Tag Archive | "John Harbaugh"

Key dates on NFL offseason calendar

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Key dates on NFL offseason calendar

Posted on 12 February 2015 by Luke Jones

Even if we’re in the midst of a rare quiet time in the NFL calendar, below is a look at what’s coming up for the Ravens and the other 31 NFL teams as the offseason kicks into high gear in the coming weeks:

February 16 — First day for clubs to designate franchise or transition players

February 17-23 — NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis

February 24 — Ravens hold their 2014 season-review/2015 season-preview press conference at 2 p.m. in Owings Mills

March 2 — Prior to 4:00 p.m., deadline for clubs to designate franchise or transition players

March 7-10 — Clubs are permitted to contact and enter into contract negotiations with the certified agents of players who will become unrestricted free agents upon the expiration of their 2014 contracts at 4:00 p.m. on March 10. However, a contract cannot be executed with a new club until the official start of free agency on that day.

March 10 — Prior to 4:00 p.m., clubs must exercise options for 2015 on all players who have option clauses in their 2014 contracts.

March 10 — Prior to 4:00 p.m., clubs must submit qualifying offers to their restricted free agents with expiring contracts and to whom they desire to retain a right of first refusal/compensation.

March 10 — Prior to 4:00 p.m., clubs must submit a minimum salary tender to retain exclusive negotiating rights to their players with expiring 2014 contracts and who have fewer than three accrued seasons of free agency credit.

“Rule of 51″ begins. All clubs must be under the 2015 salary cap prior to 4:00 p.m.

All 2014 player contracts expire at 4:00 p.m.

The 2015 league year and free agency period begin at 4:00 p.m.

Trading period for 2015 begins at 4:00 p.m. after expiration of all 2014 contracts.

March 22-25 — NFL annual meeting in Phoenix

April 6 — Clubs that hired a new head coach after the end of the 2014 regular season may begin offseason workout programs.

April 20 — Clubs with returning head coaches may begin offseason workout programs.

April 24 — Deadline for restricted free agents to sign offer sheets

April 29 — Deadline for prior club to exercise right of first refusal to restricted free agents

April 30-May 2 — NFL draft in Chicago

May 8-11 or May 15-18 — Clubs may elect to hold their three-day post-draft rookie minicamp from Friday through Sunday or Saturday through Monday.

May 18-20 — NFL spring league meeting in San Francisco

June 21-27 — Rookie symposium in Aurora, Ohio

July 15 — At 4:00 p.m., deadline for any club that designated a franchise player to sign such player to a multi-year contract or extension. After this date, the player may sign only a one-year contract with his prior club for the 2015 season, and such contract cannot be extended until after the club’s last regular-season game.

Mid-July — Clubs are permitted to open preseason training camp for rookies and first-year players beginning seven days prior to the club’s earliest permissible mandatory reporting date for veteran players.

Veteran players (defined as a player with at least one pension-credited season) other than quarterbacks or “injured players” may report to a club’s preseason training camp no earlier than 15 days prior to the club’s first scheduled preseason game or July 15, whichever is later.

Veteran quarterbacks and injured players may be required to report to the club’s preseason training camp no earlier than five days immediately prior to the mandatory reporting date for all other veteran players, provided the club has already opened (or simultaneously opens) its official preseason training camp for all rookies and first-year players.

A three-day acclimation period will apply to players who are on a club’s roster up to and including the mandatory veteran reporting date. Players who join the roster after that date may practice (including wearing pads) and play immediately after passing a physical.

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Report: Ravens alerted Indianapolis about Patriots’ deflated footballs

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Report: Ravens alerted Indianapolis about Patriots’ deflated footballs

Posted on 22 January 2015 by Luke Jones

With the eyes of the sports world staring a hole through the New England Patriots as reports of “Deflategate” dominate the countdown to Super Bowl XLIX, the Ravens continue to come up in the conversation.

According to Jay Glazer of FOX Sports, the Ravens were the ones who tipped off Indianapolis about the possibility of the Patriots using footballs that weren’t properly inflated. ESPN reported Tuesday night that 11 of 12 balls used by New England were discovered at halftime of the AFC Championship to be underinflated by two pounds per square inch.

