Harbaugh’s future could depend on the success of coordinator Mornhinweg Mornhinweg brings his usual confidence to new job running the offense
John Harbaugh’s future as coach of the Ravens could be determined by the success or failure of Marty Mornhinweg as the team’s new offensive coordinator.
Since the Ravens won the Super Bowl at the end of the 2012 season and parted ways with eventual Hall of Fame players Ray Lewis (inside linebacker) and Ed Reed (safety), the Ravens have produced only one winning season and one postseason appearance.
In the past five years, the Ravens have had five offensive coordinators. Two of them — Cam Cameron and Marc Trestman — were
As Ravens players reflected on their first days with new offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, they described an atmosphere transformed by his crackling enthusiasm.
Gone was Marc Trestman’s professorial reserve, replaced by the jaunty optimism of a coach who schemed big-play attacks with the San Francisco 49ers and Philadelphia Eagles.
Mornhinweg has never struggled to project confidence — not as an undersized quarterback on the high school fields of Northern California, not as a young NFL assistant teaching some of the biggest names in the sport, not even as coach of the bedraggled Detroit Lions.
“He brings an energy and an excitement that we
fired and a third — Jim Caldwell — would have been had he not taken over as head coach of the Detroit Lions.
Only Gary Kubiak, in 2014, really left on his own terms, to become head coach of the Denver Broncos. So if the Ravens don’t show significant improvement under Mornhinweg, owner Steve Bisciotti has to look in the direction of Harbaugh.
History could be repeating itself in Baltimore. Former coach Brian Billick went through four offensive coordinators, including himself, in his final four years before he was fired after the 2007 season.
Billick lasted nine seasons in Baltimore, and Harbaugh is in his ninth as well. Harbaugh, though, isn’t as worried about history right now as he is about winning. The move Monday to replace Trestman with Mornhinweg wasn’t out of desperation, but necessity.
The offense had become stagnant. The Ravens either had no running game or chose to ignore it. After losing to the Washington Redskins on Sunday, player frustration with Trestman reached an all-time high, forcing Harbaugh to make a move.
That move could save the season, but there is no certainty. However, it did provide Harbaugh with job security. When a coach keeps firing coordinators, it not only shows the shortcomings in that slot but the coach’s as well. It’s apparent that Harbaugh’s weakness is offense and that he is at the mercy of his coordinator.
If he isn’t, why didn’t he just order Trestman last week to run the ball more? The previous fired coordinators were all let go with similar problems: not having a strong vertical game or ground attack and being too predictable. But enough is enough. There can be no more excuses because Mornhinweg is one of the chosen, a longtime friend and assistant who coached with Harbaugh when they were on the staff of the Philadelphia Eagles.
Coaches like to hire their former coaching buddies. It’s understandable, and that’s part of the reason former Eagles assistant Juan Castillo is the Ravens offensive line coach.
Kubiak was different, though. The team’s front office ordered Harbaugh to stand down, and Kubiak was given the green light to hire his own coaches and run his own offense.
Trestman had differences with Castillo over the running game last season and the impression is that Trestman never fit in with the trio from Philadelphia.
At least now there is harmony. The players seem excited about Mornhinweg, and maybe the Ravens can build some chemistry. I’ve said this team is still a year from possibly being a serious contender because it has too much youth on offense in wide receivers Chris Moore and Breshad Perriman, running backs Kenneth Dixon and Buck Allen, and offensive linemen Alex Lewis and Ronnie Stanley.
The only game-changer on offense is wide receiver Steve Smith Sr., 37. Until the Ravens get more of those players, they have enough talent to defeat a lot of teams in the NFL but not enough to beat the good ones consistently.
If they don’t finish above .500 and they continue to struggle offensively, Bisciotti has to look at the big picture. Harbaugh is in that time in his career in Baltimore when coaches and their message get old.
Since purging the team of most of its alpha males after the 2012 Super Bowl season, Harbaugh has a regular-season record of 26-27. There have always been whispers that Lewis, not Harbaugh, was the driving force of those early Harbaugh teams.
But all that can be silenced if Mornhinweg can get this offense going. The Ravens have a good defense, built around strong young players such as defensive linemen Brandon Williams and Timmy Jernigan, and middle linebacker C.J. Mosley.
They just need a stronger running game, a more physical offensive line and a vertical passing attack. Sound familiar?
They have to be more creative, which means Mornhinweg has to step it up.
And if that happens, Harbaugh will be able to stick around a lot longer.
Marty Mornhinweg, promoted Monday to offensive coordinator, watches Ravens running back Terrance West during a practice Wednesday. “This is day to day, man,” Mornhinweg told reporters Thursday. “You’ve got to prove yourself every day.”
Ravens coach John Harbaugh, left, talks with Marty Mornhinweg during practice this week. Mornhinweg is the Ravens’ fifth offensive coordinator in five seasons.