For the second straight year, the Ravens were turned aside in the playoffs after their offense sputtered to a halt in the postseason, and for the second straight year, much of the criticism of fans and pundits after the loss was directed at offensive coordinator Greg Roman.
NFL Network analyst and former Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith went so far as to say Roman “needs to start looking for a job somewhere else.”
Roman, though, earned a strong vote of confidence from Ravens fullback Patrick Ricard, who called him “a phenomenal coach.”
“You have to look at the body of work that he’s put in all year,” Ricard said as he met with the media via Zoom a day after the Ravens’ 17-3 loss to the Buffalo Bills in a divisional-round game. The Ravens’ offense failed to reach the end zone in that game, matching the lowest point total in head coach John Harbaugh’s 13-year tenure.
A year after becoming the most prolific rushing team in NFL history with 3,296 yards, the Ravens’ offense again led the league in rushing with 3,071 yards — including a team-record 404 against the Cincinnati Bengals in the regular-season finale.
But while the Ravens were a dominant run team, they ranked last in the league in passing with 171.2 yards a game. Overall, Roman’s offense ranked 19th for a team that finished 11-5 and earned a wild-card berth to the postseason.
But in playoff losses in each of the past two years, the Ravens’ opponent found ways to thwart quarterback Lamar Jackson and the running game by jamming the line of scrimmage, and the Ravens underdeveloped passing game could not muster a counterattack.
Jackson finished 14-for-24 for 162 yards against the Bills before leaving after three quarters with a concussion. Backup Tyler Huntley completed 6 of 13 passes for 60 yards.
Smith proclaimed that that the Ravens passing game featured “very elementary school” route combinations that were easy to defend, and that is limiting Jackson’s development.
“Hey, you two go deep, you two go shallow, and Lamar, throw it to whoever’s open. That’s just not the NFL,” Smith said. “That’s not the passing game of the NFL, and their passing game is not very complex. … Greg Roman’s a fantastic coordinator. However, that fantastic coordinator needs to start looking for a job somewhere else.”
Ricard, though, isn’t buying it. The fullback, who earned his second straight Pro Bowl nod this year, said, “I wouldn’t be in the position that I’m in without him.”
Ricard came to the Ravens as an undrafted rookie defensive lineman from Maine in 2017, and it was Roman, then the tight ends coach and run-game coordinator, who suggested that Ricard move to the offensive side of the ball.
Ricard became a throwback, old-school two-way player, seeing time as a backup interior defensive lineman and fullback, and when Roman became the offensive coordinator and essentially rebuilt the Ravens’ playbook, Ricard became a more prominent factor on offense.
This year, Ricard did not play at all on defense. He played roughly 39 percent of the offensive snaps, primarily working as a lead blocker in the running game, but he occasionally became a 300-pound receiver out of the backfield.
Ricard finished this season with nine catches for 45 yards and one touchdown in the regular season, then added three catches for 26 yards — all on one scoring drive — in the Ravens’ 20-13 opening-round win of the playoffs against Tennessee.
Ricard had only one carry this year, fumbling near the goal line against Cleveland, and he used that play to support Roman, saying it’s a mistake to assign too much blame to one incident.
“I fumbled the ball my one carry that I had this year,” Ricard said. “You could say, ‘OK, Pat had a terrible year.’ But that was one play. For a coach, that’s one game.”
Ricard went on to explain that Roman crafted a successful offense despite losing All-Pro left tackle Ronnie Stanley and tight end Nick Boyle to injuries midway through the season, and also had to adapt when missing multiple players at times because of COVID-19.
“He’s able to [work] with the players that are there and make the most of them and really mold an offense around those guys,” Ricard said.
In the Bills game, he added, “There are certain plays that just didn’t go our way at all. It kind of changed the shape of the game and the way you have to call the game. You can’t let one game, regardless of what happens, critique who you are.”
“G-Ro is my guy,” Ricard continued. “I wouldn’t be here without him. … I think he’s a phenomenal coach. Hopefully, he’s my coach for a long time.”
Photo Credits: Kenya Allen/PressBox