OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- When Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh interviews his offensive coordinator candidates, he will ask them about their vision for the offense, how their ideas fit with the team’s players and how their scheme can merge with what the team has done successfully in the past.
For the candidates, their biggest question to Harbaugh likely is this: Who will be quarterbacking the offense in Baltimore?
Ravens officials expressed confidence last week that Baltimore can still get a long-term deal done with Lamar Jackson, but there is a lot up in the air with the team’s star quarterback, especially when it comes to the franchise tag or a possible trade. If the Ravens place the tag on Jackson, it’s unknown when he would report to the team this year, or whether he would play under the tag. Baltimore general manager Eric DeCosta also declined to comment when asked whether he would listen to trade offers from other teams.
Harbaugh said he doesn’t believe the uncertainty with Jackson will affect his ability to attract the best offensive coordinator candidates.
"This is going to be a highly sought-after job; this is one of the top football coaching jobs in the world,” Harbaugh said. "Everybody’s going to want this job. We’ll get the best fit for what we’re trying to accomplish, and it’s going to be a highly qualified candidate.”
After parting ways with Greg Roman as their playcaller last week, it’s clear what the Ravens need to accomplish with their next offensive coordinator: fix the NFL’s most unbalanced attack.
In four seasons with Roman, Baltimore had the league’s top rushing attack and the third-worst passing game. The Ravens were the only team to rank in the top five in rushing and the bottom five in passing since 2019.
It’s not surprising that nearly all of the candidates linked to Baltimore’s opening have an expertise in the passing game. According to multiple reports, the Ravens have requested interviews with Rams pass game coordinator Zac Robinson, Vikings pass game coordinator Brian Angelichio, Broncos offensive coordinator Jason Outten, Seahawks quarterbacks coach Dave Canales and Browns wide receiver coach Chad O’Shea. Baltimore also has interest in former Colts coach Frank Reich, Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy and former Buccaneers coordinator Byron Leftwich, according to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler.
"We’re going to always believe in running the ball, and we’ve done that really well over the last number of years,” Harbaugh said. "With that, you’ve got to have a complementary passing game. You’ve got to have a stand-alone passing game -- with dropback passing -- situational passing, third downs, especially long and in the red zone, and then you’ve got to have a play-action passing game that goes with whatever runs you run, whether it’s quarterback-driven runs or power runs or whatever, and they’ve got to fit your run game. So, those are the things that kind of play off of each other; it’s just a well-rounded, balanced offense.”
With Roman, the Ravens called for a pass on 54.7% of the plays, which was the second lowest behind the Titans (54.4%). As a result, Baltimore averaged 201.6 yards passing per game, which ranked 29th since 2019 (in front of only the Jets, Bears and Browns).
It was a challenge for Roman to put together a complementary passing attack when he didn’t have established playmakers at wide receiver. Others would argue that Roman’s run-first system didn’t lure the top wide receivers to Baltimore.
Last season, the Ravens’ most productive wide receiver was Demarcus Robinson after Rashod Bateman missed the last nine games with a foot injury. Baltimore was so desperate at wideout by the end of the season that the team split out Pro Bowl tight end Mark Andrews.
"We were unique; we have a quarterback that can do everything -- that’s pretty unusual,” Harbaugh said. "And we have to get that wide receiver room where we want it. That’ll be the last part of the personnel part.”
The Ravens have one of the league’s top tight ends in Andrews, a motivated, young running back in J.K. Dobbins and a top-five offensive line. A playmaking wide receiver would complete this offense, as long as Jackson is returning.
Harbaugh said Jackson would be “involved” in the offensive coordinator search.
"I’ll keep him abreast to what’s going on, and I’m sure he’ll have some input along the way,” Harbaugh said. “But I know his focus -- like he told me -- is going to be on getting himself ready and getting his guys ready for next season.”