Tag Archive | "John Harbaugh"

Steelers assistant Wilson joins list of Ravens’ offensive coordinator candidates

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Steelers assistant Wilson joins list of Ravens’ offensive coordinator candidates

Posted on 21 January 2014 by Luke Jones

As the search for their next offensive coordinator enters its second week, Ravens head coach John Harbaugh has finally named four candidates to replace Jim Caldwell.

In addition to already conducting interviews with wide receivers coach Jim Hostler, former Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, and former Lions offensive coordinator Scott Linehan — three names who had previously been reported — the Ravens plan to interview Steelers running backs coach Kirby Wilson for the opening. The 52-year-old Wilson has spent the last seven seasons with Pittsburgh and carries 16 years of NFL coaching experience.

Wilson gained league-wide attention two years ago when he sustained burns on more than 45 percent of his body and smoke inhalation from a fire at his Pittsburgh townhouse.

Of the four known candidates to receive interviews, Wilson is the only one without experience as an NFL coordinator, but the Pittsburgh assistant is respected around the league after previously spending time with Arizona, Tampa Bay, Washington, and New England.

According to the Ravens’ official website, Harbaugh has interviewed other candidates for the offensive coordinator job, including coaches from the collegiate ranks. The head coach has also spoken to candidates about the vacant quarterbacks coach position that was handled by Caldwell before he departed to become the new head coach of the Detroit Lions last week.

Though it was rumored that Saints quarterbacks coach Joe Lombardi could be a candidate for the Ravens’ coordinator position, he will instead become Caldwell’s new offensive coordinator in Detroit.

There is still no firm timetable for a final decision, but Harbaugh does not want the process to take much longer.

 

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Ravens’ offensive coordinator search could pick up at Senior Bowl

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Ravens’ offensive coordinator search could pick up at Senior Bowl

Posted on 18 January 2014 by Luke Jones

The Ravens have largely kept the outside world in the dark in regards to their ongoing search for a new offensive coordinator, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t been busy trying to find Jim Caldwell’s replacement.

Despite former Washington Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan being the only known candidate to already interview for the job — wide receivers coach Jim Hostler will also interview at some point — the sense offered from the Ravens is that they’ve already spoken to several candidates about the position. On Friday, head coach John Harbaugh flew to Ohio for the funeral of his grandfather, Joe Cipiti, but the interview process could pick up next week if a hire isn’t made over the weekend.

As the front office and coaching staff travels to Mobile, Ala. for the Senior Bowl, the main focus will be evaluating a talented batch of NFL draft prospects, but the Ravens could also conduct more interviews there.

“That, historically, is like a coaching convention,” senior vice president of public and community relations Kevin Byrne said to the team’s official site on Thursday. “Everybody who has a job or wants to have a job in the NFL goes to the Senior Bowl. If John continues [interviewing] into next week, it might be easier even.”

The Ravens appear to be in no rush to fill the position as they understand a high-profile job with one of the best organizations in the NFL is coveted by many assistants around the league. Despite finishing 29th in total offense last season, Baltimore has a 29-year-old franchise quarterback locked into a long-term contract and a reputation as a place where assistants have been able to thrive and eventually secure head-coaching opportunities of their own.

High-profile names such as former Texans head coach Gary Kubiak and former Cleveland head coach Rob Chudzinski are out there, but the Ravens appear willing to at least explore the possibility of a young up-and-coming candidate such as the 34-year-old Shanahan or former Packers quarterbacks coach Ben McAdoo, who was reportedly on the Ravens’ list of candidates to interview before he accepted the New York Giants’ offensive coordinator job earlier in the week.

Harbaugh isn’t necessarily looking for the biggest name as much as he seeks the right one for the job of breathing new life into an offensive attack that struggled mightily in 2013.

“We will have a coach that best fits what we want to be, where we want to go, and understands what Ravens football is all about,” Harbaugh said in a team statement following Caldwell’s departure. “I have a profile in mind, and we are excited about the coaches who have shown interest in the job.”

In addition to their offensive coordinator position, the Ravens have openings at running backs coach, quarterbacks coach, and secondary coach to fill.

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If Harbaugh wants to get a real rise out of people, he should interview his Dad

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If Harbaugh wants to get a real rise out of people, he should interview his Dad

Posted on 17 January 2014 by Drew Forrester

It dawned on me driving in to WNST this morning that I don’t have anything for you…in terms of Drew’s Morning Dish.

Nothing.

