On Tuesday, the Baltimore Ravens held an introductory press conference with their new offensive coordinator Todd Monken. Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh gave an introduction for his new coach, sharing a story and leaving Monken to speak with the local media.
Building Around the Talent You Have
The philosophy of Monken’s offense is specific in what will be pursued, though not a one-size-fits-all scheme. It’s not air raid or 21 personnel or spread. It’s catered to the talent on the roster, according to both Harbaugh and Monken.
“[Monken has] not necessarily a one-system type of an approach like, ‘This is our system and we fit the players to the system,’ but a player-driven approach that, ‘We’re going to build the system around the players and around the personality of the team,’ Harbaugh said.
“Players dictate style of play; there’s no way around it,” Monken said.
Monken shared what he ran with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and at Georgia, explaining the differences with the talent on separate rosters and how he catered to the team. Monken did share there’s a commonality in what he’s pursuing.
“You take that and what you realize is that good football is surrounded by don’t turn it over, be explosive, score touchdowns in the red zone, be good on third downs, don’t have loss yardage plays and athletic quarterbacks that make off-schedule plays,” Monken said. “...How do we get to that model? I don’t care if it’s will a fullback, without a fullback, four wide, three wide. My cousin [Army head coach Jeff Monken] at Army runs a triple-option; that works. Now, you can only run what you know. You can’t just make stuff up. It’s fun to do that, but usually it doesn’t work. The reality is that there are a lot of ways to skin a cat, but still the principles of how you win are the same.”
A Lack of Lamar Jackson
Two questions in, Monken was asked about quarterback Lamar Jackson, and if he’s spoken with him. Monken answered with resolute firmness.
“I really haven’t had the chance to talk to any of the players yet really,” Monken said.
This wasn’t a Jackson presser but there needed to be questions and answers regarding the situation, as reports regarding Jackson’s future of the team stalled out possible candidates. Monken didn’t give much in a response when asked about the long-term availability of Jackson.
“They’re the best in the business; they’re going to take care of anything that has to do with any player, not just Lamar [Jackson]. Sure, any player that’s part of a roster where you’re going into, you have an interest in what the roster’s going to look like, but ultimately, I wanted to be someplace where structure, organization, great on defense from top to bottom.
More Moves to Come
At the time of Monken’s hiring, CBS Sports’ Josina Anderson reported coaching staff changes to the Ravens could be on the way.
“The determination on the final makeup and tapestry of the Ravens offensive staff will include ‘a collaborative effort’ between John Harbaugh and new OC Todd Monken, per league source. More decisions to come soon.”
It was apparent those determinations have not been finalized, but will be made soon.
“It’s still a work in progress,” Monken said, twice.
Coaches leaving of their own accord haven’t turned into anything thus far, with only wide receivers coach Tee Martin being interviewed for the Indianapolis Colts offensive coordinator role, which was filled by Jim Bob Cooter.
Though there’s rumor of quarterbacks coach James Urban being considered for the Cleveland Browns quarterbacks coach position, no movement has been reported.
In the coming weeks—or days, it sounds like changes will be made.
Telling It Like It Is
Being honest, the Ravens are buttoned-up. They do an excellent job of being professional and delivering professional responses to all matters. It’s in their best interest, and the outspoken characters of old are few and far between. Monken gave life with commentary to being one button down from the full collar being tightened, teasing about players and situations.
“When I was at Tampa, we had really good receivers. We had DeSean [Jackson]; we had Mike Evans; we had Chris Godwin; we had Adam Humphries; we had O.J. Howard; and we had Cam Brate. And we had quarterbacks that loved to throw it – sometimes to the other team, but they liked to throw it,” Monken said.
“We became [a two tight-end heavy offense] because they were two of our best players, and of course, that pissed off every slot [receiver] we had.”
This is more of an identity recognition than substance, but flavor at the podium is a welcome addition. Hopefully pointing it out doesn’t reel this in.
What Does It Mean to Be A Balanced Offense?
I think the greatest comment made to ease Ravens fans was Monken’s definition of what it means to be a balanced offense.
“Because to me, balance isn’t run-pass; balance is make them cover all five of your guys; make them defend the field; make them defend the depth of the field,” Monken said.
So often, the argument has been talked about with the Ravens wanting to be a balanced offense and running at high levels in tandem with the pass. When criticism arose, coaches would cite their run-pass numbers and about being balanced, with adjustments made regarding each games’ unique situation.
It’s not a bad thing to run the football. Consistently last season, Ravens fans were roaring for Gus Edwards and J.K. Dobbins to get the ball. It was an explicit criticism from Dobbins after the Wildcard round playoff loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. So, running the ball is good, and that is expected to stay.
“Obviously, the better you run the football, the better you throw it, so it starts with an excellent run game and then go from there,” Monken said.
The problem the teams’ had is the passing game hasn’t been good even with a stout ground game. Monken makes it sound like he can marry the two and do so by spreading the field and making it a space game with speed and scheme to free up his players.
Ravens Fans Haven’t Lost Their Minds Over Harbaugh’s Story
There are fractures in the Ravens fanbase that call for new blood to be hired from top to bottom each season. Fans are pissed the team has not made an AFC Championship in a decade, and didn’t do so on the rookie contract of quarterback Lamar Jackson.
Other fans get frustrated when Harbaugh hires anybody because they think it will be “just another yes man.” Whatever that means.
So, when Harbaugh told the story of originally considering Monken due to a phone call from his sister, Joani Crean, and former University of Georgia head basketball coach Tom Crean, it’s surprising to see the fanbase not immediately roar to life with frustration.
The hope is the fanbase realizes this was a top-tier hire. At least, that’s the feeling after seeing Monken’s championship resume and a press conference that reinforced his hiring with wise words and sharp quips. But, as Monken said when asked about a fanbase that hopes and prays he’s the one able to fix the fanbase, the judgment will be cast on his offenses performance.
“Let’s start with this: this is week to week, month to month, year to year, because I don’t think that fanbase would have said that in 2019, right,” Monken asked. “I would have doubted that would have been the way that they thought of it, and things go year to year, and then you re-assess.”