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Glenn Clark: Ravens Continue To Solve Wrong Problems

January 15, 2019
On Jan. 8, 2018, I wrote a column that garnered a bit of a reaction locally. 

The column was headlined "Ravens Drafting A Quarterback In 2018 Would Be Ludicrous." That was a slightly misleading headline, but I did state emphatically within the column that the Ravens should not spend an early-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft on a signal caller. 

So right now you're perhaps thinking something along the lines of, "Glenn, why would you revisit that column? After Lamar Jackson led the Ravens to the AFC North title this year, isn't this sort of like spiking the football … directly back into your face?"

First of all, revisiting this column a year later wasn't my own idea. But also … nah. It's not that. My face remains perfect. Or at least perfect for a silly sports columnist. 

Look, we all know what happened after I wrote this column. The Ravens' owner said publicly that the team didn't need to draft quarterback … and then went right ahead and did it anyway. That quarterback (Jackson) was incredibly exciting to watch as the team scampered to its first division title since 2012 but showed more than his fair share of flaws in the process as well. 

Jackson has certainly established himself as the Ravens' quarterback of the now. Whether he'll continue to be the quarterback of the future is to be decided in the coming years. 

But no, despite Jackson's run I'm not backing off the point I made last January. Which is largely because the point I made then had nothing to do with Jackson. I would feel the same way had the Ravens spent the 16th pick on a quarterback like Josh Rosen or Josh Allen. (Or Josh Woodrum or Josh Freeman or Josh Johnson or Josh McCown or seriously why didn't I name either of my sons Josh in hopes of pre-destination?)

Drafting a quarterback was ludicrous because instead of actually solving the issues facing the team, the Ravens simply created a new one. A year later, that hasn't changed. In fact, the issue seems to just continue. 

When I wrote the column, the Ravens had failed to put themselves in the best situation to try to succeed with their quarterback. We all, of course, remember the circumstances. While other teams continually surrounded their high-level, high-dollar quarterbacks with highly paid and/or highly selected skill position players, the Ravens were making highly questionable additions instead. They were plucking the Jeremy Maclins of the world off the scrap heap or going entire drafts without selecting a single pass catcher at all. 

Instead of solving the problem in front of them, the Ravens simply created a different one. They "wagged the ball," if you will. A year later, the Ravens seemed to have found a tight end (rookie Mark Andrews), but they've always had those. The receiver position remains a riddle wrapped in an enigma wrapped in a conundrum wrapped in a Lamar Jackson. However you feel about Jackson, the change in quarterback did nothing to prove they're capable of best surrounding any quarterback at all to win long term. 

They'll get another chance this offseason, but it won't be easy to address the receiver position in free agency because it's A) likely to be a disappointing group and B) going to be hard to convince receivers to come to a team that got away from throwing the ball. It makes the draft all that much more imperative. But hey, since when have we had to worry about the Ravens and drafting receivers? 

But this issue can be expanded even beyond the receiver position. A team best setting itself up to win with their quarterback also involves the staff they put around him. 

As I've discussed so frequently my children sometimes repeat it in their sleep, the marriage of Flacco and former offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg never made even a lick of sense. One was a flawed quarterback whose unquestionable greatest strength was using his cannon of an arm to complement a strong running attack. The other was a West Coast offense architect who liked to throw underneath 50 times a game. Yet for some reason, that marriage was one the Ravens were completely unwilling to break up. 

Yet the moment the franchise moved on from its former Super Bowl MVP, suddenly they weren't actually that insistent that the beleaguered play-caller remain at the helm. The Ravens WERE willing to move on from Mornhinweg, but only because they were at risk of losing another assistant coach (Greg Roman), not because Mornhinweg never seemed to be a fit with the player who was taking up a significant chunk of the salary cap. 

I think everyone with a pulse in Baltimore was more than happy to hear Mornhinweg would depart. However, it again appeared as though the Ravens were more concerned with solving a secondary issue (how do we make sure we can keep Roman around?) than with the actual issue that needed to be solved (how do we make sure we best develop our quarterback moving forward?). 

Perhaps Roman will prove to be the best answer to the more pressing problem. But if the team was willing to part ways with their unpopular coordinator, are we certain that no potential coordinator candidate -- in all of football at any level -- might have been worthy of an interview and perhaps could have proved to be the best option to get the most out of Jackson long term? 

The Cleveland Browns' turnaround last season was so miraculous I couldn't help but wonder if Tim Tebow was on their side. Yet they still actually conducted interviews for their job openings, despite the majority of us believing they should have actually permanently physically tethered eventual hire Freddie Kitchens to quarterback Baker Mayfield. 

In prioritizing the Roman issue ahead of the "getting the most from Lamar Jackson" issue, the Ravens signed up for a coordinator whose track record suggests "making chicken salad out of chicken … you know" more than "developing a talented but unpolished passer into a better all-around quarterback." 

In his six years as a coordinator, all of Roman's teams have ranked 29th or lower in the NFL in passing attempts. His teams have also been 23rd or worse in passing yards -- and 28th or worse in five of his six seasons.

It is, of course, arguable that this was what Roman had to do when he was given quarterbacks like Alex Smith, Colin Kaepernick and Tyrod Taylor during his stops with the San Francisco 49ers and Buffalo Bills. But if you're in the camp that believes the Ravens absolutely must get more from Jackson as a passer moving forward, these numbers aren't terribly comforting. 

Again, this doesn't mean Roman might not prove to have been the perfect choice for Jackson. It just seems like his hiring addressed a problem that wasn't actually the problem facing the Ravens. 

You know, the same team that announced its coach was returning before they knew how the season was actually going to play out … despite having suggested this was going to be a "playoffs or bust" type of season. 

Much like that decision … and the coordinator decision…and "Mr. Wiggles" himself Chris Bridges, the Ravens' 2018 draft truly was ludicrous. 

Since this is the NFL and crazy things happen every moment, let's just hope this one keeps working out anyway. 

Follow Glenn Clark on Twitter @GlennClarkRadio

Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox