Ravens shouldn't second-guess coach, QB choices

Ravens Beat

January 16, 2009|By JAMISON HENSLEY | JAMISON HENSLEY,jamison.hensley@baltsun.com

The Ravens should be applauded for all the right decisions they have made this season, from trading for Fabian Washington to signing Willie Anderson and Lorenzo Neal.

But it's the decisions they didn't make that might have landed the Ravens in the AFC championship game.

During the offseason, the Ravens offered their head coaching job to Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator Jason Garrett and listed Matt Ryan atop their quarterback draft board.

Could the Ravens really have made it this far with Garrett and Ryan?

It's really the Ravens' second choices - coach John Harbaugh and quarterback Joe Flacco - who have proved to be first-rate.

Garrett was the Ravens' clear-cut favorite, but he turned down the Ravens to stay with the Cowboys (for a reported annual salary of $3 million).

A year later, Garrett's stock has slipped. He interviewed with the Denver Broncos, who then hired New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. He interviewed with the Detroit Lions, who seem focused on Tennessee Titans defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz. And he interviewed with the St. Louis Rams, who appear to be waiting for Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan.

In looking at the Cowboys' season, it's apparent that Garrett isn't ready to be a head coach.

Garrett sparred with wide receiver Terrell Owens over the play-calling (which is not unusual). He never got wide receiver Roy Williams involved in the offense. He couldn't keep the Cowboys' offense going at the same level when quarterback Tony Romo was injured for three games.

These red flags show the difference between Harbaugh and Garrett. Harbaugh has taken the Ravens deep into the playoffs because of his ability to overcome adversity.

Like Garrett, the Ravens had long targeted Matt Ryan, but the Atlanta Falcons took the top quarterback in the draft with the No. 3 pick. The Ravens then selected Flacco with the 18th overall pick.

The debate between Ryan and Flacco is more of a gray area.

Both have had successful rookie seasons because they fit with their respective teams. It's unknown whether they would be the same quarterbacks if Ryan were with the Ravens and Flacco with the Falcons.

While Ryan put up better numbers (and won the NFL's Offensive Rookie of the Year award), Flacco has distinguished himself in the postseason.

Ryan looked like a rookie in Atlanta's 30-24 loss to the Arizona Cardinals in the first round of the playoffs. A series of mistakes - an interception that led to the Cardinals' first touchdown, a third-quarter fumble Arizona returned for a touchdown to regain the lead, and getting sacked for a safety in the fourth - cost the Falcons.

Flacco hasn't put up spectacular statistics, but he hasn't hurt the Ravens. He has yet to throw an interception or get sacked in the playoffs. His quarterback rating at Tennessee (89.4) is the best by a rookie in NFL playoff history.

In the end, it's the Ravens' second choices that have propelled them to the top.

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