Given the Ravens’ strong relationship with former defensive coordinator and current Colts coach Chuck Pagano, it wouldn’t be surprising for someone to have tipped off Indianapolis if there were legitimate gripes.

Head coach John Harbaugh downplayed any concerns about the Patriots using illegal footballs during their 35-31 win that ended the Ravens’ season in the divisional round two weeks ago. A CBS Sports report earlier this week indicated some Ravens players believed kicking balls were underinflated during their playoff game in Foxborough.

“It’s really not something that’s in the forefront of our mind. I can tell you that,” Harbaugh said. “The NFL is doing an investigation. They did call some of our people about it, and as far as I know — I didn’t know exactly what the conversations were — they answered honestly.

“We did not notice anything. We never had a ball that they were using on offense, so we don’t know anything about that in our game. We didn’t have a chance to handle any of their offensive footballs. As far as the kicking balls, it was 20 degrees outside. The balls were softer. Our guys told us during the game, and I just chalked that up to the fact that it was cold. Both teams were kicking the same kicking balls, so I didn’t really think anything of it during the game. Other than that, it’s not something that I’ve really given any thought to at all.”

Harbaugh may have felt awkward commenting publicly about the investigation as he enjoys a solid relationship with Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, who endorsed the former Philadelphia Eagles special teams coach as an excellent candidate to coach the Ravens back in 2008. However, it’s possible that others in the organization expressed concerns and Harbaugh simply didn’t feel compelled to speak for anyone but himself on the matter.

Asked if the current allegations would cause the Ravens to wonder if similar shenanigans had taken place in the past, Harbaugh had no interest in discussing the hypothetical question.

“As far as in the past, I don’t really want to get into all that,” Harbaugh said. “I don’t have any comment on that.”

Ravens kicker Justin Tucker wrote on his Twitter account Wednesday afternoon that he hadn’t spoken to anyone with the “NFL, NFL Security, or media” about the footballs not being properly inflated in the game against New England.

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New Ravens coordinator Trestman eases concerns with first impression

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New Ravens coordinator Trestman eases concerns with first impression

Posted on 21 January 2015 by Luke Jones

The most frustrating aspect of offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak’s departure was a fear that the Ravens would be forced to fix something that wasn’t broken.

After a 2014 season in which Baltimore set franchise records in points scored and total yards, head coach John Harbaugh knew he wouldn’t have to start from scratch like he did a year ago in his search for a new offensive coordinator and system, but the Ravens needed someone to keep the offense moving in the same direction. Former Chicago Bears head coach Marc Trestman has been entrusted with the job, and the 59-year-old made it clear Wednesday that he doesn’t intend to bring sweeping changes to Kubiak’s version of the West Coast offense.

“My idea would be, ‘Why would I have 40-some guys learn a new offense when I’m just one person?'” Trestman said. “Isn’t it easier for me to learn it than to start over with everybody else including coaches? I think the formula going in is certainly to learn the language and the nuances of the offense and what has been established there with the coaching staff and with the players, and then move forward from there.”

This isn’t the first time in Trestman’s career that he’s followed in the footsteps of a successful offense as he replaced Mike Shanahan and Gary Kubiak as defending Super Bowl champion San Francisco’s offensive coordinator and quarterback in 1995, making him familiar with their version of the West Coast offense. Perhaps the biggest question had been how a new coordinator would impact the zone-blocking schemes the Ravens finally appeared to master under Kubiak last season and whether that style would continue.

Harbaugh made it clear he was looking for a coordinator to fit the vision that will remain for the Ravens’ running game even as Kubiak, quarterbacks coach Rick Dennison and tight ends coach Brian Pariani join the Broncos.

“I thought that Gary and Rick and Brian along with [offensive line coach Juan Castillo] really took that to another level as far as the nuance, the scheme,” Harbaugh said. “Because that’s something they’ve been doing all those years in Houston and in Denver, and they’re probably the four most guys around the stretch-zone. We’ve learned from that, and that’s a part of us now going forward, and we’ll keep it.”

