The 2017 Baltimore Ravens are going nowhere fast. No matter where the majority of the blame is initially directed, all arrows eventually point back to head coach John Harbaugh. His fingerprints are all over the Ravens personnel decisions since 2012. He is the man who hired coordinators Dean Pees and Marty Mornhinweg, and signed off on their schemes. As head coach, he is ultimately responsible for player development.
It is time for a change. The Ravens have put off an honest rebuild for far too long. Besides a handful of contests in 2014 when Gary Kubiak was calling plays, most Ravens games have followed a familiar script. Inept offense, underperforming defense and uninspired mediocrity.
And nothing can kickstart a resurgence faster than a change at head coach.
Harbaugh will always be remembered fondly for the successes of his first five seasons in Baltimore and will likely secure a new head coaching gig in short order. Despite the Ravens recent struggles, he is still a good coach. But the Ravens desperately need a fresh voice and new leader. Regardless of owner Steve Bisciotti’s recent comments, Harbaugh’s days should be numbered.
Looking strategically at the Ravens roster construction, it becomes apparent the front office has stockpiled much more young talent on the defensive side of the ball compared to the offense. Therefore, any head coaching search should begin by looking at innovative offensive coordinators. A head coach with a background on the offensive side of the ball could be paired with an experienced defensive coordinator to bring out the best from both units.
Five NFL assistants worthy of head coaching consideration:
Jim Bob Cooter, offensive coordinator, Lions
Cooter is one of the youngest coordinators in the NFL at 33 years old. He cut his teeth with the Colts, Chiefs and Broncos before securing the Lions quarterback coach job in 2014. He took over as the Lions offensive coordinator midway through 2015, with impressive results considering the talent at his disposal.
His offenses have ranked 18th, 20th and currently 8th in scoring. No small feat when the Lions lack of quality offensive lineman, dynamic running backs or elite receivers are taken into account. Cooter believes in setting up the run with the pass. His scheme is a versatile, uptempo attack that is known to be quarterback friendly. After averaging an 83 quarterback rating in his first five seasons, Matthew Stafford has improved to a 91 rating under Cooter’s tutelage.
Josh McDaniels, offensive coordinator, Patriots
McDaniels returned to New England in 2012 after a two year stint as the Broncos head coach and one year as the Rams offensive coordinator. He has worked under Bill Belichick as the Patriots offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for the last five and a half years. Surely coaching Tom Brady with the support of Belichick’s defense has made McDaniel’s job easier, but his offenses have rarely missed a beat even when Brady misses games.
His offenses have ranked 1st, 7th, 11th, 6th, 4th and currently 1st in yards per game. He has also called the plays for two Super Bowl champions and directed the 2007 offense that set the record for points scored. The Patriots use a modified Erhardt-Perkins offensive scheme that is equally successful with smash mouth rushing or quick passing from spread sets. Furthermore, New England has a knack for developing mid to late round lineman and running backs, as well as extracting the maximum production from their receivers.
Matt Nagy, offensive coordinator, Chiefs
Nagy is a former quarterback who has been with Andy Reid since his time in Philadelphia. He was Kansas City’s quarterbacks coach from 2013 to 2015 before being promoted to coordinator in 2016. Nagy has seemingly brought the best out of Alex Smith, who currently boasts a 72-percent completion percentage and 15:0 touchdown to interception ratio.
The Chiefs utilize a West Coast scheme that aims to spread the field horizontally. Nagy’s offense ranked 13th in scoring last season and is currently 3rd in total offense. They have also been able to develop mid to late round running backs and receivers who thrive in their system. Kansas City’s offense routinely punches above their weight due to superior coaching.
Harold Goodwin, offensive coordinator, Cardinals
A Bruce Arians disciple, Goodwin is an offensive line coach by trade. He served under Arians in that capacity in Pittsburgh, Indianapolis and Arizona before assuming the coordinator position in 2013. Although Arians is the main play caller of his complex pass heavy scheme, Goodwin has been groomed to become a head coach and is instrumental in devising their weekly gameplans.
Arizona has ranked 12th, 24th, 1st, 9th and now 16th in total offense during Goodwin’s tenure. His work with the offensive line helped pave the way for David Johnson’s monster season last year. The Cardinals have also been successful unearthing offensive contributors in the middle and late rounds.
Matt LaFleur, offensive coordinator, Los Angeles Rams
LaFleur is impressive young coach Sean McVay’s right hand man. He was Kyle Shannahan’s quarterback coach with the Falcons in 2015 and 2016, helping Matt Ryan post an All-Pro season last year. He also helped develop Kirk Cousins as Washington’s quarterbacks coach from 2010-2013.
McVay’s offense is best characterized as a spread scheme that emphasizes stretching the field vertically. The Rams are currently the highest scoring offense in the NFL, a dramatic turnaround from the lowest scoring unit in 2016. Second year quarterback Jared Goff has improved his passer rating from 64 to 90 under the Rams new regime. Tailback Todd Gurley has also been put in position to succeed with this staff, his yards from scrimmage average per game has improved from 78 last season to 132 thus far in 2017.