Tag Archive | "gary kubiak"

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Kubiak agrees to become Broncos head coach

Posted on 18 January 2015 by Luke Jones

All that awaits is the official announcement as Ravens offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak has agreed to become the head coach of the Denver Broncos.

A week after stating his commitment to remaining with Baltimore for the 2015 season, the 53-year-old now returns to the organization where he spent 20 years as a player and coach. Kubiak appeared content with the Ravens until Broncos general manager John Elway parted ways with head coach John Fox on Monday, which led to a change of heart from where he stood less than 24 hours earlier.

The Ravens were preparing for the strong possibility of Kubiak leaving from the point that he accepted an interview with the Broncos on Friday morning. Elway and Broncos president Joe Ellis traveled to Houston to close the deal with Kubiak on Sunday.

“Kubs did a great job with us and gets another shot at a dream job for him,” wide receiver Torrey Smith wrote on his official Twitter account Sunday night. “How can you be mad at a guy who did his job and was rewarded with a dream opportunity that wasn’t available when he said he was staying?”

The Denver Post reported Kubiak was finalizing a four-year contract with Denver on Sunday night.

Under Kubiak, the Ravens set franchise records in points score and total yards and finished 12th in the NFL in total offense and eighth in points scored. A disastrous running game that averaged a league-worst 3.1 yards per carry in 2013 rebounded to finish eighth in yards per game behind a revamped offensive line.

The Ravens will now have their fourth offensive coordinator in the last four seasons after Cam Cameron held the job for nearly five seasons at the start of head coach John Harbaugh’s tenure. Kubiak’s departure is particularly disappointing after quarterback Joe Flacco had arguably the finest regular season of his career, setting single-season highs in passing yards (3,986) and touchdown passes (27).

Quarterback coach Rick Dennison and tight ends coach Brian Pariani will be joining Kubiak on his staff in Denver, according to The Sun. To make matters worse, another potential candidate, Kyle Shanahan, is set to become the new offensive coordinator of the Atlanta Falcons, per an ESPN report.

Since Dennison and Shanahan are no longer potential replacements, the Ravens could look at others such as former Denver offensive coordinator Adam Gase and former Chicago Bears head coach Marc Trestman. In his last search for a new offensive coordinator, Harbaugh wasn’t afraid to explore the collegiate ranks when he took a look at names such as Auburn offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee and former Oregon State and current Nebraska offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf.

With Steve Spagnuolo departing to become the defensive coordinator of the New York Giants last week, Harbaugh will now be faced with the task of replacing his offensive coordinator, quarterbacks coach, tight ends coach, and secondary coach this offseason. Offensive assistant Jay Harbaugh also left the Ravens last week to become the new tight ends coach at the University of Michigan under his father and new head coach Jim Harbaugh.

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Five thoughts on Kubiak’s departure

Posted on 18 January 2015 by Luke Jones

(Editor’s note: Kubiak was hired by Denver on Sunday night after this was published earlier in the day.)

Waiting on the inevitable.

That’s what it’s come to for the Ravens as all signs point directly to offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak becoming the next head coach of the Denver Broncos. According to ESPN, the sides will meet in Houston — where Kubiak lives — Sunday and the 53-year-old will accept the job if it’s offered by general manager John Elway.

A formal announcement reportedly wouldn’t come until Tuesday following the Martin Luther King holiday.

Below are five thoughts on Kubiak’s expected departure:

1. Kubiak didn’t pull a fast one on the Ravens.

Yes, the timing of Kubiak’s statement committing to staying in Baltimore last Sunday night was peculiar amidst the whispers about John Fox being let go in Denver, but labeling him Benedict Arnold is too harsh as he enjoyed being in Baltimore and even bought a home here. After 20 years with the Broncos as a player and assistant coach, Kubiak likely wouldn’t have reconsidered his stance for any other job but this one. The truth is he had committed to the Ravens for less than 24 hours before the Broncos job became available and the timing of his expected departure isn’t much different from when Jim Caldwell accepted the Detroit job on Jan. 14 of last year, so the Ravens aren’t “behind” in the search with their season having ended only last Saturday. If some want to call Kubiak disloyal, they can, but many of them would have also clamored for his dismissal if the offense faltered next year.

