There are two blanket statements I feel comfortable making to start this column.
1. We, Baltimore football fans, don’t actually know quite as much about football as we think we do. It’s probably the same in every market. But I work in Baltimore.
It’s not that we aren’t knowledgeable. It’s just that we truly believe we know a bit more than we actually do. It’s some combination of easy access to All-22 video, the growth and competitive nature of Madden and the number of people who have been able to profit as “experts” whose qualifications are “having watched a lot of film.” (Before you rage, I’m not suggesting that all of these people are unqualified or do bad jobs.) We’ve convinced ourselves we truly understand the game to a serious depth instead of more practically knowing just a bit more than the average person.
2. Our natural inclination will always be to dislike the offensive coordinator.
This of course is fairly easy to explain. It is in part because we think we have such a deep knowledge of football that we understand what plays should have been called in certain situations. But it’s also because it’s easier to blame coordinators than players when we’re unhappy. We don’t own their jerseys. We didn’t wait in hour-long lines to get their autograph. They typically haven’t been humanized quite as much via radio/podcast interviews.
If an offensive coordinator is good enough that we find ourselves willing to defend them, they typically become a head coach elsewhere. The next guy comes in and while we might initially appreciate their effort, we inevitably go through the process all over again.
We’re on our tenth trip around this loop in Baltimore (I’m counting the time Brian Billick spent as his own coordinator on that list). The Ravens’ season was disappointingly cut short and, true to script, the conversation quickly turned to offensive coordinator Greg Roman.
So here we go. Yes, the Ravens managed only a measly three points during their season-ending loss in Buffalo. And yes, that’s the third time in as many years that the Ravens’ postseason exit can be more directly tied to the offense than the defense.
This evidence plays to our confirmation bias (we don’t like offensive coordinators) and combines that with our belief that things got “stale” for Roman offenses after a few seasons in his previous stops (Buffalo and San Francisco) and so we. Are. YELLING. In particular, we’re listening to Steve Smith Sr. (a man who has never passed on an opportunity to be demonstrative) yell, and because we already agree with him, he’s clearly the smartest man who has ever lived.
So let’s be real for a second. What happened to the Ravens against the Bills? Well, a football game happened. Insane winds impacted passes and kicks. Snaps were seriously off the mark. And when the Ravens most needed a make a play, a disastrous pick-six flipped the game on its head. Moments later, Lamar Jackson was knocked out of the game, essentially rendering the final quarter meaningless.
I’m not sure which part of that is Greg Roman’s fault. But we want to be able to comfort ourselves by saying, “Yeah, well, the Ravens would have won if not for ________” and the offensive coordinator is the easiest place to look for such comfort. Let’s be practical. This system — which has overwhelmingly worked and guided the Ravens to three straight playoff appearances, with unanimous MVP season for the quarterback mixed in — has been Greg Roman’s system. It has worked. Plain and simple.
And if Lamar Jackson finds Willie Snead in the end zone instead of throwing an interception, perhaps we’re debating whether the system can work to beat the Chiefs. Let’s look ourselves in the mirror for a second. Ravens fans overwhelmingly believed the Ravens COULD beat the Bills because we thought the run-dominant Greg Roman offense could succeed again. After one loss, we’re ready to say the system will never work to win a Super Bowl.
But no, we’re probably not overreacting.
We don’t want to scream at Lamar Jackson for throwing an unthinkable pick-six. He gets screamed at by enough idiots that we don’t want to pile on. (And make no mistake, he’s the biggest part of the solution moving forward.) We don’t want to scream at J.K. Dobbins for a pair of critical drops and a whiff that would make Chris Davis blush to wreck an otherwise certain game-tying touchdown the play before the pick six. We like Dobbins. We screamed at Roman to take Mark Ingram off the field and give all of the snaps to Dobbins! We’ve converted our Ray Rice jerseys to Dobbins jerseys! We like him! We think he’s part of the solution too! We didn’t tape over the “Rice” nameplate with “Roman” in permanent marker!
Of course, none of this is for me to say that I’m confident the Ravens will win the Super Bowl next year with Roman calling plays. They will have to think about what type of offense they want to run. If they believe they need to become a team that throws the ball 40 or more times a game, Roman probably isn’t the guy for that. I’m not sure that’s the right answer for this quarterback, myself. And I won’t lose sleep if they make a surprising change.
But we have to be more realistic about what actually happened than we’re willing to be. The Ravens need a center. They need more high-level pass-catchers. They need to make decisions in the pass rush, and they might need to hand an insanely large bag to their quarterback in the coming months.
And if whatever they do doesn’t lead to them winning a Super Bowl in early 2022, it won’t matter who is calling the plays. We’ll inevitably spend the week after their demise complaining about whoever it was. It’s just who we are.
Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox