BALTIMORE (WJZ) — After John Harbaugh announced all three coordinators from 2016’s season would return for 2017, some argued the decision was “bad optics.”
The shock and disappointment heard throughout Baltimore’s sports talk airwaves was a majority focus of one question: “Why would John bring Mornhinweg back next year?”
Most would agree the reason Baltimore continues to be a disappointment as they sit out another postseason is the lack of offensive production. The Ravens were 21st or lower in points per game, third down conversion rate, plays over 20 yards, and overall rushing offense — all chronic issues for the mediocre club since 2012.
Refusing to shake things up or drastically change such cultural impotence on the offensive side of the ball could easily be viewed as not only stubbornness, but obliviousness to whether an appearance of effort actually matters…which it very well does.
Allowing defensive coordinator Dean Pees to return certainly isn’t a provocative move, nor is bringing back special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg — both men improved their respective units upon last season’s collective train wreck (albeit a low bar), and most would concede defensively and special teams wise, minor tweaking aside, are strong departments of Baltimore’s franchise.
In short, bringing back Marty Mornhinweg as OC can and most likely will be, at its best, viewed as “bad optics.”
It doesn’t look great. It’s more of the same “we like our guys” mentality (practically patented by another Baltimore icon), that has the aura of casually dismissing any provocative and abrasive, yet sometimes needed change of personnel.
Presumably, the ultimate fear no fans or pundits want realized would be Harbaugh deciding to keep Mornhinweg in control of the Ravens offense simply because he wants to avoid confrontation with a longtime friend. In other words, rather than giving the OC position a harder look with a more pragmatic decision, he opted to “work on getting better what we do” as he emphasized in yesterday’s conference.
Here’s the other side of the coin. There’s an aspect of continuity many conveniently forget as they criticize Harbaugh’s decision to keep things the same.
Before Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith arrived in Kansas City with Andy Reid and his staff, it was widely discussed how absurdly turbulent his coaching situation in San Francisco was prior to Jim Harbaugh’s influence. “Five offensive coordinators in six years!” most exclaimed. It was always a bullet-point reason for why Smith was inconsistent throughout his first few chapters. With more continuity in Reid’s system, he’s been highly efficient–a level of efficiency the Ravens would just about kill for.
Here’s the point: Where is this concern for Flacco? Should he not have the benefit of similar continuity at the offensive coordinator position? Is he that much more adaptable to change than an Alex Smith simply because he’s made a great championship run? With Mornhinweg’s return and start of a non-interim role, Flacco has had four offensive coordinators in the last five years.
Sure, there are a few roads left untraveled that fans probably wish Harbaugh would’ve at least examined, such as former Ravens and current Broncos quarterbacks coach Rick Dennison being an option, but it appears as though Dennison may have a larger role in Denver with Kubiak’s resignation.
It’s worth noting the importance of Flacco actually advocating for and liking his coordinator.
Aspects of the offense contributing to the struggle had little to do with the play-calling. Receivers hindered the game-planning from a lack of separation on routes, the offensive line struggled in run-blocking, and a lack of continuity at the tight end position behind a limited Dennis Pitta lessened Joe’s options as well.
Development of offensive weapons has been an issue since seemingly the beginning. The Ravens don’t have a Marty Mornhinweg problem. They have a Breshad Perriman problem.
The larger scope being that it isn’t fair to criticize other teams, cultures and systems such as Cleveland’s operation or Alex Smith’s first several years for inconsistency as to why they’ve experienced such failures, then turn around and criticize the Ravens organization as they look for just the opposite–something a Ravens offense hasn’t had in years — continuity.
Ben Holmes is a sports reporter and producer for CBS Sports Radio in Baltimore MD. He covers Maryland Terrapins Basketball and Football for Baltimore’s 105.7 The Fan. You can follow Ben on twitter@HolmesOnSports.