How much with him is that he doesn't see it [as] two or three yards, he sees it [as an] 8- or 10-yard [gain]?") "A little bit, I think, if I understand your question. I think you have to be very judicious on realizing the big picture, to your point."
You mentioned that a lot of college players don't huddle much and get stuff from the sideline. Is it possible that we may see more of no-huddle from you guys next season? What are the pros and cons if you decide to do that? (Cliff Brown)"I think no-huddle and hurry-up stuff is definitely going to be a part of what we do. Huddling is important. I think we were up there in time of possession last year, and I think our defense was liking that. I think that's part of a good formula to keep your defense rested when you can, so huddling is a good part of that. We will also incorporate quick tempos, all different kinds of tempos, really. We'll have four or five different tempos we can employ. Huddling is a good thing over the long course of time. Really, it's part of controlling the game. But also, when we want to change it up or start out fast or change gears in mid-stream, we'll have different ways we can get to a hurry-up system."
Your coaching career started in the NFL, which is kind of unusual. Then you took a year when you went to the high school level. I know that was a while ago, but how much do you think that season changed your coaching perspective? (Jamison Hensley) "It was a great experience for me, just working with the young kids. It was my first experience into really trying to … You have very limited time, and you might have to pick up a kid and get him to practice and this guy doesn't have a ride, [and now] I've got to go get him. You've got to somehow make it work. What you learn is, maybe streamline how you teach things a little bit, because time, attention spans, all those things – there are a lot of distractions for the kids at that age."
Getting back to building the offense from the ground up and what you guys have been doing here. How different have these last couple weeks been than what traditionally an offensive staff would be doing at this time? (Jeff Zrebiec)"Yes, we got on it pretty quick. We knew that, really, to do it right … I think [quarterbacks coach] James Urban, [senior offensive assistant] Craig Ver Steeg, said, 'Man, I've always wanted to do this, because it really didn't make sense, what we called this or how we did this. I've always wanted to do this.' So we decided to do it. In order to do it, you've got to really start off at the most basic points. I've kind of compared it to putting your kid's furniture together from IKEA or something. If you make one wrong move, you've got to take the whole thing apart and start over again. Has anybody done that before? (laughter) So you know what I'm talking about. It's a time intensive thing where you start off, what are we calling these routes? If you call the route this, when we put it into this concept, it's got to [transfer] to mean … It's got to all fit together. It's a real grind and a lot of fun. We're working our way through it right now. We're really looking at this as a completely new beginning, as if we were a new staff."
Last year when you put QB Lamar Jackson in there, John Harbaugh said it could be historic with a running-quarterback-type of offense. Do you think this is the way the game is coming and going with all the different college quarterbacks coming out this way? Why do you think nobody is going all in before this?_ (Stan White) "It's a great question. I think there is definitely a possible future where this style of quarterback is more prevalent – just the way college offenses are going. That's where we get our players from. I don't know that it's going to be a wholesale shift in that direction, but I think from our perspective, Lamar Jackson is a very good quarterback who's developing, but he's got also an incredible skillset that is very unique. It's going to take that kind of skillset like he has to really make that shift. So, can that happen? Will that happen? I don't know if it will, but yes, I definitely think it will start moving in that direction to a degree." _(Reporter: "It seems like even teams like New Orleans, who have Drew Brees, are incorporating that into their offense with another player.") "Exactly, exactly. I do think you're going to see more teams doing that, by the way."
You mentioned the red zone at one point. Early in the season, you were great in the red zone, and then not as good later in the season. Did you see reasons for that? What approach are you taking to try to change that? (Cliff Brown)"We started off at a historical level in that area, and we finished off in a historical level running the ball. So, as far as that particular part of the field, I definitely think this offseason is going to be big for us with Lamar [Jackson] really zoning in on specific things that we want to focus in on with him. When you make a transition like we did, I do think that's one of the things you've got to narrow down a little bit at that point in the season. You know what I'm saying? We will have an opportunity now to really build something with him in the red zone this year. Does that make sense? A lot of times, the red zone, smaller, tighter windows, now all of all sudden that's one of the last places a quarterback really hits his stride, so we've got to work on that this year."