2. Even with the uncertainties, the Denver job is still a good one.

Make no mistake, there will be much to figure out for Kubiak and the Broncos with the uncertain future of Peyton Manning and a less-than-enviable salary cap situation, but those trying to suggest the coordinator is taking a “bad” job must forget why most NFL head coaching positions come open in the first place — because those teams are bad. Even if Manning retires or flounders in one final year, the Broncos have proven they’re committed to winning and are considered one of the finer organizations in the NFL. Unlike many situations around the league, Kubiak has a long track record with Elway, who will practice more patience for his close friend and former teammate if things are rocky in the first year or two. You could make the argument that the Denver situation isn’t ideal for a potential offensive coordinator with the Manning factor, but there are only 32 head jobs to be had.

3. Baltimore knew this would be a possibility from the moment Kubiak was hired last January.

When the organization enticed Kubiak to come to Baltimore rather than take a year off following his dismissal in Houston, it wasn’t a secret that this could be a one-year marriage. Instead of lamenting over his departure, the Ravens will gladly take his fingerprints in moving forward with a 30-year-old quarterback in the prime of his career and an offensive line that showed plenty of stability and ability in a record-setting season for the offense. The Ravens have had plenty of success in the Harbaugh era, and the cost of doing good business is frequently having your assistants plucked away by other teams. With eight years of experience in Houston that included two AFC South titles, Kubiak warranted a second chance as a head coach at some point and Baltimore was aware that his hiring was unlikely to be a long-term fit.

4. The offensive line — not Joe Flacco — should be the first factor considered in finding his replacement.

The Ravens are facing the prospects of having their fourth offensive coordinator in four years, but the focus in hiring their new man should come with a goal of maintaining the success of the offensive line above anything else. The ability to run the football and protect the pocket were the biggest keys in Flacco having the finest regular season of his career. Assuming general manager Ozzie Newsome is able to add some more talent at wide receiver and tight end this offseason, Flacco will be fine in adjusting to a new offensive system, but the Ravens should find someone whose philosophy meshes will with Kubiak’s zone-blocking concepts that were executed so well by the current line. This is why Rick Dennison and Kyle Shanahan are such attractive options to replace Kubiak as very few adjustments would be needed.

5. Contrary to popular opinion, the Ravens will survive without Kubiak.

The Ravens are still just two years removed from a Super Bowl title that had nothing to do with the current offensive coordinator, making some of the fan panic over Kubiak’s departure somewhat amusing. It’s certainly disappointing to lose him, but Harbaugh has a track record of finding replacements who do just fine — and have even moved on to become head coaches themselves. The NFL is much more about having talent on the field than it is about brilliant offensive schemes as there are few secrets in how most offenses operate. With a strong front office and Harbaugh firmly in place, the Ravens will continue to be successful and Kubiak’s departure will register as little more than a speed bump in the big picture. With one of the better quarterbacks and offensive lines in the league, the new offensive coordinator will be walking into a good situation in Baltimore.

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Dennison, Shanahan headline list of potential Kubiak replacements

Posted on 16 January 2015 by Luke Jones

Gary Kubiak remains the offensive coordinator for now, but the Ravens can read the writing on the wall.

With the 53-year-old off to Denver to interview for the Broncos’ vacant head coaching position on Sunday, head coach John Harbaugh has to think Kubiak won’t be able to pass on the opportunity to return to the organization with which he spent 20 years as a player and assistant coach. It was always going to take a unique opportunity to entice Kubiak to leave the Ravens, and that’s exactly what was presented when the Broncos parted ways with head coach John Fox less than 24 hours after Kubiak announced his intentions to stay in Baltimore.

Assuming Kubiak is on the way out in taking his dream job, where will the Ravens turn to find their fourth offensive coordinator in the last four years?

With quarterback Joe Flacco arguably having the finest regular season of his career and the Ravens setting franchise records for points scored and total yards, continuity is ideal and no one would provide more of it than quarterbacks coach Rick Dennison being promoted to offensive coordinator. It won’t be an easy sell as his ties to Kubiak and Denver are strong and many expect him to be the top candidate to serve as the new Broncos offensive coordinator if Kubiak is hired.

But Harbaugh should sell the 56-year-old Dennison on the idea of escaping Kubiak’s shadow to establish himself as a potential head coaching candidate. Instead of going to Denver and facing an uncertain situation with Peyton Manning on his last legs or even having to start over with a new quarterback, Dennison knows he could continue working with Flacco — with whom he shares a good relationship — and an offensive line that’s a perfect fit for the zone-blocking schemes he would continue to employ.

It doesn’t hurt for Harbaugh to remind Dennison that — assuming Kubiak takes the Denver job — the last two Ravens offensive coordinators will have become head coaches after only one full season on the job. It would be a unique opportunity to establish himself as someone other than Kubiak’s right-hand man.

The Ravens would be promoting a man with plenty of experience as an NFL offensive coordinator as he served in that capacity under Mike Shanahan in Denver from 2006-2008 and with Kubiak in Houston from 2010-2013.

The biggest key for the Ravens maintaining the offensive momentum created in 2014 will be finding a coordinator whose system fits well with the methods the offensive line employed after a disastrous 2013 campaign. Dennison wouldn’t figure to change too much if he does remain in Baltimore and appears to be the only viable in-house candidate as tight ends coach Brian Pariani has just one year of experience as an offensive coordinator at the collegiate level and it came with a 2005 Syracuse team that went 1-10.

If Dennison does head to Denver to become Kubiak’s offensive coordinator, the Ravens could take another long look at Kyle Shanahan, whom they interviewed last offseason when Jim Caldwell left to become the head coach of the Detroit Lions. His ties to Kubiak also make him a candidate to wind up as the Broncos offensive coordinator, but he left a positive impression with the Ravens last year and could jump at the chance to work with Flacco and such a solid offensive line.

His post-2013 dismissal as part of his father’s staff in Washington was difficult and he had to work with mediocre quarterback play in Cleveland as the Browns offensive coordinator this past year, but Shanahan ran successful offenses in Houston as well as in Robert Griffin’s rookie season in 2012. The 35-year-old is perceived by some as having a bigger ego than his résumé justifies, but his offensive philosophies would figure to mesh well with what Kubiak and Dennison started in 2014.

Of course, the Ravens face key personnel decisions with running back Justin Forsett, wide receiver Torrey Smith, and tight end Owen Daniels becoming free agents and the future of tight end Dennis Pitta unclear, but they’d like to avoid blowing up the foundation established in 2014.

If Kubiak does leave, persuading Dennison to stay or bringing in Shanahan appear to be the best ways to continue building in the same direction.

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Kubiak reportedly set to interview with Denver this weekend

Posted on 16 January 2015 by Luke Jones

After a few days of uncertainty, it appears Ravens offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak will listen to what the Denver Broncos have to say.

Kubiak is expected to interview with the Broncos for their head coaching vacancy this weekend, according to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports. Despite publicly stating his intentions to remain with the Ravens before the Broncos parted ways with head coach John Fox on Monday, Kubiak spent 20 years in the Denver organization as a player and assistant coach, making it unsurprising that he would at least discuss the opening with general manager John Elway.

Kubiak is considered the clear favorite for the job if he wants it.

In other news, ESPN reports that Detroit Lions defensive coordinator and former Ravens secondary coach Teryl Austin has withdrawn his name from consideration for the Denver job. Austin was originally scheduled to interview Friday, but he has also been linked to the Atlanta Falcons head job.

Should Kubiak take the Broncos job, it will be interesting to see how much the Ravens press to keep quarterbacks coach Rick Dennison and tight ends coach Brian Pariani. Many assume Dennison would depart to become Kubiak’s offensive coordinator in Denver, but the Ravens could try to entice him with a promotion to remain with the organization after working well with quarterback Joe Flacco.

Dennison has previous experience as the offensive coordinator under Kubiak in Houston and has also coached special teams and the offensive line, making him a suitable replacement if the Ravens can persuade him to stay.

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Denver submits request to interview Kubiak for head coach

Posted on 15 January 2015 by Luke Jones

To no one’s surprise the Denver Broncos have formally asked for permission to interview Ravens offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak for their head coaching vacancy.

Now we wait to see if Kubiak accepts. The 53-year-old spent 20 years in the Broncos organization as a player and assistant coach and remains close with general manager John Elway, whom he backed up at quarterback for nine years.

Per NFL Network, Ravens head coach John Harbaugh was expected to discuss Kubiak’s plans on Thursday morning, but the organization will not stand in his way if he wants to meet with the Broncos. Kubiak issued a statement through the Ravens Sunday night that he would not pursue any head coaching positions, but that stance may have changed once the Broncos and former head coach John Fox officially parted ways on Monday.

“If a coach gets a chance to be a head coach in this league, you’ve got to be happy for him,” Harbaugh said on Tuesday. “I don’t know if anything else will come up — I haven’t heard of anything along those lines — but if something comes up, we’ll just have to deal with it.”

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Harbaugh unaware of any change to Kubiak’s plans to stay with Ravens

Posted on 13 January 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Even if the Denver Broncos are targeting Ravens offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak as their next head coach, John Harbaugh gave no indication Tuesday afternoon that it would happen.

The Ravens head coach said he’s heard nothing from Kubiak that indicates he has changed his mind about the commitment he made to remain as offensive coordinator Sunday night, but Harbaugh didn’t dismiss the possibility of it happening. Kubiak spent nine years as the backup quarterback in Denver in addition to 11 years as an assistant coach under former Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan.

“I haven’t sat down with Gary and interrogated him about it,” said Harbaugh as he smiled. “Maybe I should. That might be my next move. Out of respect, he’s told me he’s planning on being here. Denver hasn’t reached out in any way at this time. That’s not to say it couldn’t change at some point in time. I just think if that happens, we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.

“I’m not really one to put anybody on the spot like that. I want to be respectful. I’m planning on Gary being back, so if that changes, then we’ll deal with it if it comes up. But I don’t anticipate that changing at this time.”

Hall of Fame quarterback and Broncos general manager John Elway remains close friends with Kubiak and hasn’t shot down the possibility of him being a candidate to replace head coach John Fox, who parted ways with the Broncos on Monday. For now, Kubiak remains the Ravens offensive coordinator despite an ESPN report indicating Denver will request permission to interview him.

In their first season with Kubiak running the offense, the Ravens set franchise records in points scored and total yards and finished 12th in the NFL in total offense and eighth in points per game. A running game that ranked last in the NFL in yards per carry in 2013 improved to eighth in yards per game this season.

Kubiak’s announcement on Sunday squashed reported interest from Chicago, the New York Jets, and San Francisco, but the Denver position could be viewed as a dream job that could prompt the 53-year-old to change his mind.

“As far as I know, nothing’s changed,” Harbaugh said. “I’m not aware of any change of anything that’s taken place between then and now. Of course, I’m as pleased as heck to hear that [initial announcement] and talk to Gary about that leading up to that and then that day. I told him that’s music to my ears. He’s very happy here; his family’s happy here. I think all the coaches really feel good about where they’re at right now. As far as I know, nothing’s changed along those lines.”

Harbaugh did confirm that secondary coach and assistant head coach Steve Spagnuolo will interview for the New York Giants’ defensive coordinator position on Wednesday. The Ravens finished 23rd in pass defense after dealing with a rash of injuries that included top cornerback Jimmy Smith and No. 3 corner Asa Jackson.