The Ravens interviewed someone yesterday for their Offensive Coordinator position but we don’t know who it was or how it went.  I’m guessing that happened, of course.  I don’t know for certain they interviewed someone, but I’m figuring they did, right?  John Harbaugh’s grandfather passed away earlier this week so there’s a chance he wasn’t available to interview anyone yesterday.

Speaking of the Harbaugh family, if John had any sense of humor at all, he would leak out to the media that he’s thinking about interviewing his Dad, Jack, for the vacant Offensive Coordinator position.  Harbaugh, of course, is accused by people who don’t know better that “all he does is hire his friends” — so what better way to have fun with those goofs than leaking out that he’s considering an interview for his father?  Hilarious…

The Orioles didn’t sign anyone of note yesterday.  Actually, they haven’t signed someone of note in years.  There’s a rumor floating around they’re trying to arm-twist right handed pitcher Bronson Arroyo into coming to Baltimore to finish up his career getting battered in the American League.  No offense to Arroyo at all – who, by the way, is one helluva guitar player and singer…don’t believe me?  Check out THIS VIDEO right here – because he’s been pretty decent in Cincinnati, but if Drew were providing him with career advice I’d tell him to stay in the National League.

Sidenote: Arroyo is the show’s Friday Featured Artist today.  At this point, he might be a better musician that pitcher.

If you’ve listened to the show this week, you already know what I think is going to happen on the football field this Sunday.

New England wins at Denver — 30-26

San Francisco wins at Seattle — 23-17

Have a great weekend!

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Five questions about the Ravens’ offensive coordinator search

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Five questions about the Ravens’ offensive coordinator search

Posted on 15 January 2014 by Luke Jones

As the search for a new offensive coordinator to replace Jim Caldwell continues, head coach John Harbaugh confirmed Wednesday that the Ravens will look inside and outside the organization to find the best candidate.

Several names have already been offered by numerous outlets for consumption, but the Ravens’ history with the hiring of Harbaugh as their head coach in 2008 supports the possibility of the next offensive coordinator being an off-the-radar candidate no one is currently discussing.

Wide receivers coach Jim Hostler will interview for the position — he was San Francisco’s offensive coordinator in 2007 — but it remains unclear if any other in-house candidates such as offensive line coach Juan Castillo will interview. Of course, most think the Ravens are more likely to bring in an outside option for the job, but their exact specifications for Caldwell’s replacement remain unclear.

“We’re confident that whether we select someone currently on our staff or from another team, we will have a coach that best fits what we want to be, where we want to go and understands what Ravens football is all about,” Harbaugh said in a released team statement. “I have a profile in mind, and we are excited about the coaches who have shown interest in the job.

“One of the positives with the change is that we’re reminded that this franchise — and team — is attractive to many in the profession. We will have a coaching staff that will get the most out of our players.”

With Harbaugh and the Ravens not exactly willing to share a clear list of candidates at the onset of the search, several important questions must be answered as they look for the best man for the job:

1. Are the Ravens looking for a coordinator to tweak their current system or to offer something new entirely?

The offensive system received some new wrinkles with the increased use of the three-wide, single-back formation and the introduction of the pistol formation in 2013, but it’s clear the Ravens will be looking for at least some changes to revamp the league’s 29th-ranked offensive attack. How much change will be the question as a different offensive system comes with new verbiage and a learning curve for newcomers and veterans alike.

Ultimately, Harbaugh will want some say in his team’s overall offensive philosophy, so it remains to be seen whether the Ravens will prefer some minor modifications — along with their anticipated personnel changes — or a complete revamping. The knee-jerk reaction will be to blow it up and start fresh after an 8-8 season full of offensive ineptitude, but there are drawbacks to that and Caldwell showed late in the 2012 season that the offensive system is capable of being successful with the right personnel.

2. How much will they value experience against the appeal of an up-and-coming younger coach?

There’s no such thing as the perfect candidate as critics will view established names as underwhelming retreads while scoffing at guys they’ve never head of, but it will be interesting to see if the Ravens prefer more play-calling experience after previously promoting Caldwell, a man who had never served as an offensive coordinator. Hiring an experienced coordinator is the safer play, but it can also take away mystery in opponents’ minds as tendencies, strengths, and weaknesses are no secret in the NFL establishment, possibly limiting the coordinator’s ceiling for success in the process.

An up-and-coming coach might bring enthusiasm, new ideas, and exciting potential, but you never quite know how he’ll respond if he hasn’t been a play-caller at the NFL level. Being a major asset in meeting rooms and on the practice field as a positional coach is valuable, but that doesn’t always translate to success as an offensive coordinator in the same way that not all great coordinators are capable of making the successful leap to a head coaching job.