With two decades of NFL coaching experience, Trestman has a good reputation working with quarterbacks, but many have pointed to his pass-happy tendencies as a potential conflict with the Ravens’ offensive identity. The Bears ranked 30th in the NFL in rushing attempts (355) while Baltimore rushed 448 times to finish 11th in 2014. Chicago ranked 19th in the NFL in yards per carry (4.1).

After being asked about using the shotgun formation in Chicago, Trestman reminded everyone that he’s worked in a variety of fashions, pointing out that he rarely ever used the shotgun in his years with Rich Gannon in Oakland. It’s all about adaptation for the new offensive coordinator while adding some wrinkles along the way.

Harbaugh made it clear that the new-found commitment to the running game established last season will not change, and he feels comfortable with his new coordinator buying into the same philosophy.

“It’s never going to be my offense. It’s always going to be the Ravens’ offense,” Trestman said. “John has a vision of playing continuity football and complementary football, and I think that’s what has allowed the Ravens to be so successful. They’re not just an offense, defense and special teams, but they play complementary football. That’s something that I’ve paid attention to and will certainly have in mind each and every day as we work within the framework of the offense.”

Of course, saying the right things in a January conference call is a far cry from executing a successful offense on Sundays in the fall. More critical to the Ravens’ fate than Trestman will be what general manager Ozzie Newsome does to address the running back, wide receiver, and tight end positions that all feature key free agents this offseason.

The NFL is more about talent than it is coaching with few secrets among the 32 teams in how the game is played. Trestman has an exceptional foundation with a 30-year-old quarterback — who shares a similarly calm demeanor — and a strong offensive line on which to build, but the other skill positions are filled with question marks as the statuses of Justin Forsett, Torrey Smith, Owen Daniels, and even Dennis Pitta remain unclear for 2015.

As was the case when Kubiak agreed to become the offensive coordinator a year ago, the Ravens have much work ahead to keep the league’s 12th-ranked offense from a year ago moving in the right direction.

“I think Ozzie and John, the way they handle the personnel, it’s really in their hands,” Trestman said. “Certainly, I’ll be the one to be flexible enough that when we bring in good players that we’ll develop them and get them ready to play. Don’t go in there with any pre-existing ideas of who’s there, who’s not there, what we need to do. There’s a tremendous personnel department here. I’m sure we’ll talk about different types of players, but ultimately it’s our job to coach the guys that Ozzie and John and our personnel department bring in.”

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Ravens hire Mornhinweg as new quarterbacks coach

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Ravens hire Mornhinweg as new quarterbacks coach

Posted on 21 January 2015 by Luke Jones

A day after securing Marc Trestman as his new offensive coordinator, Ravens head coach John Harbaugh continued restocking his staff with the hiring of former New York Jets offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg as the new quarterbacks coach on Wednesday.

The 52-year-old Mornhinweg is no stranger to Harbaugh after the two worked together for five years under Andy Reid in Philadelphia. Needless to say, Mornhinweg’s latest stop with the Jets did not go to plan, but the longtime NFL assistant has worked with Pro Bowl quarterbacks such as Brett Favre, Steve Young, Jeff Garcia, Donovan McNabb, and Michael Vick in his career.

He’ll now be able to add Super Bowl XLVII Most Valuable Player Joe Flacco to the list.

“Marty’s got a great history and background with the offense that we were running last year and that Marc is going to build on this year,” Harbaugh said. “He’s a great quarterback teacher of fundamentals, footwork, reads, quarterback mechanics, and stuff like that in the passing game. I’m really excited about that. Marty’s a great coach and is going to be a great addition for us. I know he’ll work really well with Marc and work really well with Joe.”

Mornhinweg is the former head coach of the Detroit Lions where he collected a 5-27 record in two seasons and was infamously known for once winning a coin toss and electing to have the wind in his favor instead of taking the ball in an overtime loss to Chicago. However, he has extensive experience working in the West Coast offense going back to his days with Green Bay and San Francisco in the 1990s. He most recently worked with Jets quarterback Geno Smith, who has failed to develop in his first two NFL seasons.

