In a world where fans demand instantaneous success out of their sports teams, few organizations have the patience it takes to develop a winning culture. The Ravens have now missed the playoffs for three consecutive seasons, and the fans are not happy. “Fire Harbaugh, fire Ozzie, and cut Flacco.” was a popular line throughout most of the 2017 season. Despite the very loud voices of the radical Ravens fans, none of these things came to fruition. Why would they? Harbaugh brought the Ravens to a Super Bowl in 2012 after 5 consecutive playoff appearances. Ozzie Newsome has been the most successful general manager in the NFL since taking over Baltimore’s front office at its inception. Flacco, a Super Bowl MVP, has been the steady hand at the helm of the Ravens offense since 2008. Baltimore’s failures in recent years have been disappointing, but razing everything to the ground is not the solution.
As the pitchforks and torches came out against Harbaugh, Newsome, and Flacco, so too did they come out for offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg. I will admit that at times, I agreed with the idea of bringing in someone else to be the Ravens’ play caller. Mornhinweg’s offense started out awfully. The first half of the season was a near disaster for the Ravens. Baltimore was barely able to put points on the board and had virtually no passing game. There was no receiver stepping up to become the number one receiver the offense so desperately needed. The Ravens also started with a work in progress offensive line, and without a workhorse running back. In hindsight, however, I realize it’s not really fair to blame Mornhinweg for what Baltimore’s offense was missing.
Joe Flacco was clearly not himself when he first took the field in 2017. Flacco threw six interceptions to just four touchdowns in the first four games of the season. Was Marty Mornhinweg’s offensive scheme to blame? No. Joe Flacco tweaked his back in the offseason and missed the entirety of training camp. It wasn’t until midway through the season when Joe Flacco really started to heat up. Another major problem with Baltimore’s passing attack was that the team’s wide receiver corps severely underperformed. The only somewhat reliable target was Mike Wallace, who caught 52 of his 92 targets, for 748 yards. Jeremy Maclin, who was supposed to be Baltimore’s savior at receiver, failed to live up to expectations. Maclin had a few solid games but was unable to assume the role as Baltimore’s number one receiver. Despite the hype surrounding Maclin’s signing in the offseason and his performance in the regular season, he was not the most disappointing receiver on the Ravens’ roster. Breshad Perriman officially solidified his status as a draft bust with one of the worst season’s I’ve ever seen by a wide receiver. Perriman was primed to burst out in 2017. He was coming off of a decent defacto rookie season, where he caught 33 passes for 499 yards. This combined with an impressive offseason gave Ravens fans hope that Perriman would take it to the next level in 2017. However, Perriman’s production vanished and he would be deactivated several times throughout the season as a healthy scratch. Perriman was targeted 34 times but only caught the ball 10 times, for just 77 yards. The list of players that received for more yards than Perriman includes Maxx Williams, Michael Campanaro, Nick Boyle, and Chris Moore, Jeremy Maclin, Benjamin Watson, and Mike Wallace. Even the running backs got in on the action. Alex Collins, Javorius Allen, and Danny Woodhead all caught more passes for more yards than Breshad Perriman.
Baltimore’s offense started without a workhorse running back. It was expected that Terrance West would lead the pack at running back, but his season was derailed with lack of production and a calf injury. The Ravens had to improvise and stumbled upon a diamond in the rough, Alex Collins. By midseason, the Ravens knew what they had in the second year runner, and he became the lead back. The Ravens paired Collins with Javorius Buck Allen, and the two became a great one-two punch on the ground. Marty Mornhinweg was also handed a work in progress offensive line. Right tackle Ricky Wagner left the team in the offseason, while projected starter Alex Lewis, and rookie Nico Siragusa both sustained season-ending injuries in the offseason. To make matters worse, Marshal Yanda, the best right guard in the NFL, fractured his ankle in just the second game of the season. Baltimore had to shuffle the offensive line around until a stable unit was assembled.
Speaking of injuries, it is also worth noting that the Ravens were decimated by injuries in 2017. Aside from the offensive linemen listed above, the Ravens lost some other key pieces on offense. Tight end Dennis Pitta’s career ended with the third hip injury of his career. Pitta is one of Joe Flacco’s closest friends and was his favorite target on the field. The Ravens also lost tight end Crockett Gillmore and running back Kenneth Dixon during the offseason. Gillmore was set to contribute to the Ravens’ crucial tight end group, and Dixon was expected to assist in the running attack. The Ravens also saw undrafted rookie Tim White as a solid wide receiver option heading into the season. His season ended before it even began after he sustained an injury to his thumb.
Despite all of these setbacks, Marty Mornhinweg was eventually able to set the Ravens offense up for success. The offense needed to find what it was good at in the beginning of the season. If Mornhinweg created one of the league’s top offenses early in the season, it would have been a miracle. Maybe there are some miracle-working offensive coordinators out there, but none would be coming to Baltimore. If the Ravens were to let go of Mornhinweg, the team would have to hire either an inexperienced coordinator or someone who isn’t desirable anymore. Gary Kubiak isn’t coming back to Baltimore, and the Ravens would likely have to settle for someone like Jim Caldwell or Ben McAdoo. Neither of these coaches is any better than Mornhinweg. Baltimore could have gone after someone in-house though. Greg Roman joined the Ravens this season as a run specialist coach. If he was to replace Mornhinweg, however, his offensive approach would not be much different. He was very influential in Baltimore’s offense this season, and would likely continue with the same tendencies as an offensive coordinator.
With the move to retain Mornhinweg, the Ravens are trying to correct the mistakes of the past. The offense has gone through constant turnover in recent years. Since 2012, the Ravens have had 5 different offensive coordinators, Cam Cameron, Jim Caldwell, Gary Kubiak, Marc Trestman, and Marty Mornhinweg. With constant change, no offense can get into a rhythm, as schemes and strategies are constantly altered. John Harbaugh recognizes this and feels that the Ravens can realize offensive success next season, and why wouldn’t he? Once the dust settled this season, the Ravens found their strengths. The offense became one of the best in the league and scored the second most amount of points in the second half of the season. If the Ravens stay healthy and add a few playmakers, the offense will pick up right where it left off, as a deadly foe to face.