3. Is the thought of continuity a bigger priority as the Ravens are about to have their third offensive coordinator in the last 13 months?

The Ravens are clearly looking for the best candidate to breathe life into their struggling offense, but it’s fair to wonder if they’ll value a candidate who’s more likely to remain on the staff for the long haul than one who could easily bolt for a head coaching job in the next year or two even though that’s often difficult to predict. If Harbaugh doesn’t go with an internal candidate, this would mark the first time the Ravens won’t hire from within for a coordinator job — offensive or defensive — since Cam Cameron joined the new staff in 2008 as Greg Mattison, Chuck Pagano, Dean Pees, and Caldwell were already in the organization.

Baltimore had interest in interviewing the 36-year-old Ben McAdoo before he was hired as the Giants offensive coordinator on Tuesday, which could be an indication that they’re not worried about choosing a coordinator who could bolt for a head coaching gig sooner rather than later. As Harbaugh mentioned in Wednesday’s statement, having assistant coaches leave for better jobs reflects favorably on the organization, but a lack of continuity on the staff can stunt the growth of your football team when you can’t find the ideal replacements.

4. Will the Harbaugh connection be a relevant factor — for or against — any potential candidate?

One of the silliest criticisms that fans have for Harbaugh is his preference to hire coaches with which he shares connections when you realize coaches everywhere have the same tendency. Just like any other career field, networking is a major factor in the hiring process and it’s human nature to gravitate toward familiarity, whether it’s right or not.

Because of that, it would be unwise to immediately dismiss candidates who share ties with Harbaugh such as former Vikings head coach Brad Childress. However, it’s possible that owner Steve Bisciotti, general manager Ozzie Newsome, or even Harbaugh himself have decided that a coordinator who doesn’t have a history with the head coach would be the best fit at this particular time.

5. How much will quarterback Joe Flacco be involved in the interviewing and hiring process?

This is easily the most interesting question as it appears to be a no-brainer to have the seventh-year quarterback’s input as the Ravens consider the various candidates. Flacco certainly isn’t going anywhere, so why wouldn’t you want a candidate that he has endorsed and feels comfortable with?

Ultimately, the new offensive coordinator needs to be Harbaugh’s decision, but it would be counterproductive not to have your veteran quarterback involved in the interviews in some way to offer his input on whether he thinks he can work well with a given candidate. Whether it’s to offer feedback after observing interviews or to be directly involved in the questioning, Flacco should have a significant voice in helping to idenitfy the man who will not only lead the offense but also strive to make the franchise quarterback better after a disappointing 2013 season.

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Harbaugh says Ravens “have a profile in mind” for next Offensive Coordinator

Posted on 15 January 2014 by WNST Staff

COACH HARBAUGH ON NEW OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR; QUOTES ON JIM CALDWELL

John Harbaugh on hiring a new offensive coordinator: “We will be interviewing coaches inside and outside of the building. We’re confident that whether we select someone currently on our staff or from another team, we will have a coach that best fits what we want to be, where we want to go and understands what Ravens football is all about. I have a profile in mind, and we are excited about the coaches who have shown interest in the job. One of the positives with the change is that we’re reminded that this franchise – and team – is attractive to many in the profession. We will have a coaching staff that will get the most out of our players.”

John Harbaugh on Jim Caldwell: “We are all so happy for Jim. He deserves this opportunity, and I congratulate the Lions for selecting him. We’re disappointed that we’ve lost Jim. We were looking forward to making progress on offense with Jim leading the charge as coordinator. Jim is a teacher, he is honorable, he is a respected leader, and every person with the Ravens will miss him. Players and assistants respond to him. You understand why he was named Detroit’s head coach and why all the other teams had him among the finalists.”

Ozzie Newsome on Jim Caldwell: ”I believe it would be difficult to find anyone with the Ravens who is more respected than Jim Caldwell. That includes players, coaches and other staff members. He earned that because of the person he is and his extensive knowledge about football, including the keys to winning and his ability to teach all of that. Personally, it is a privilege to know him, and it was an honor to work with him. We put Jim in a difficult position a year ago when we named him offensive coordinator late in the season. All he did was help us turn our offense around, and we won the Super Bowl. He has many strengths, but one that is sometimes overlooked is his ability to bring a coaching staff together. He has already succeeded as a head coach, and he will again in Detroit.”