Despite having not worked with his new quarterbacks coach before, Trestman acknowledged Mornhinweg’s familiarity with Harbaugh and offensive line coach Juan Castillo as a plus in trying to continue the momentum created by Kubiak last season.

“He had great success as a quarterbacks coach and play-caller [in Philadelphia],” Trestman said. “I’m really looking forward to working with Marty. We’ve never really crossed paths, but we have mutual friends in the business. This is all going to be part of a formula to continue to play at a high level offensively and continue to get better.”

Harbaugh announced current quarterbacks coach Rick Dennison will call plays at the Pro Bowl before officially joining Gary Kubiak’s new staff in Denver.

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Flacco turns down invitation to Pro Bowl

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Flacco turns down invitation to Pro Bowl

Posted on 20 January 2015 by Luke Jones

Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco has never made the Pro Bowl, but he’s choosing family over an invitation at the conclusion of his seventh year.

With many fans surprised to see Matt Ryan and Andy Dalton selected to replace the Super Bowl-bound Tom Brady and the injured Aaron Rodgers, it turns out Flacco was invited to participate in Sunday’s game in Arizona. However, the 30-year-old elected to remain with his wife, Dana, who is expecting the couple’s third child this month.

Ravens wide receiver and teammate Torrey Smith broke the news via his official Twitter account after initially questioning why Dalton was chosen for the game instead of Flacco.

 

In his only season under offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak — who has now become the head coach of the Denver Broncos — Flacco set career highs in passing yards (3,986) and touchdown passes (27). His 91.0 passer rating was his highest since the 2010 season, and Flacco completed 62.0 percent of his passes, the third-highest completion percentage of his career.

In addition to head coach John Harbaugh coaching one of the rosters, the Ravens are sending four players to this year’s Pro Bowl including linebackers Elvis Dumervil and C.J. Mosley and right guard Marshal Yanda. Initially a first alternate, running back Justin Forsett was added to the game last week after Houston’s Arian Foster bowed out with an injury.

Vinny Testaverde is the only quarterback in franchise history to be chosen for the Pro Bowl, and that selection came in the Ravens’ inaugural 1996 season.

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Gase interviews for Ravens offensive coordinator job

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Gase interviews for Ravens offensive coordinator job

Posted on 19 January 2015 by Luke Jones

The Ravens wasted little time in officially beginning the process to replace offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak by interviewing Denver assistant Adam Gase Monday night.

Serving as the Broncos offensive coordinator in each of the last two years, Gase traveled to Baltimore to meet with head coach John Harbaugh before the Ravens staff traveled to Arizona to coach the Pro Bowl this week. Though interest has been lukewarm for Gase in trying to become a head coach this offseason, Jacksonville and several other teams have courted the 36-year-old to become their offensive coordinator.

Gase has come highly recommended by Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning as he helped orchestrate the NFL’s top-ranked offense in 2013 and No. 4 unit in 2014. However, some have questioned how much of Gase’s success should be attributed to working with a Hall of Fame quarterback who has essentially run his own offense in Denver.

After spending time as an offensive assistant with the Detroit Lions and San Francisco 49ers, Gase was hired by then-coach Josh McDaniels to join the Broncos staff in 2009 and was retained by John Fox when he was hired in 2011. As a quarterbacks coach, Gase was credited for getting enough production out of quarterback Tim Tebow to get the Broncos to the playoffs in 2011 before Manning arrived on the scene the following year.

The hiring of Gase would likely bring a shift in offensive philosophy as he is known for an up-tempo, pass-happy style that differs from Kubiak’s West Coast offense that worked so well in Baltimore this past season. However, Gase adapted to a more run-oriented attack in the second half of 2014 when Manning struggled through the final weeks of the season with a quadriceps injury, leading you to believe his system can be more balanced.

A certain amount of mystery remains over how successful Gase can be as an offensive coordinator without Manning — or his many offensive weapons in Denver — but his credentials are impressive for someone who didn’t even play college football, let alone compete in the NFL. He began his coaching career as an undergraduate at Michigan State helping out coach Nick Saban, who then took Gase with him to Louisiana State as a graduate and recruiting assistant. Given general manager Ozzie Newsome’s relationship with the current Alabama coach, you can assume the Ravens have done their homework on a man regarded as one of the finest young offensive minds in the NFL.