Spagnuolo is no stranger to Tom Coughlin and the Giants after serving as their defensive coordinator in 2007 and 2008 before he became the head coach of the St. Louis Rams.

“Steve’s a great coach and has done a great job with the guys throughout the course of the season,” Harbaugh said. “Obviously, a tremendously experienced coach. He’s been a head coach, been a coordinator, and that’s not something that we would want to hold him back from as an opportunity. I don’t know what’s going to happen with that, but that’s something that he deserves an opportunity to look at.”

Though a change in Kubiak’s status could create a ripple of change with quarterbacks coach Rick Dennison and tight ends coach Brian Pariani in particular, Harbaugh is not anticipating any other shakeups to his coaching staff at this time.

The Ravens endured plenty of change last offseason with the departures of offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell, running backs coach Wilbert Montgomery, wide receivers coach Jim Hostler, tight ends coach Wade Harman, offensive line coach Andy Mueller, and secondary coach Teryl Austin. Harbaugh is hoping for more continuity this winter as the Ravens try to build on their 2014 return to the playoffs after a one-year absence.

“I sure hope so. I’m recruiting those guys every day,” Harbaugh said. “But like I said, guys like being here. If a coach gets a chance to be a head coach in this league, you’ve got to be happy for him. I don’t know if anything else will come up — I haven’t heard of anything along those lines — but if something comes up, we’ll just have to deal with it.”


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Would Kubiak change his mind for Denver job?

Posted on 12 January 2015 by Luke Jones

Less than 24 hours after Gary Kubiak announced he would return to the Ravens for the 2015 season, questions are again being asked about his future in Baltimore.

As soon as the Denver Broncos revealed they were parting ways with head coach John Fox on Monday, the Baltimore offensive coordinator’s name was being mentioned as an intriguing candidate along with former Broncos coach Mike Shanahan, who still resides in Denver. Of course, Kubiak has deep ties to the organization after spending nine years as the backup quarterback to John Elway and 11 years as an assistant coach under Shanahan.

With Elway now the general manager of the Broncos and making the surprising change at head coach, one wonders if he’d be interested in having his close friend take over in Denver. Kubiak reiterated his fondness for Baltimore in taking his name out of the running for other head coaching gigs Sunday night, but no one could really blame the 53-year-old for viewing the Broncos as a dream job for which he’d at least consider changing his mind.

Even one of Kubiak’s current players, wide receiver Torrey Smith, offered a cryptic response to the news of Fox being out in Denver:

There were rumors over the weekend that Fox could be dismissed if the Broncos fell to Indianapolis, so you would assume Kubiak had at least some inkling of the Denver job becoming open. With the former Houston Texans head coach regarded by the Ravens as a man of great integrity and character, the initial expectation is that Kubiak will remain as the team’s offensive coordinator.

The future of Peyton Manning is a hot topic in Denver, so it will be fascinating to see how he factors into the equation for any potential candidate for the head job.

Ravens head coach John Harbaugh will meet with the media at 2 p.m. Tuesday and will undoubtedly be asked about the updated status of his offensive coordinator.

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Post game thoughts – Ravens vs Patriots

Posted on 12 January 2015 by Dennis Koulatsos

Had a great show Sunday morning, with relative predictable reaction by the Baltimore Ravens’ fan base. The scale was truly A – Z, from fans who were extremely upset, to moderately happy. The biggest issue that came up time and again was the decision that Joe Flacco made to throw the ball deep to Torrey Smith with just under 2 minutes left in the game.

Lots of Ravens fans second guessed that decision, and they wanted Flacco to continue to patiently work the ball downfield. In fact, on that play he had a wide open Marlon Brown streaking across the middle of the field.

