John Harbaugh took the podium for his season ending press conference, and didn’t give the fans any of what they wanted to hear.
Most important in this press conference is what the Ravens plan to do with offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg. Joe Flacco previously expressed a desire to have Mornhinweg return, and Harbaugh confirmed today that he will in fact be back in 2018. “We’re not making changes,” Harbaugh said on the situation at offensive coordinator.
Sure, the Ravens have used the changes at offensive coordinator over the course of recent years as an excuse for poor performances on offense, so now the team wants stability. However, one of the biggest problems on offense was the play calling of Mornhinweg. Harbaugh addressed the fans not showing up to the games in the latter half of the season, saying that he “loved” Dick Cass’ letter. Though he didn’t address that the poor play on offense could have been a reason for decreased attendance. He worked around the issue by mentioning that the Ravens were the second highest scoring offense in the second half of the season.
At defensive coordinator, the Ravens do have a hole to fill as Dean Pees retired. Harbaugh said that “continuity” will be a key factor when looking for the coordinator to take over what he called, “the best defensive system in football.” It can be inferred from this comment that Don ‘Wink’ Martindale and Chuck Pagano are the top candidates for the job.
The wide receiver position was also a focus of the press conference. “I don’t think it’s any secret we need to add playmakers,” Harbaugh said when discussing the wide receivers. Harbaugh said that because of limited cap space, the draft may be how the team adds a playmaker on offense. “We’re going to add players,” Harbaugh said. “It’s not to say we can’t add players through free agency, the draft will be a major part of that.”
Though Harbaugh also said that with the 16th pick, the Ravens won’t only be looking for a playmaker. If a blue-chip defensive prospect falls to 16, the Ravens won’t pass that player up. The one situation where that makes sense is if Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith is an option, but otherwise, a playmaker on offense really should be the Ravens top priority.
Harbaugh also continually went back to injuries, seemingly using it as an excuse, despite claiming he wasn’t, for the struggles faced by the team, especially Joe Flacco. Harbaugh discussed how Flacco missed training camp and was still recovering from his knee surgery. Harbaugh did say that Flacco improved in the second half of the year as he got healthier, which is true, but said that injuries were a big factor in his struggles in the first half of the year. The same was said about the injuries on the offensive line and Breshad Perriman.
Harbaugh said that drafting a quarterback this year is certainly an option for the team. Flacco is still the unquestioned starter, but the team would look for a backup, possibly a backup that can develop into the heir to Flacco. At any length, they should find a backup better than Ryan Mallett.
Harbaugh also discussed that he expects everyone to be back next year, including Jeremy Maclin and Brent Urban. Mike Wallace and Ryan Jensen are two key free agents Harbaugh didn’t specifically mention, by two that should also be important to bring back.
Finally, Harbaugh noted that all the key injured players, including Marshal Yanda, will be all be ready to go for training camp. Tim White, an explosive receiver who impressed in training camp before suffering an injury, in “100%” and could have played in the final six weeks according to Harbaugh, but there wasn’t a roster spot for him.
All in all, the Ravens seem to be in no different a position than a year ago, and they seem ready to take the same path in the offseason as they did last year. The Ravens won’t make any changes to the coaching staff, other than the one created for them by Pees’ retirement. Though even then, the Ravens are not looking for a big change at defensive coordinator, they want continuity.
The offense is going to remain it’s same frustrating self with Marty Mornhinweg at the helm, and the Ravens are going to draft best player available despite obvious needs on offense. Harbaugh noted that he wants everyone to come back, and thus making it hard for the Ravens to find room to bring in a free agent, especially the type of splashy signing it feels like this franchise needs, despite the tight cap.
Fortunately, the Ravens will be stronger once they return to health, with Tavon Young and Marshal Yanda returning to the lineup, but until Baltimore finds a playmaker, something Harbaugh did note they had to find, it’s hard to think this team will be anything different in 2018.