Should the Ravens decide Gase is the right choice to replace Kubiak, they may need to move quickly given the interest he’s drawn from other teams and the high number of offensive coordinator jobs that remain unfilled around the league.

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Sifting through potential candiates to replace Kubiak

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Sifting through potential candiates to replace Kubiak

Posted on 19 January 2015 by Luke Jones

With Gary Kubiak off to Denver and taking Rick Dennison and Brian Pariani with him, the Ravens are essentially back to where they started a year ago as it relates to their offensive coordinator position.

Of course, having a 30-year-old franchise quarterback in Joe Flacco and an above-average offensive line with all five starters under contract for 2015 should make the job attractive to potential suitors. The most logical fit outside the organization appeared to be Kyle Shanahan — who was a finalist for the position a year ago — before reports surfaced Sunday night that he would be accepting the offensive coordinator position with the Atlanta Falcons as part of Dan Quinn’s staff when the Seattle defensive coordinator is officially hired.

It will be interesting to see if head coach John Harbaugh conducts a search as extensive as last year’s when the Ravens replaced Jim Caldwell. The Ravens would likely prefer maintaining the principles that Kubiak brought to the offense, but any new coordinator understandably would want to put his own fingerprints on the system.

Keep in mind that the Ravens will also need to fill their quarterbacks coach, tight ends coach, and secondary coach positions, so those jobs will also be discussed as Harbaugh reaches out to various candidates. If last year was any indication, the head coach will even explore the collegiate ranks as he did when hiring current running backs coach Thomas Hammock and wide receivers coach Bobby Engram.

Below are four candidates who could potentially draw interest with their most recent position in parentheses:

Adam Gase (Denver offensive coordinator)
Why he fits: The 36-year-old is a hot commodity and is “soon” expected to interview with the Ravens, according to NFL Network. Gase has received endorsements from 14-time Pro Bowl quarterback Peyton Manning and has likely taken valuable lessons from the future Hall of Famer while overseeing the league’s top-ranked offense in 2013 and the No. 4 unit in 2014.
Why he doesn’t fit: The Manning factor could also be viewed as a negative as the veteran quarterback ran his own offense in Gase’s two years as the coordinator in Denver. Based on his limited body of work in Denver, Gase appears to have a higher propensity to throw the ball, which wouldn’t jive with Harbaugh’s mentality to be a physical, run-first offense.

Greg Knapp (Denver quarterbacks coach)
Why he fits: The 51-year-old carries two decades of NFL coaching experience and has served as an offensive coordinator in San Francisco, Atlanta, Oakland (twice), and Seattle. Part of the expansive coaching tree that started in San Francisco, he also served on Kubiak’s staff in Houston for two years and has experience with the West Coast offense the Ravens ran in 2014.
Why he doesn’t fit: Kubiak could entice him to remain on the Broncos staff, and Knapp could be viewed as too much of a retread after mixed results at different points in his career. Even if Kubiak recommends him to Harbaugh, his lack of any clear ties to the Baltimore head coach makes you wonder if it would be a fit.

Marc Trestman (Chicago head coach)
Why he fits: Even if his two-year tenure with the Bears ended in disappointment, the 59-year-old has an excellent offensive mind and has coached the likes of Bernie Kosar, Steve Young, Jake Plummer, Rich Gannon, and even journeymen Josh McCown to good seasons. He worked with Jim Harbaugh for two years in Oakland, so the Ravens coach can draw further insight from his brother.
Why he doesn’t fit: The Bears were so dysfunctional in Trestman’s final year that you wonder if there will be some lingering effects at his next job. With issues along the offensive line, the Bears faltered in the running game under Trestman in 2014, finishing 27th in the NFL. His wide-open approach may not jive with the Ravens’ philosophy unless they’re willing to shake things up.

