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Glenn Clark: Ravens Need To Find New Head Coach To Tie To Lamar Jackson

December 3, 2018
So we're going to be doing this again this week. 

There was a common thought process around town that perhaps once Lamar Jackson started for the Ravens against the Atlanta Falcons Dec. 2, there would be no way Joe Flacco would take over at quarterback again. If the Ravens won, they'd be playing too well with Jackson to go back to Flacco. If the Ravens lost, the Ravens' path to the playoffs would be so perilous that they'd have to admit they'd be better off just riding it out with Jackson the rest of the way. 

A funny thing happened on the way to the easy decision to ride with Lamar Jackson. The Ravens won -- but Jackson didn't play well -- and their path to the playoffs COMPLETELY opened up thanks to a stunning loss by the Indianapolis Colts.

So now what do they do? 

The truth is that I have no idea. The "hot hand" argument only works if the hand is actually hot. Jackson's isn't. His effort Dec. 2 was at best "uneven," with three fumbles, multiple bad misses and a 36.8 QBR. But the Ravens as a team (and Jackson included) continued to run the ball better than they had with Flacco, averaging 4.2 yards per carry against the Falcons. And they've won three straight games. 

At the same time, the Ravens trusted Jackson so little they refused to take any shots toward the end zone on the final drive of the first half despite already being well within kicker Justin Tucker's range. CBS analyst and former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo described it as "protecting their rookie quarterback." 

Considering how the game played out, it was probably a good decision. But how much does a team really believe in their quarterback if they aren't willing to give him the opportunity to try to score a touchdown there? 

If Flacco is healthy, which quarterback gives them the best chance to win against the Kansas City Chiefs Dec. 9? I don't know. Like everyone else, I don't think either has much of a chance of beating the Chiefs on the road, even with running back Kareem Hunt now gone. But we have plenty of time to keep debating this. 

In the meantime, something else from the Ravens' third straight win really jumped out at me. As excited as we might be right now about the Ravens winning and getting within a half game of the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC North, my belief that the Ravens need to move on from their head coach was still strengthened. 

I realize that sounds odd. I mean, the Ravens played really well and look like a dangerous football team at the moment. And look, no matter how they would go about doing it, if the Ravens make a deep run in the postseason, John Harbaugh isn't going anywhere (and shouldn't). 

But short of that, the Ravens' win provided a reminder of how imperative it is that if they're committing to Jackson as their franchise quarterback, they need to tie him to an offensive-minded head coach who can be held personally accountable for his growth and success in the NFL. 

Leading 7-3 against the Falcons, the Ravens got the ball back late in the first quarter. Two plays later, they faced third-and-4 from their own 35-yard line. A crossing route freed receiver John Brown open for the first down and Jackson … inexplicably went with a sidearm throw that left the ball behind the receiver altogether. 

One missed throw isn't the end of the world. Good quarterbacks miss throws completely sometimes. Obviously this one wasn't even the most egregious miss of Jackson's day. But it was the nature of how the miss occurred -- Jackson once again choosing for some inexplicable reason to throw a sidearm pass in a situation where a sidearm throw is both unnecessary and unhelpful -- that reminds me of what has to happen here. 

The Ravens need a head coach who can become their "Lamar Jackson whisperer." They need someone the quarterback will trust has his best interests in mind (not only the interests of the team -- the two should walk hand in hand but don't always) and will listen to. They need someone whose singular job is to make things work with Lamar Jackson. 

(I'm aware potential Hall of Famer Philip Rivers has constantly thrown the ball with a funny, sometimes sidearm motion. I'm also aware that Rivers' sidearm success is extremely rare. And that it's a more natural motion for him that dates back to childhood. And that he's managed to complete 65 percent of his career passes while Jackson came into the NFL having completed only 57 percent of his throws in college. Jackson hasn't earned the benefit of the doubt when it comes to accuracy.)

You might think, "Glenn, aren't offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg and quarterbacks coach James Urban supposed to be those guys? They used to work with Michael Vick!" 

Admittedly, I can't even get through the name "Marty Mornhinweg" without giggling about the concept. And with all respect to Urban, this role is far too important for it to be the responsibility of a quarterbacks coach. A quarterbacks coach can become someone else's offensive coordinator after a nice stretch of football. Even if the Ravens stuck with Harbaugh but forced him to replace Mornhinweg (something they've appeared unwilling to do), that coordinator could become someone else's head coach the following season. 

It's easier for me to have confidence in a move like this when I remember we're only a few weeks removed from Harbaugh (in his 11th year) reminding us he didn't know how to use his timeouts.  

I know it's fun right now. And for the sake of the entire city, I hope this stretch continues. But realistically, the Ravens are going to need Jackson to play much better (I know he's a rookie) in the coming years if they're going to build the team around him. And they need to find their own version of Los Angeles Rams coach Sean McVay, Chicago Bears coach Matt Nagy or Philadelphia Eagles coach Doug Pederson to tie to Jackson moving forward.  

Now back to yelling about who plays next week. Whoever it is, I hope they're ready to try to score 100 points. 

Follow Glenn Clark on Twitter @GlennClarkRadio

Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox