By Chris Schisler
The Baltimore Ravens are in an interesting spot with Greg Roman. After a horrible outing against the Miami Dolphins, many fans are calling for him to be fired as the offensive coordinator. Meanwhile, the offense has ranked near the top of the NFL most of the season. Something doesn’t add up.
Greg Roman has been the coordinator since he was promoted after Marty Mornhinweg and the Ravens parted ways. Roman essentially built the only NFL offense Lamar Jackson has known. In his tenure, he’s led the way to record-breaking rushing numbers. Jackson has come a long way as a passer and has a realistic chance to win his second AP NFL MVP award under Roman’s tutelage. To say it’s all bad would be painting with an unfair brush.
The Dolphins game highlights one of the biggest problems with Roman. He doesn’t always see which way the wind is blowing. The Dolphins infamously tested his stubbornness by essentially running the same defense at him on repeat. Roman seemingly double-downed on his strategy and the offense went absolutely nowhere.
The Baltimore Ravens are stuck with a choice. After a season-low, do they back their coordinator or fire him midseason as they did with Cam Cameron and Marc Trestman? The Ravens probably won’t fire Roman. He has had far more success than failures, and he is not the singular problem maker the Ravens have.
A mix of good and bad to sort through:
The Ravens brought in Keith Williams and Tee Martin this offseason to spruce up the passing game while Roman called the plays. A lot of fans see this as having two legitimate options from within to replace Roman. Baltimore is much better off using their skills and intelligence in tandem. It’s like an offensive strategy buffet, you take what you want and you leave what you don’t.
The passing game has improved dramatically. Marquise Brown is on his way to 1,000 yards receiving. Lamar Jackson is passing much more often and for more yards per attempt. After week 10, Jackson is just passing yards away from his 2020 totals. The influence of Williams and Martin is working. With this group of used-to-be-a-star running backs, Greg Roman may be the only coordinator who can make the run game work. The Ravens have 11 touchdowns on the ground and are still one of the best rushing teams statistically.
The Dolphins game actually highlights John Harbaugh’s failings more than it does Roman’s. Harbaugh allowed Roman to stay the course. Harbaugh didn’t force Roman’s hand asking for him to exploit the Cover 0 looks the Ravens got on repeat. The former special teams coach, may not be a play-caller but he sees the game as well as anyone. He is responsible for guiding his coordinators to the desired outcome. It’s not the other way around.
Harbaugh has the power to fix this and keep his staff at the same time:
Harbaugh gives his coordinators too much leeway. The fact of the matter is that the offense has gotten off to slow starts on a nearly weekly basis. They’ve continued to look unprepared and the comebacks often result in a change from Lamar Jackson’s play more than Roman righting the ship. The Ravens either come into the game with the right plan, or they have to watch Lamar Jackson do his Superman act to get the Ravens the win. The fans are tired of it. One would think Harbaugh, the man with the ability to do something about it, would be exhausted by it as well.
After that game, it’s easy to call for people’s jobs and be upset. Once you say the Ravens should get rid of John Harbaugh, you’ve reached a point where anger and frustration blind you from the big picture. Harbaugh and Jackson work well together. Harbaugh has always had a good sense for the pulse of the team and he always finds a way to get the train back on the tracks. The buck stops with Harbaugh, it’s on him. That doesn’t mean you fire him just because there needs to be a sacrificial lamb.
Working together and doing some soul searching is the only fruitful way forward for the purple and black. If you terminate Roman’s contract you get rid of the bones of the offense and you dramatically hurt the run game. Roman, Williams, and Martin need to keep working together. They just need more oversight from Harbaugh.
Baltimore Ravens bottom line:
Harbaugh needs to sit down with his offensive coaching staff and lay out the issues. The head coach needs to tell them to build a plan to prevent slow starts. He needs to build contingency plans on a week-to-week basis. He needs to be more involved, plain and simple. Roman, Williams, and Martin make the creative team Harbaugh is the director.
We can’t pretend that the problems on the offensive line, the injuries to Gus Edwards and J.K. Dobbins, and the absence of Nick Boyle haven’t impacted the product on the field. We can’t praise the Ravens for their resilience one week and call for everybody to get fired the next. They have to do what they’ve been called to do all season: Make this work the best it can.
Let’s not burn the whole bridge because we didn’t get across the other side on Thursday Night Football. Let’s make fixes and some adjustments. Don’t blow everything up in rage. The Ravens coaching staff must work together and find a way. It’s that simple. Firing Roman would only complicate things in a season where the Ravens have very little margin of error.