Joe Flacco on Jim Caldwell: “I enjoyed my time with Jim greatly. He is a man that I will always respect as a football coach, leader and a friend. Through his calming influence and extensive knowledge of the game, he was an integral part of our success over the past few years. He will be missed by me and the Ravens. I wish him the best of luck in Detroit.”

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Building offense around Flacco only offseason priority that matters

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Building offense around Flacco only offseason priority that matters

Posted on 09 January 2014 by Luke Jones

The uncertain future of linebacker Terrell Suggs and the decision to retain assistant Juan Castillo were topics that understandably garnered the most attention at the Ravens’ season-ending press conference on Wednesday.

But it was something owner Steve Bisciotti said that laid out the top priority of the offseason as Baltimore tries to bounce back from missing the postseason for the first time in the John Harbaugh era. In fact, it’s the only objective that really matters if the Ravens hope to climb to the heights they reached 11 months ago anytime soon.

Bisciotti has always acknowledged his opinions on football-related matters shouldn’t — and usually don’t — hold as much weight as those of general manager Ozzie Newsome and Harbaugh, but that hasn’t stopped the 53-year-old owner from publicly calling for more accountability from his employees in the past as former head coach Brian Billick and former offensive coordinator Cam Cameron learned years ago. That’s what made his answer over how concerned he was about the underwhelming play of quarterback Joe Flacco so telling as it spelled out what the Ravens must do this winter.

There was no over-the-top comment about needing more of a return on the $120.6 million contract he forked over to the 28-year-old quarterback last winter, even though the Ravens will certainly expect a much better Flacco in 2014. Yes, Flacco must improve, but so must Newsome, Harbaugh, Castillo, offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell (if he does indeed return), Ray Rice, the offensive line, and everyone else with a stake in the Baltimore offense next season and beyond.

“When you look at these guys who have been coaching in the league and have had success in the past and you look at our players that have had success in the past, if we could have fixed it, we would have,” Bisciotti said. “I certainly expected more in the second half of the season. As interrelated as the running game is to the play-action pass and the execution of the offensive line, trying to divide up the blame is something I’m really not much more qualified than you guys are to do. But, when you have a short window of failure that comes out of the blue, the key is not to make wholesale changes.

“I know that Ray Rice was limited this year, and Bernard Pierce was limited. And, if they had been better, then maybe the offensive line would have performed better. Obviously, if the offensive line were blowing open holes, then maybe [Rice and Pierce] could have achieved more with their physical limitations. And, if that had worked a little better, then I think Joe would have performed a little better. All the things, the numbers that are so striking to me to find yourself in the bottom five in offense in almost every category is again something that — had we not had a [good] history in the last five years – then I would probably demand wholesale changes. But I think you have to be careful to not to look in a vacuum and decide you have to throw out the baby with the bathwater, and [you] let people get healthy, let these guys work together for another year, add some people to the team in the draft and free agency.

“I think it’s safe to say that we’re going to look at the offense with the same fine-tooth comb that we looked at the defense last year. I think you’re going to see a lot of changes in personnel and how we approach that. I’m pretty proud of the defense for being able to retool on the fly, and I’ve got the same amount of confidence with these guys in building the offense.”

The final few sentences of his drawn-out answer said everything you need to know. Yes, the Ravens must address Suggs’ $12.4 million cap number, find a free safety, and tinker with various parts of their defense and special teams, but building a better supporting cast around Flacco is paramount. Last offseason saw Newsome focus solely on revamping a below-average defense while allowing the offense to suffer as a result, a perplexing strategy considering the Ravens had just won a Super Bowl with their offense doing the heavy lifting.

Fixing the offense won’t be easy as the dynamic pass-catcher the Ravens covet doesn’t just grow on trees and the organization doesn’t exactly have a stellar history of developing — or even finding — many quality wide receivers in their 18-year history. Adding bulk on the interior line is a necessity, but potentially finding three quality starters — if the Ravens are unable to re-sign Eugene Monroe to remain with incumbents Marshal Yanda and Kelechi Osemele — will be a daunting task. Flacco’s $14.8 million cap figure in 2014 will indeed be an obstacle — just like the large numbers currently held by Suggs, Haloti Ngata, Lardarius Webb, Rice, and Yanda — as Newsome tries to use limited resources to infuse the offensive side of the ball with more talent.

But the Ravens must build a better supporting cast around their quarterback, whether you think Flacco is a potential Rolls-Royce or only a Mustang in the hierarchy of current NFL quarterbacks. He’s proven he has the ability to take the franchise all the way to the top, but he can’t do it alone as last season so painfully showed. A record-setting contract understandably brought high expectations, but it didn’t suddenly change his ability or who he is as a quarterback.

