Going into Sunday’s game against the Steelers, Ravens head coach John Harbaugh was reportedly on the hot seat. Those whispers from outside of the building got louder when Baltimore was defeated by Pittsburgh, 23-16.
After his loss on Sunday, Harbaugh seemed defiant in his response to the report.
“I haven’t seen that,” Harbaugh said postgame. “I don’t know -- I’ve never been someone who’s worried about keeping a job. It’s always been, for me [about] doing the job. I’ve got a bunch of great coaches and a bunch of great players that bust their tails every day to do the best job they can.
“I feel real good about the way this team has been coached for the last 11 years and for the last number of weeks we’ve been in the season. So, there are no regrets. Never been any regrets here with me. We’ll keep fighting and that’s what we do.”
During their 22-year history, Baltimore has just had three head coaches -- Ted Marchibroda (1996-1998), Brian Billick (1999-2007), and Harbaugh (2008-present). Out of those three coaches, Harbaugh holds the most amount of years with the team (11), the most wins (98), and the best winning percentage (.580).
Harbaugh and the Ravens were extremely potent in his first five seasons with the team, holding a 54-26 record (.675 winning percentage). Built with a team full of strong veteran leadership, which included Anquan Boldin, Matt Birk, Bernard Pollard, Ed Reed and Ray Lewis -- the Harbaugh-led Ravens were able to thrive in their earlier iterations.
Since 2013, the Ravens have only made the playoffs once and also hold a losing 44-45 (.494) record. After sputtering to a 9-7 record last season, team owner Steve Bisciotti mentioned that he considered firing Harbaugh after the conclusion of the year.
Harbaugh was given what was seemingly his final chance to right the ship. With the addition of tight ends Hayden Hurst and Mark Andrews in the draft, as well as offensive tackle Orlando Brown Jr., guard Bradley Bozeman and quarterback Lamar Jackson and the additions of wide receiving trio Michael Crabtree, John Brown and Willie Snead IV, it seemed as if the Ravens were giving Harbaugh all of the necessary ammo to succeed this season.
That hasn’t gone as planned, with the offense sitting at 16th in total points scored (213), 16th in total yards (3,299), 21st in passing touchdowns (13), and 27th in rushing yards (834).
One thing Baltimore could decide to do is to fire offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg. The Ravens have a history of firing coordinators during the Harbaugh era, beginning with Cam Cameron in 2012. Then in 2016, Marc Trestman was fired. Two years later, Mornhinweg held his post as the offensive coordinator with Greg Roman as the assistant head coach and tight ends coach.
Mornhinweg has seen his offense finish with a ranking of 17 and 27 in total yards. Though this year has been an improvement in yardage, the team has had their fair share of issues punching the football into the endzone.
Roman has served as an offensive coordinator in the NFL, previously leading the San Francisco 49ers from 2011-2014 and the Buffalo Bills from 2015-2016. Chances are that if Mornhinweg was relieved of his duties, Roman would be the guy.
In his first season with the 49ers, Roman oversaw an offense that generated 380 points, ranking 11th in the NFL, but the yardage sat at 26th (4,974 total yards). In the next season, the offense put up 397 points (11th), but also gained 5,789 yards (11th) and made a Super Bowl appearance with a dual-threat quarterback in Colin Kaepernick.
Using that same logic, if Baltimore were to give Roman a shot as the offensive coordinator, this could also mean that the Ravens could see even more plays for Jackson. Roman saw Kaepernick slowly take over the offense and succeed as the starter for a number of seasons. Jackson provides a similar ability to Kaepernick, changing the dynamics of the current offense.
With that being said, Joe Flacco is currently the starting quarterback. Though he is ranked eighth in passing yards this season with (2,465), he is 19th in passing touchdown with just 12. Jackson provides a different ability to both run and pass in red zone situations, giving Baltimore multiple options to attack.
The offensive line has already seen its own changes, but having mostly been forced due to injuries. With Brown Jr. is at right tackle and having done a solid job there (58.9 rating by Pro Football Focus), Baltimore could also opt to make a change at center, going with the beefier Bozeman over Matt Skura.
With the return of Ronnie Stanley from injury, Baltimore’s offensive line would look like this:
LT Ronnie Stanley
LG Alex Lewis
C Bradley Bozeman
RG Marshal Yanda
RT Orlando Brown Jr.
These decisions to make all circle back to Harbaugh. Will he hitch his wagon to an offensive coordinator that has struggled or will he go with a coordinator who has a history of working with quarterbacks that can make things happen with their arm and legs? Will he decide to allow that offensive coordinator to make changes in the backfield and up front?
That is something that Harbaugh could decide on soon.
“We’re not going to change anything that way and see if we can get good,” Harbaugh said of the team and possible changes. “Now, what plays we run and what defenses we call. Yeah, sure. Who’s on the field, and who’s not on the field, how long they’re on the field – those are all things we have to look at and get ourselves the best chance to win. I think that’s a very fair point, and that’s something we will look at.
“It’s not like we’re going to sit there and not do anything. We’re going to look hard at what we can do. We have to score more points, get more yards – especially – score in the red zone. We were scoring in the red zone really well early in the year, and that has dried up. That has really hurt us. We have to find a way to score touchdowns in the red zone. That’s huge for us right now. We have to go to work on that and figure out a way to do that.”
Now heading into a bye week with a 4-5 record, the team has things that they would like to change as a whole. Though very unlikely, if Harbaugh were to be fired, it would mark the first time in team history that a head coach was given the pink slip midseason.
In regards to Harbaugh’s comments, let’s see if they ring true with his back against the wall.