It is my opinion that Flacco did in fact make the right call. The Patriots were in a single high safety formation, and Flacco knew that Torrey Smith was singled up by the DB on the left sideline. Smith got a couple of steps on his man, but the ball was under thrown and the safety came over and made a great play. It’s a simple as that. You take points when you can get them, and then you rely on your defense to make a stop, and win the game for you. Had the Ravens scored on that play, there’s no question it would have left the Patriots plenty of time to go down field and either tie the game with a field goal, or win it with a touchdown.

But first things first. I’ve seen too many games where offenses try to methodically go downfield in an attempt to score with seconds left, in order to leave the opposing offense with no time to move the ball. I’ve also seen turnovers happen in the form of fumbles and interceptions, mishandled handoffs and snaps. The ball is oblong, pointy, and bounces funny.  Oftentimes anything and everything that can go wrong…does. That is precisely why you take the points when you can get them.

The Ravens play aggressive football, and they have an aggressive nature about them. They are by and large well coached and relatively disciplined. No one complained when they went for it on 4th and 6th. When you live by the sword, you die by the sword. That’s how this team rolls, and that philosophy has played a big part as to why under John Harbaugh’s tenure, they’ve been in the playoffs 6 times in the past 7 years.

Speaking of Flacco, for 58 minutes he played a great game. He had two critical interceptions, but he also threw for 4 touchdowns. He should have had 5, but one of his throws bounced off of the hands of Owen Daniels. That was a huge play in and of itself, as it did factor in to the outcome. Flacco set a new NFL record with two touchdowns in eight straight postseason games, passing Terry Bradshaw, Joe Montana and Drew Brees. That’s pretty good company if you ask me. The other question is this: if not Flacco – Ravens fans – then who? He didn’t let up a two touchdown lead, twice in the game. That was on the defense. Scoring 31 points in the NFL should be good enough for a win on any given Sunday. That was on the Ravens’ defense and their patched up secondary. Rob Gronkowski, some trickery, and Patriots’ half time adjustments were enough to pull out a win on their home turf.

There was criticism of Torrey Smith on the play that Flacco threw the pick on. Some fans felt that he didn’t do enough to break up the play. I’ve looked at the replays and he never had a chance to make a play on the ball. The safety was in good position, and got there at the ball’s high point. Smith is good, solid football player, but he doesn’t have the instincts to go up there and fight for the ball. It was not a lack of effort, and I’m not even sure that he saw the safety until the last second, so he didn’t have much time to react. I hope that he and the Ravens can come to a contractual agreement, as I believe he is a solid #2 receiver in this league, and adds value to the team.

Jacoby Jones looked tentative in the last two games, particularly on kickoff returns. He was not hitting the lanes hard, and maybe was putting too much emphasis on protecting the ball. He slipped on the opening kickoff versus the Steelers, and did not look good after that. I was hoping he would unleash himself in the manner that he did two years ago in the playoffs, but he was nowhere the difference maker this post season that he was then. I was disappointed with his performance, as I expected more.

The personal foul calls were troublesome, particularly on Torrey Smith. Coach Harbaugh should have also used a time out versus running on the field to get the refs’ attention. Not to mention he was wrong about the “deceptive practices” he alleged Bill Belichick was using. I under stand coach was frustrated after the bitter loss, but watching his presser brought to mind the phrase “never blame, complain or explain. I think Harbaugh is a solid coach, but hey coach, you got beat. Simple as that. Your defense blew a two TD lead – twice! Daniels didn’t come up with a catch – that Pitta would have probably held on to – in the end zone. Sending out 4 offensive linemen is nothing new. Alabama coach Nick Saban used it this season in overtime, in a 20-13 victory over LSU. I don’t recall LSU coach Les Miles complaining about the tactic at his press conference.

Bottom line is that the Ravens should head in to the off season with their heads held high. They battled through major off field distractions, 19 players on injured reserve, a late season suspension to a key player and still scratched and clawed their way to the divisional round of the AFC playoffs. They went toe to toe with a team that features a certain Hall of Fame first ballot quarterback and head coach, and gave them all that they could handle on their home turf.