Making some difficult decisions such as parting ways with Suggs and sacrificing some ability defensively may be necessary to create sufficient cap space in order to add more dynamic offensive pieces. The Ravens have no choice but to take giant leaps forward offensively in the increasingly offensive-minded NFL.

Flacco did not have a good year in 2013, and he must own his share of the blame just like anyone else involved. But the Ravens didn’t set him up to have a strong season following an offseason trade of Anquan Boldin and the retirement of veteran center Matt Birk without adequate replacements behind them. That coupled with unforeseen injuries to the likes of Dennis Pitta, Rice, and Osemele left too much to overcome.

From the Suggs financial decision to improving the offensive line and running game, nearly all offseason moves will be tied to the theme of doing what’s best for Flacco so the Ravens can get the most out of their steep investment.

It’s fair to expect much more from the quarterback, but only if the front office, coaching staff, and supporting cast hold up their end of the bargain as well.

Even after handing Flacco the richest deal in franchise history last year, Bisciotti could recognize that simple truth on Wednesday.

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I called it last week — and Harbaugh confirmed it yesterday

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I called it last week — and Harbaugh confirmed it yesterday

Posted on 09 January 2014 by Drew Forrester

A nice gesture by John Harbaugh in January of 2013 turned into a whopper of a train wreck for the Head Coach.

He took steps in an effort to fix it yesterday at the annual “State of the Ravens” press conference at the team’s facility in Owings Mills.

What did Harbaugh do?

He gave Juan Castillo the title he should have given him last January when the Ravens hired him to oversee their offensive line.

Last week as Luke and I reviewed the 2013 Ravens season, one of the topics centered on coaches and who we thought might return and who was on the bubble.

This was before Wilbert Montgomery was “moved on” for, essentially, insubordination.

As Luke and I went over the names, we eventually came to Castillo.  I contended then that Harbaugh’s biggest mistake was giving Juan Castillo the title of “Run Game Coordinator”.  I can see why Harbaugh did it that way, but hindsight tells us the title was a mistake.

To give Castillo a “new” title (the Ravens didn’t have a “Run Game Coordinator” before Castillo showed up) implied he was coming in to do something so specifically different that no one else on staff could manage it.  The only problem, of course, is the Ravens already had someone overseeing their run game.  His name was Wilbert Montgomery.  And, since a major component of running the ball is blocking for the ball carrier, they also had one of “those guys” in charge of coaching the offensive line — Andy Moeller.

Honestly, as I said last week, Harbaugh’s mistake wasn’t in hiring Castillo.  He’s a bright guy with a terrific resume.  John’s mistake was in giving Castillo the title of “Run Game Coordinator”.  When the running game fizzled in 2013, everyone simply pointed to the new guy who came in to coordinate the running game and said, “There’s the problem!”

Look, I understand John Harbaugh and Steve Bisciotti and everyone else at Owings Mills couldn’t care less about what the “armchair quarterbacks” (aka, the fans) think about their style, scheme and methods of coaching.  Frankly, the fans don’t know anything about football, truth be told.  They know when a player does something well and they know when Matt Elam gets beat by A.J. Green that Elam was to blame, but the fans don’t know anything, really, about the true inner workings of all eleven players on either side of the ball and how Player A’s mistake and Player B’s inability to cover up for it leaves Player C exposed.

That said, Harbaugh and Bisciotti do owe it to the fans to review the performance of their coaches and players and determine who deserves to carry on with the team and who doesn’t.

What “the fans” think about Juan Castillo shouldn’t have anything to do with whether the Ravens keep him or not, but it’s clear from yesterday’s press conference that Harbaugh IS aware of the scrutiny and criticism his “Run Game Coordinator” endured during the recently completed 8-8 season.

That’s why Castillo is now the team’s “Offensive Line Coach”.  It’s basically what he was all along, even with Moeller in the fold, but the Head Coach didn’t want to create a potential firestorm by stripping Moeller of his title.

And, for anyone who thinks Castillo was the guy who wrecked the running game, let me tell you this:  He didn’t coach the running backs.  Wilbert Montgomery did.  As someone in the organization said to me yesterday, “Wilbert’s job was to make the running backs better.  Whether or not he did that is up to you (the media) guys to decide and report on in whatever fashion you want.”

