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Ravens Promote Greg Roman To Offensive Coordinator

January 11, 2019
Greg Roman, the architect of a Baltimore Ravens running game that thrived once rookie Lamar Jackson became the starting quarterback, has been promoted to offensive coordinator in a reorganization of the coaching staff, the team announced Jan. 11. The move was first reported by The Athletic.

Roman will take over the top offensive coaching and play-calling role from Marty Mornhinweg, who declined to take a different role in the organization, according to head coach John Harbaugh. Mornhinweg, who worked with Roman and Harbaugh to revamp the Ravens offense in midseason this year once the dynamic Jackson became the starter, has been with the Ravens for the past four years, the past two and a half as offensive coordinator.

The change could be a pre-emptive move, as Roman was thought to be generating interest from other teams looking for an offensive coordinator. It also occurs on the first day that Eric DeCosta succeeds Ozzie Newsome as general manager, though it's likely this reorganization was initiated by Harbaugh. 

"Increasing Greg's responsibilities will help us get where we're going on offense," Harbaugh said in a statement released by the team. "His role with our offense has already been significant and substantial."

Roman, 46, joined the Ravens last season as a senior offensive assistant and tight ends coach, and this past offseason was promoted to assistant head coach. He has been instrumental in designing the Ravens running game schemes even before Jackson took over as the starter, which occurred as Joe Flacco dealt with a hip injury that sidelined him for four weeks.

With Jackson as the quarterback, the Ravens essentially overhauled their offense to match Jackson's skill set, emphasizing the run-pass option and a running game led by Jackson and power backs Gus Edwards and Kenneth Dixon. 

In seven regular season games as starter, Jackson led the Ravens to a 6-1 record, and they  passed the Pittsburgh Steelers to win the AFC North title with a 10-6 overall record. The ground game -- as well as the Ravens' No. 1-ranked defense -- led the way to that success, as the Ravens topped 200 rushing yards in five of Jackson's seven regular-season starts. 

During the final seven weeks of the season, the Ravens' rushing ranking went from No. 27 to No. 2 overall, finishing with an average of 152.6 rushing yards a game. The novelty of the offense, as well as time-consuming drives that left the defense rested and the opposing offense parked on the sideline for long stretches, proved to be highly effective.

In promoting Roman, it's clear that the Ravens expect to stay the course next year, even as there are questions about whether this run-heavy approach and the multitude of hits Jackson takes as a running quarterback are sustainable in the long term.

Harbaugh said Roman's "understanding of the run game we are building -- which we saw some of in the second half of the season -- and how it integrates with a consistent and big-play passing game is exciting."

Roman has 21 years of experience as an NFL coach, with the Carolina Panthers (1995-2001), Houston Texans (2002-05), San Francisco 49ers (2011-14) and Buffalo Bills (2015-16) in addition to his time with the Ravens, which also includes the 2006 and 2007 seasons, when he was the team's assistant offensive line coach.

Roman was the 49ers' offensive coordinator when they faced the Ravens in the Super Bowl after the 2012 season, and he has a lot of experience working with dynamic, dual-threat quarterbacks. He worked with Colin Kaepernick in San Francisco and Tyrod Taylor in Buffalo, leading those teams to top-10 ground games. In Roman's six seasons as an offensive coordinator, his running game never finished lower than No. 8 in the league, and his Bills teams led the league in rushing in both 2015 and 2016. 

It's unclear what the future holds for Mornhinweg, 56, who joined the Ravens staff in 2015 and was promoted to offensive coordinator during the middle of the 2016 season after Marc Trestman was fired. 

"We tried to keep Marty, but he has decided to move on, and I respect that," Harbaugh said. "He's a really good coach and helped us win the AFC North last season and get close to the playoffs the previous two years."

The Ravens offense finished the season ranked No. 9 overall, No. 2 in rushing and No. 22 in passing. In 2017, Mornhinweg's first full season as offensive coordinator, the Ravens ranked 27th overall in offense, with the unit struggling mightily early in the year as Flacco played through a back injury that cost him all of training camp that summer. 

Mornhinweg's unit ended the 2018 season with a thud, though, abysmal for more than three quarters of the Ravens' 23-17 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers in the opening round of the playoffs. Jackson completed just one pass during the middle two quarters, and the Ravens had a net of minus-2 passing yards at one point in the fourth quarter. After the game, Chargers defensive players said they knew what plays the Ravens were going to run based on the formation and the stance of tackle Ronnie Stanley, a revelation that had to be embarrassing to the Ravens staff. 

Coaching transition is inevitable in the NFL, and the Ravens could have other moves on the staff as well. Running backs coach Thomas Hammock is considered a strong candidate for the head coaching job at Northern Illinois, where he starred as a player. Another question is whether the Ravens will hire a specific passing coach; the development of Jackson as a passer is considered one of the top offseason objectives to complement his dynamic ability as a runner.

This story has been updated to include the team's announcement, statements from Harbaugh and  Mornhinweg's status.  

Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox