Let me be the first to say, I wanted Marty Mornhinweg to be relieved of his duties as the Ravens offensive coordinator, just as the majority of the fan base did. However, this will not be the case as Ravens head coach John Harbaugh confirmed that Mornhinweg will be returning in 2018.
Baltimore’s offense experienced a new low in the first half of the 2017 season. Quarterback Joe Flacco had thrown more interceptions than touchdowns. The deep passing attack was virtually non-existent. The offensive line was patched together with duct-tape and bandages. The only thing that gave fans any form of excitement was the running game. Alex Collins and Javorius Allen (Buck), combined for a dangerous one-two punch. However, to be a successful offense in today’s NFL, you need a reliable passing game.
It’s no secret that injuries played a role in this poor offensive display. All-Pro guard Marshal Yanda suffered an ankle injury that would sideline him for the year. Alex Lewis and Nico Siragusa didn’t even make it out of training camp before landing on injured reserve. The team had a new center (Ryan Jensen), right tackle (Austin Howard), left guard (James Hurst), and right guard (Matt Skura), to work with. The only remaining starter from the year before was left tackle Ronnie Stanley. Consistency is key for the success of an offensive line, and such a major shakeup was sure to cause hiccups.
To make matters much worse, Joe Flacco suffered a back injury and missed much of training camp and the preseason. He missed valuable time to build chemistry with his new receiver Jeremy Maclin, and to further build on his relationship with Breshad Perriman and Mike Wallace. There was talk of Flacco missing several weeks of the regular season, but luckily, that was not the outcome. He was under center in week one, against the Bengals, though you could tell something was off. He looked slow in the pocket and seemed to see ghosts, as he would panic, running into a sack before the pocket collapsed. He wasn’t the confident quarterback that we all know. This hurt the offense tremendously.
After the bye week, however, Joe Flacco and the offense seemed to find their way. Flacco threw nine touchdowns to only two interceptions. Mike Wallace regained his 2016 form, becoming the go-to-guy. Alex Collins and Buck Allen ran hard and finished out games. The offensive line gelled and played exceptionally well. Danny Woodhead returned from injured reserve. He became a reliable chain-mover on third down. You get the point. The offense was night and day from the first and second half of the season.
Mornhinweg deserves some credit for that. He called some great games down the stretch. We saw more risks, and creativity. This doesn’t absolve him from some of the dumb play-calls he made in critical situations, but he doesn’t deserve the amount of hate he’s received. I am guilty of blaming him for the offensive woes, and have called for his head on numerous occasions. Going back to last years off-season, the Ravens largely ignored the offensive side of the ball. Electing to spend their money on re-signing Brandon Williams, and acquiring Tony Jefferson, and Brandon Carr. They did sign Danny Woodhead, and Jeremy Maclin, but they are both past their prime and injury prone. Even in the draft, five of their seven picks were used on defense. The two offensive picks being linemen, and non skill position players.
Everyone knew the Ravens were going to win games with a suffocating defense, and strong special teams. At the end of the season, however, it was mainly the offense and special teams, instead of the highly touted defense, winning the games. Flacco has had more offensive coordinators through his career than probably any other quarterback in that time-span. This will be his second full offseason with Mornhinweg, and that consistency can go a long way. We saw vast improvement already in 2017, so let’s hope that continues into 2018.
I would have loved to see an innovative, offensive guru take the reigns in 2018. Former Ravens offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak would have been my first choice, but he isn’t leaving Denver. Time will tell to see if this is the right decision.