Oddly enough, the Ravens also brought in a smart football mind in 2013 to help with their defense.  His name was Steve Spagnuolo. The former Rams Head Coach joined the club as their “Senior Defensive Assistant”.  The Ravens defense, as we saw time and time again, couldn’t get off the field on 3rd down.  They had a tendency to give up the big play in the 4th quarter as the Ravens tried to steal a win or two in Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Chicago and Cincinnati.  Even though the defense outperformed the offense in 2013, the team’s defense was certainly a liability on a somewhat regular basis.  Why, then, was Spagnuolo not the same sort of lightning rod as Castillo?  One reason:  Title.

Castillo’s title suggested he was going to “fix” the running game.

Spagnuolo’s title suggested he was there to watch game film with Harbaugh and play racquetball with the coaches and front office members on Tuesday afternoons.

In theory — and based on his day to day duties — Castillo was brought on board to work with the offensive line.  We all know, of course, that was quite a mountain to climb for anyone…based on the personnel.

It would have helped the running game, for sure, if the offensive line that Castillo coached would have been better.  And, perhaps, the running game would have been better if Castillo and Andy Moeller coached their players better.

The running game might have also performed better if the running backs were in shape when training camp started — and capable of taking the punishment of an NFL season.

Here’s the one bullet point from yesterday that was reinforced to me by a staffer: The biggest loss the team incurred – player wise –  was Matt Birk.  And, as the staffer emphasized, “It wasn’t even close.  Our most significant loss was Birk.  We’re a playoff team if he’s the center.”

Moving forward, now, Juan Castillo is the team’s Offensive Line Coach.

There’s no word what that means for Andy Moeller.

And the team currently doesn’t have a “Running Backs Coach” after the departure of Montgomery.

One thing, for sure…regardless of title, the microscope remains focused on Juan Castillo.

For better or worse, he’s the new scapegoat in town moving forward.

And Baltimore, perhaps like no other city in the country, loves themselves a good old fashioned scapegoat.

Have fun, Juan.

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Suggs’ future, free safety among Ravens’ top defensive priorities this offseason

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Suggs’ future, free safety among Ravens’ top defensive priorities this offseason

Posted on 08 January 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Expected to focus most of his offseason attention on revamping the league’s 29th-ranked offense, Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome will still be faced with a couple important decisions on the defensive side of the ball.

One of them involves one of the greatest players in franchise history in Pro Bowl linebacker Terrell Suggs, who enters the final season of a six-year contract and is scheduled to count for $12.4 million against the Ravens’ 2014 salary cap. If Suggs is to return, it appears he won’t be playing under the original terms of his deal.

Should the 12th-year linebacker not be back, it would mark the second straight year in which the Ravens would let a notable player depart for cap purposes after wide receiver Anquan Boldin refused to take a pay cut and was traded to the San Franchise 49ers for a sixth-round pick last March.

“That’s a decision that we’ll talk about when we get down to Jupiter [at owner Steve Bisciotti's estate],” Newsome said at the Ravens’ season-ending press conference on Wednesday. “Terrell is a really good football player. He not only shows up in the pass game, but he shows up in the run game. That being said, we let a good football player go last year, so we’re not afraid. I’m not a virgin when it comes to letting guys walk out the door. What we’ll do is we’ll look at every aspect of it and see what’s best for the 2014, 2015, and 2016 Ravens and then make that decision once we get to it.”

The Ravens are expected to approach Suggs and his agent Joel Segal about a short-term contract extension that would roll some of his scheduled $7.8 million base salary into a signing bonus that would lower his cap number for the 2014 season and likely afford him the opportunity to play a couple more years and retire as a Raven. How open Suggs would be to a reasonable short-term extension remains to be seen after he was named to his sixth Pro Bowl this past season.

On pace for a career season after collecting nine sacks in the first eight games of 2013, Suggs fell off dramatically in the second half, recording just one sack in the final eight contests. The 2003 first-round pick will be 32 in October, which will give the Ravens plenty to think about in terms of not wanting to pay for past accomplishments over future production and compromise their salary cap beyond the 2014 season.

If the Ravens are unable to work out an extension with Suggs, they could cut the veteran linebacker to save $7.8 million in cap space for 2014.

Baltimore entered the offseason with just 37 players under contract and roughly $14 million in cap space, so the possibility of making a few veteran cuts to save space is likely. Newsome reiterated Wednesday what’s become an organizational philosophy of not reworking deals that have more than one year remaining on them.

“I think we’ll continue with our theme of not restructuring contracts,” Newsome said. “But, there’s a difference between restructuring and offering guys extensions. We have guys that are in the last year of their contract [or] going into the last year of their contract, and we’ve had a history of being able to get good deals done with guys heading into that last year. I don’t think we will embark on doing any more restructuring, but we will probably look at doing some extensions.”

