With the Super Bowl now in the rearview mirror, the Baltimore Ravens are no longer the defending Super Bowl champs for the first time in a full year. While sad, I’m reminded of the statement of Alfred Lord Tennyson who said it is “better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” The fans of most teams have no recent memory, if any, of being Super Bowl champions … nor do they have sport blogs that quote Tennyson!
Just after our last update a week ago, the Ravens made a big step toward getting back to the big game by hiring Gary Kubiak as offensive coordinator. At the moment of writing last week’s update, it appeared to be between Kyle Shanahan and internal choice Jim Hostler. And at the last moment former Texans head coach Kubiak came sweeping in, along with his frequent sidekick Rick Dennison – who will serve as quarterbacks coach for the Ravens. If you missed our article on this that includes a chart of Kubiak’s coaching past, you can see it HERE.
The move to secure Kubiak was highly acclaimed pretty much everywhere by those familiar with the football industry. Only a couple of isolated sources pondered the actual wisdom of this – wondering if Joe Flacco has the roll-out ability for bootlegs, which are a staple of a Kubiak offense. I believe there will be a working together of all the pieces to make a successful plan … a plan that will also address offensive line needs and the requirements for getting a running attack started again. There is no way the Ravens are going to place 29th in offense next season, and it is no small wonder that they were able to finish even 8-8 with a rank that low.
Not much more time passed last week before another Kubiak associate was hired as the tight ends coach. Brian Pariani was previously with the Ravens’ new OC in both Houston and Denver. The preferred offensive scheme that comes with Kubiak is intensive regarding tight end play, so this coaching position grows in importance. Also growing with it will therefore be the priority need to secure Dennis Pitta, who is an unrestricted free agent.
Another coaching reassignment was Steve Spagnuolo – from senior defensive assistant to the secondary coach. He replaces Teryl Austin who departed the Ravens to be the Lions’ defensive coordinator under Jim Calwell. Known for his ability to communicate well with players and instruct in ways that are effective, Spagnuolo is popular with the gifted secondary corps of Lardarious Webb, Jimmy Smith, and Matt Elam. Look for the Ravens to target a new free safety as well. Certainly the value of secondary defensive strength has been illustrated by the Seattle Seahawks!
In our report of a week ago, we rendered the opinion of wishing for Jacoby Jones to return to Baltimore rather than (possibly as one report speculated) going to New Orleans. Jones played for Kubiak in Houston, and there is a bond between the men. Jacoby is reported to be desirous of coming back if the price is right, according to an article in the new Pro Football Trade Rumors website (the new football version of the immensely popular and well-read MLB Trade Rumors site). This short piece identifies the reality of the problem for a return to happen: “However, given the emergence of rookie Marlon Brown and the recyclable nature of return men, Jones will be considered an ‘unaffordable luxury’ at his 2013 salary.” The same is true of Vonta Leach – same issue – the salary cap. Though his fullback position plays a larger role also in his former head coach’s offensive scheme, this salary cap issue is the elephant in the room.
With Jim Hostler not getting the offensive coordinator position, it was pretty much a given fact that he would not likely stay with the Ravens. And sure enough, the wide receivers coach was quickly gone to the Buffalo Bills to serve as senior offensive assistant.
The next seat in the game of coaching musical chairs was the departure of offensive line coach Andy Moeller to the Cleveland Browns where he will work in the same capacity.
It certainly cannot be said of the Baltimore Ravens that they are a franchise that sits still. It has been a whirlwind of coaching shifts, and the evidence is really quite strong to believe that the situation will be vastly improved. Yet, as always, it comes down to the execution of the players on the field. Will Ozzie Newsome be able to work with the salary cap to secure a strong roster, and will the players – particularly one important link – buy into the systems that are designed and turn them into victories on the field?