Looks like offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak is coming back, and with a strong draft and some health, the Ravens are poised to make a deep run in to the playoffs next season for sure. Hopefully they’ll win enough regular season games to get some home games in the playoffs, which will make the road to where they’re ultimately trying to get to a bit easier.


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Kubiak staying put as Ravens offensive coordinator

Posted on 11 January 2015 by Luke Jones

Just over 24 hours following their playoff loss to the New England Patriots, the Ravens received news that helped ease the sting on Sunday night with the announcement that Gary Kubiak will remain as offensive coordinator.

Despite reportedly receiving interest from the Chicago Bears, the New York Jets, and the San Francisco 49ers for their head coaching vacancies, the former Houston Texans head coach will return to Baltimore for the 2015 season. Under Kubiak, the Ravens set single-season franchise bests for points scored and total yards in the regular season.

“It is flattering and humbling to be invited to interview for a number of NFL head coaching positions, and I greatly appreciate these opportunities,” Kubiak said in a statement released by the team. “But I have decided to stay with the Ravens. This is a special organization and we, like [coach John Harbaugh] says, are building something great. I want to be a part of that and contribute in whatever ways I can.”

Kubiak’s return is certainly good news for quarterback Joe Flacco, who posted career highs in passing yards (3,986) and touchdown passes (27) while posting his highest passer rating (91.0) since the 2010 season. Flacco had a good relationship with quarterbacks coach Rick Dennison, who was Kubiak’s offensive coordinator in Houston and would have likely left with him had he taken another head coaching position.

Despite plenty of rumors about his future, Kubiak repeatedly said late in the season that his sole focus was with the Ravens as they made their push for a sixth playoff appearance in the last seven years.

“I’ve been through it and I had my turn, and I’m really enjoying what I’m doing,” Kubiak said on Dec. 31. “I’ve told you all that over and over again. I don’t think about what’s next.”

As players cleaned out their lockers in Owings Mills on Sunday afternoon, many expressed hope that the offensive coordinator would remain with the Ravens. Under Kubiak, Baltimore finished eighth in the NFL in points scored and 12th in yards per game while the running game ranked eighth despite a disastrous 2013 campaign in which the Ravens finished last in the league in yards per carry.

The news figures to only help in retaining free agents such as running back Justin Forsett, tight end Owen Daniels, and wide receiver Torrey Smith. And while working with Flacco and a strong offensive line, Kubiak is unlikely to see his head coaching stock drop dramatically if he wants to pursue head jobs next offseason.

“It’s always tough when you get comfortable with a guy like that,” Smith said hours before the announcement was made. “He’s a players’ coach — I will tell you that much. He’s a guy that you want to play for, so if he gets another head coaching job, you’re not surprised at it.”


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Ravens facing big challenge in Patriots secondary this time around

Posted on 07 January 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens and New England Patriots have uttered similar thoughts throughout the week about Saturday’s divisional playoff meeting in Foxborough.

As the rest of the world focuses on their three previous postseason encounters at Gillette Stadium, coaches and players from each side put little stock in what happened in the past. It’s difficult to argue the point from the Ravens’ side as just 19 players on the current 53-man roster were with the organization when they topped New England in the AFC Championship to go to the Super Bowl two years ago.

The biggest on-field difference between these teams may lie in the Patriots’ secondary, a unit that was their Achilles heel in recent years. When the Ravens met them in consecutive conference championship games, the Patriots ranked 31st in pass defense in 2011 and 29th in 2012, but the unit improved to 17th in the NFL this season because of two key offseason additions at cornerback.

The arrivals of six-time Pro Bowl selection Darrelle Revis and the 6-foot-4 Brandon Browner have transformed one of the Patriots’ biggest positional weaknesses into a strength, especially as the season has progressed. In addition to the veteran free-agent signings, 2013 third-round pick Logan Ryan has emerged as a solid option at the nickel in his second year.