Newsome also expressed his desire for “a more athletic safety” to complement 2013 first-round pick Matt Elam, who is expected to shift to the strong safety position in his second year. Veteran James Ihedigbo will be an unrestricted free agent and played well in his first year as a starter, but the Ravens are looking for a free safety who can force more turnovers, according to Newsome.

Known more for his physicality than his pass coverage as a standout safety with the University of Florida, Elam’s smaller frame is problematic when trying to match up against bigger tight ends and wide receivers. Coach John Harbaugh credited Elam’s “solid” play as a rookie last week, but he acknowledged that the 5-foot-10 safety is at his best playing closer to the line of scrimmage.

Elam recorded just one interception and three pass breakups to go with his 76 tackles while primarily playing the free safety position.

“Matt Elam should be a really, really good safety in this league,” Harbaugh said on Wednesday. “He’s fast, he’s physical, and he’s going to understand the expectations a little more. He’s going to anticipate checks a little better. He’s going to understand what it means to stay deep when you’re supposed to stay deep — not to stop your feet when you’ve got a vertical receiver running up on you and you’re a deep-third or deep-half player. Those are things that sometimes you learn from experience the hard way. He didn’t make too many mistakes for a guy who played that many repetitions as a safety, so it’s a good start for him.”

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Castillo to remain with Ravens as offensive line coach

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Castillo to remain with Ravens as offensive line coach

Posted on 08 January 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens are still in the early stages of formulating their offseason plans, but their most-maligned assistant coach will return for the 2014 season with a new job title.

Head coach John Harbaugh announced Wednesday that run-game coordinator Juan Castillo will remain with the Ravens as the offensive line coach. However, other staff changes could still be on the way as offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell’s future remains up in the air as he completes his third NFL head-coaching interview this week.

“Juan will be the offensive line coach next year,” Harbaugh said at the Ravens’ season-ending press conference. “The rest of it’s a little bit in flux right now. As all this NFL coaching drama goes on, some of our guys are involved in that. We’ll just have to see how it shakes out. But we’re going to build a great coaching staff again [next] year.”

The decision to retain Castillo is surprising after the Ravens finished last in the NFL in yards per carry (3.1) and 30th in rushing yards per game (83.0). Both were franchise-worst single-season marks as running back Ray Rice gained only 660 yards in the worst campaign of his six-year career.

Castillo’s return also indicates that the Ravens feel their biggest blocking issues were with personnel as their starting offensive line at the end of the 2013 season featured just two starters from the Super Bowl XLVII team. At this point, Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda and guard-tackle Kelechi Osemele are the only safe bets to be starters next year with tackles Eugene Monroe and Michael Oher both free agents — re-signing Monroe is a top offseason priority — and center Gino Gradkowski figuring to have serious competition for the starting job.

Though the Ravens have publicly downplayed the changes Castillo made this past season, the alterations to the zone blocking schemes as well as a second-year center replacing retired 15-year veteran Matt Birk proved to be a combustible combination for the offensive line.

Harbaugh confirmed Wednesday that Castillo really served as the team’s head offensive line coach in 2013 despite being given the innovative title when he joined the Ravens’ staff in January 2012. The change in Castillo’s job description may not bode well for incumbent offensive line coach Andy Moeller, who was essentially demoted after being in charge of the offensive line in 2011 and 2012. Assistant offensive line coach Todd Washington also remains on the staff after recently turning down an offer to become the offensive line coach at the University of Southern California.

The Ravens parted ways with running backs coach Wilbert Montgomery last week after a six-year relationship, leading many to wonder if Castillo would be the next to depart. Castillo served as the offensive line coach of the Philadelphia Eagles for 13 years — spending two additional years as their defensive coordinator before being fired in 2012 — and worked with Harbaugh for a decade under Andy Reid.

Though acknowledging everyone on his staff must coach better in 2014, Harbaugh shouldered the blame for giving the unique title to Castillo and leaving him open to even more criticism with the running game struggling so mightily.

“I can understand why Juan is a lightning rod right now because the way we set up the structure and then we go into the season and we have our worst-ever year running the ball and he’s got that title,” Harbaugh said. “That’s on me. When we hired Juan, the idea was to add another great coach into our mix. Juan functioned as the lead offensive line coach last year. That was his job. The title was a way to have three great offensive line coaches in our mix right there. Andy had a big contribution last year. It was a little bit different than he had the year before.

