Is Harbaugh to Blame for Struggling Offense?
Three things are certain in life; death, taxes, and the Baltimore Ravens struggling on offense. The Ravens are on their fifth offensive coordinator six years and the Ravens seem to consistently struggle under each one, except for Gary Kubiak back in 2014. But is the constant turnover of coordinators to blame? Or is the lack of young playmakers? Or… could it be head coach John Harbaugh to blame?
Now, I have to admit, I absolutely hate myself for writing this article. I consider myself one of the biggest Harbaugh fans out there, since I am a lifelong Ravens and University of Michigan fan. But, after watching both teams every week this season, I have noticed both teams are almost identical.
Both are coached by a Harbaugh, both have a top five defense, and both have an offense that is run dominated and struggles in the passing game. It could be my personal bias, but I believe the Harbaugh brothers are top tier coaches and top 10 in their respective leagues.
In the past six seasons, all under different offensive coordinators, the Ravens rank 31st, 17th, 14th, 12th, 29th, and 16th offensively. Statistically they appear to be a middle of the road offense, which most fans would take any day with the defense the Ravens have. But, look closer and you will see their two worst seasons, 2013 and 2017 (ranked 29th and 31st), have come after losing the number one receiving option, (Anquan Boldin 2013-traded, Steve Smith Sr. 2017-retired.)
So can Harbaugh not run an offense without a top receiver? Or is their family play-style out dated? Nowadays you cannot win consistently in the NFL with just running the ball and having a great defense. You absolutely NEED to be able to throw the ball on a consistent basis.
It is well known quarterback Joe Flacco is at his best when he can roll out and extend the pocket. Sadly, if you cannot get the run game going, then the play-action is virtually ineffective.
Is Harbaugh to blame for the horrid offense? I mean the only consistent thing throughout the years is Harbaugh and Flacco. He is somewhat to blame, but it is a combination of everything. I believe having Marc Trestman as a coordinator severely damaged Flacco’s mindset. Instead of his usual play-action, gun slinging style, Trestman wanted to implement a check-down based playbook. Flacco notoriously has one of, if not the, strongest arm in the NFL and Trestman made him go away from that. Aside from Flacco potentially being scared cause of his injuries, the injuries can never be an excuse. Injuries happen to every team.
If I had to choose one main reason why the offense continues to struggle, I would have to say it’s due to the lack of a true possession receiver. Currently, the Ravens’ receiver corps is Jeremy Maclin, Mike Wallace, Breshad Perriman, and Chris Moore. All four are speedy receivers that do not get any separation and only Maclin has somewhat shown he can go up and fight for a ball. Give Flacco another Boldin or Smith Sr. to compliment Maclin next season and watch the field magically open up.
So, to clear everything up, Harbaugh is not solely to blame, the carousel of coordinators is not solely to blame, and injuries are no excuse. There is no one true reason for why this offense is struggling. Yes, it does not help that the offense has been very predictable as of late, and that needs to change asap, but it is simply a horrible combination of everything. Hopefully the front office focuses more on offense this offseason and this will all be a thing of the past.