Marty Mornhinweg (New York Jets offensive coordinator)
Why he fits: The 52-year-old spent five years coaching with Harbaugh in Philadelphia under Andy Reid and worked with some successful offenses with the Eagles. Familiarity is a powerful factor in hiring coaches, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Ravens reach out to the former Detroit Lions head coach to join the staff in some capacity.
Why he doesn’t fit: Mornhinweg spent the last two years in New York as the Jets couldn’t find any success offensively. He didn’t have much to work with, but he also didn’t help Geno Smith’s development after the Jets invested a second-round pick in the quarterback. Mornhinweg is considered a more pass-happy play-caller, which conflicts with the Ravens’ mindset.

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Five thoughts on Kubiak’s departure

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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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Denver submits request to interview Kubiak for head coach

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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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No questions at left tackle for Ravens heading into offseason

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No questions at left tackle for Ravens heading into offseason

Posted on 14 January 2015 by Luke Jones

Ravens head coach John Harbaugh made it clear Tuesday there is no controversy at left tackle going into the offseason.

A few eyebrows raised when starting left tackle Eugene Monroe was deemed active for Saturday’s game in New England before rookie free agent James Hurst remained the starter against the Patriots, but Harbaugh said the decision was based solely on Monroe’s health. After injuring his ankle in the fourth quarter of the Week 16 loss in Houston, Monroe did not play in the regular-season finale or the Pittsburgh game and was limited to just five special-teams snaps against New England.

Monroe was a limited participant in practices last week leading into the trip to Foxborough.

“Eugene wasn’t 100 percent, but we felt like he was enough to be a good backup for us,” Harbaugh said. “If we lost one of the tackles, we’d probably rather be able to put Eugene in there at less than 100 percent than have to shuffle the offensive line around again. And credit to him for getting himself back into that kind of a position. But as far as playing the left tackle spot the whole game, where [Monroe] was at, James was the better option.”

If Monroe had remained inactive against the Patriots and the Ravens would have lost either Hurst or Marshal Yanda, who was already filling in for the injured Rick Wagner at right tackle, they would have been forced to move left guard Kelechi Osemele out to tackle and insert Ryan Jensen into the game. Instead, the Ravens deemed a banged-up Monroe as a better option to activate than Jensen, who was only promoted to the 53-man roster at the end of the regular season.

Needless to say, it was a disappointing year for Monroe after he signed a five-year, $37.5 million contract last offseason. He missed four games after undergoing knee surgery in late September and never appeared healthy enough to play at the level he did last season when he was acquired from the Jacksonville Jaguars. The ankle injury against the Texans all but ended his season, opening the door for Hurst to become the first player in NFL history to start a playoff game at left tackle as an undrafted rookie.

Counting the postseason, the Ravens went 5-2 in games Hurst started at left tackle, leaving some to wonder if the rookie’s performance was good enough to supplant Monroe as the starter. When carefully watching Hurst’s play, it would be more accurate to describe Baltimore as surviving with him at left tackle.

Harbaugh made it clear how he views the depth chart heading into next season.

“Eugene is our starter going forward,” Harbaugh said. “We’re happy to have that be the case.”

Of all offensive tackles who participated in at least 25 percent of his team’s snaps in the regular season, Hurst finished 79th out of 84 and had minus-16.9 pass blocking and minus-9.0 run blocking grades, according to Pro Football Focus’s cumulative assessments. Monroe ranked 63rd out of 84, but his minus-1.0 pass blocking grade and minus-10.7 run blocking grade reflects how much he struggled moving laterally in Gary Kubiak’s zone-blocking system while not having quite as many issues as a pass blocker. That could certainly be explained by the knee issues he experienced early in the year and then coming back from surgery in the middle of the season.

Monroe will be on notice to bounce back dramatically — especially carrying a $7.7 million cap figure in 2015 — but he also has a track record suggesting he’ll be better with an offseason to once again get healthy.

Even if his performance wasn’t strong enough to seriously make Monroe look over his shoulder, Hurst did establish himself as a solid backup for an offensive line that took major strides in 2014.

“Those experiences I’m going to carry with me and use them to my advantage just to make myself a better football player,” said Hurst of the seven starts he made in his first NFL season. “It’s a huge offseason after your rookie year. You know really what you need to work on to be a better pro.”

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