“We had three guys working together and I thought it was going to be a really good mix. I thought those guys did a really good job of coaching together. We didn’t get the result that we wanted to get, but Juan was the offensive line coach and that’s his title going forward.”

The Ravens will now wait on the fate of Caldwell in terms of his prospects of once again become a heading coach. However, no firm commitment has been made that the offensive coordinator will return next year as Baltimore tries to improve an offense that finished 29th in yards and 25th in points scored in 2013.

Caldwell has interviewed with Detroit, Washington, and Tennessee, but the former Indianapolis Colts head man hasn’t been publicly regarded as the favorite — at least to this point — to land any of those head-coaching vacancies.

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How are the Ravens and Orioles different?  You’ll see today at 10:00 am

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How are the Ravens and Orioles different? You’ll see today at 10:00 am

Posted on 08 January 2014 by Drew Forrester

Of all the days that separate the two professional sports teams in Baltimore, today is the one that stands out the most.

No games get played.

No one wins.  No one loses.

No players signed.  No money spent.

Today is the day that tells you everything you need to know about the Ravens — and at the same time, reminds you of what you already knew about the Orioles.

Some might also consider that today shows why one of the teams is a perennial winner and the other isn’t.

This morning at 10:00 am, the football team will hold its annual “State of the Ravens” press conference at their facility in Owings Mills.  They don’t do this occasionally.  They don’t do it only after a successful season.  Since Steve Bisciotti assumed full control of the team, they’ve hosted this event every year a week or two after the season concludes.

It’s called, in a word, “accountability”.

The Ravens ooze it.

The Orioles need a transfusion of it.

The only person who faces the media regularly for the Orioles is Buck Showalter, and that’s typically only in pre-game or post-game form.  Buck hasn’t had any sort of pre-season en-masse sitdown with the Baltimore media since he took the job and, likewise, hasn’t had a post-season presser for the media in town to pepper him with questions about the season.  That said, I bet you anything you want that Showalter would gladly sit down with the media if presented the option of doing so without the natural interference provided by the stuffed suits at OPACY.

Dan Duquette hasn’t had a press conference – other than when he was hired – in…well…ummm…forever.

Hilarious, right?

Repeat this to yourself at least once to completely absorb the amazing lack of responsibility on behalf of Orioles management: Dan Duquette is entering his third season with the Orioles and he’s never, once, faced the Baltimore press corps for a “bring it on” press conference where we’re all allowed to ask questions about the way the baseball franchise is run.

Go ahead, read that again.  Unreal.  Right?

This, of course, is in direct contrast to the Ravens, who will welcome any and all media members into their house today and allow questions to be thrown at Bisciotti, Team President Dick Cass, General Manager Ozzie Newsome and Head Coach John Harbaugh.

None of the questions will be dodged, unless some goof in the room says something like, “Yeah, this is for Ozzie.  Are you guys interested in trading for Justin Blackmon of the Jaguars?  He’s really good you know.”  Ozzie, of course, can’t answer any question about a player currently under contract with another team.  But he’ll answer any other REAL questions thrown his way today.

There’s no list of “off-limits-topics” distributed beforehand.  And, unlike the Orioles, who specialize in not allowing their critics to question them, the Ravens don’t “hand-pick” who is allowed in the room and who asks questions and who doesn’t.

The Orioles are so afraid of their critics they take away their press credentials and display a picture of the suspect at the main entrance behind home plate the same way the FBI posts pictures of their Most Wanted List in post offices.

The Ravens say, “Come on in, everyone, and ask whatever you want.”

The Orioles say, “You — you, right there.  You can come in.  You, though, you can’t come in.”

Accountability.  It’s what fuels today’s “State of the Ravens” gathering.

As long time Ravens P.R. Vice President Kevin Byrne said to me once, “We like this sort of review.  We appreciate the questions and the challenges.  We constantly evaluate ourselves.  We’re not worried about having people ask us why we do what we do.”

After the press conference, all four of the men will routinely hang around for some “off-the-record” discussions in the event you wanted to press an issue that was touched upon during the “open” portion of the event.

Yes, it’s true.  Steve Bisciotti simply stands in the corner and you ask him whatever you want.  One year, I asked him, simply, “How much money did the team make this past season?”  And, he stood right there and answered it.

Can you imagine asking Peter Angelos that question?

Wait — can you imagine Peter making himself AVAILABLE, first of all?  Then, what if that question got posed to him?  You can only imagine the result.

(Please see next page)

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