“All three of those guys give them the ability to play man coverage more than they ever have before,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “They play a lot of single-high [safety]. They have a lot of people down in the box to stop the run. They’ll press you. They’ll play combinations where they double a certain player, take him out of the game. They can do that because they have corners that can single people up.”

The combination presents a problem for the Ravens, who have traditionally struggled against press coverage. Veteran Steve Smith certainly won’t shy away from physical play, but it’s fair to wonder if the 35-year-old has enough speed at this stage of the season to take advantage of any upper hand he can gain when the 5-foot-11 Revis tries to press him at the line of scrimmage.

After only one year in Tampa Bay that saw the Buccaneers wasting his talents in zone coverage, the 29-year-old Revis — two years removed from a serious knee injury suffered in his final season with the New York Jets — has retaken his place as one of the top cornerbacks in the NFL. And he’ll likely be asked to take the veteran Smith out of the game on Saturday.

“Is Revis still Revis? I think his ID and his social security number and those things [still say] ‘Revis,'” said Steve Smith as he smiled. “Revis can play. He’s a great corner. He’s a corner that you have to prepare for; you have to watch film. You can’t just walk in there thinking [it will be easy]. He’s a professional, and you have to approach it with a professional mindset.

“I have to be patient and understand he’s going to make his plays. That’s it. Be patient. It’s a long game. A lot of things happen.”

On the opposite side of the field, Browner will likely match up against Torrey Smith, who has improved against press coverage since his rookie season but generally doesn’t play with much physicality. What Browner may lack in speed he makes up for with a massive frame used to try to knock receivers off their spot.

It will present an interesting matchup as Torrey Smith has repeatedly drawn penalties from the opposition this season while Browner was flagged 15 times to lead the Patriots despite playing in only nine games during the regular season. The University of Maryland product could be in line for a big day if he can win the first couple steps of his routes, but New England will likely be inclined to shade safety help his way while entrusting Revis to handle Steve Smith.

Now in his fourth year, Torrey Smith hopes his experiences playing against both Revis and Browner as a rookie will pay dividends despite being held without a catch on three total targets matched up against them in games against the Jets and Seattle Seahawks in 2011.

“I just think they’re going to try to have a bigger body on me [and] try to be a little physical at the line,” Torrey Smith said. “I’ll check [Browner] out a little more, but I’ve played against both of them. I was a young pup, but I’ve played against them both and I’ve gotten a lot better since then. I’ll be ready for it. It was definitely different seeing Revis walk out on me as a rookie, but that’s just pretty cool.”

How can the Ravens combat the Patriots cornerbacks’ physical play?

Bunch formations, motion, and pick plays can be used to offset press coverage, but the Ravens won’t shy away from using double-moves as well as an improved play-action passing game to gain separation.

However, offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak warned that the Ravens can’t reinvent the wheel in an effort to account for tough press coverage. And Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia are also masters of changing up strategies and giving opponents different looks than they anticipated after a full week of preparation.

“We have to go do what we do. We can’t sit here and assume, ‘Well, this guy is going to play that guy,'” Kubiak said. “We can’t do that. We have to go out and run the things we run and do them well. But that’s a strength of their defense, and if we’re going to find a way to get it done, we’re going to have to beat as good of a man coverage as there is in football, and we understand that.”

As the Ravens have come to expect with so much postseason success over the last seven years, quarterback Joe Flacco will be the biggest factor in beating the Patriots secondary and he won’t be afraid to test Revis if the opportunities are there.

It was an aggressive approach that led to an impressive 30-17 victory over Pittsburgh last Saturday, and Flacco says the Ravens could run into trouble if they try to deviate too much from what they do best.

“As a quarterback, you have to go out there and just go through your reads. If he’s open, throw it to him; if he’s not, don’t,” Flacco said. “We’re going to have to make contested catches, contested throws — all those things. But I know in the past when we’ve played against some guys and you’ve tried to avoid him or done things game plan-wise to get matchups in other places, it usually just takes your attention away from what you should be doing.

“I think that has a bigger effect than sometimes the actual guy can.”

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