Another chance

Har­baugh’s fu­ture could de­pend on the suc­cess of co­or­di­na­tor Morn­hin­weg Morn­hin­weg brings his usual con­fi­dence to new job run­ning the of­fense

Baltimore Sun - - COMMENTARY - Mike Pre­ston By Childs Walker

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.

KEN­NETH K. LAM/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

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.”

KEN­NETH K. LAM/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

Ravens coach John Har­baugh, left, talks with Marty Morn­hin­weg dur­ing prac­tice this week. Morn­hin­weg is the Ravens’ fifth of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor in five sea­sons.

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