If Caldwell doesn't go, Ravens should keep him

  • Ravens offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell jogs with Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco in 2012.
Ravens offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell jogs with Ravens… (Gene Sweeney Jr., Baltimore…)
January 02, 2014|Mike Preston

As Jim Caldwell lines up interviews with the Detroit Lions and the Washington Redskins for vacant head coaching positions, there are some who would prefer he'd get one of those jobs so the Ravens could hire a new offensive coordinator.

Caldwell deserves another shot at being a head coach, and if he doesn't get it, the Ravens should bring him back as the offensive coordinator. His critics will point to the Ravens being No. 30 in the NFL in both total offense and rushing. They will tell you how bad the Ravens were inside the red zone and at protecting the quarterback.

There is no defense for those claims.

But the Ravens did win a Super Bowl nearly a year ago with a strong offense and Caldwell as coordinator. So, in less than one year, did Caldwell become an inept offensive mind?

It's easy to point a finger, but if that's the case, the Ravens should cut quarterback Joe Flacco because he had a career-high 22 interceptions. If not Flacco, then waive running back Ray Rice, who had only 660 yards rushing on 214 carries. Maybe the Ravens should fire coach John Harbaugh because he had a .500 season, or general manager Ozzie Newsome because several free agent acquisitions didn't work out.

Maybe owner Steve Bisciotti ought to fire himself because he was responsible for the entire team.

In this world of quick-fix solutions, especially in professional sports, a firing isn't always appropriate. The poor offensive play was a composite of numerous things, but the Ravens don't need to overhaul the system and bring in a new coordinator.

They were 8-8, not 2-14. They missed the playoffs by one game, not three. They just need to make some tweaks and add some new things, including a couple of offensive linemen and a big play receiver, but there is no need to panic or make irrational decisions like firing Caldwell.

Oh, believe me, I watched the games.

The Ravens were vanilla and predictable to the point where they were tipping off a lot of their own plays. They were creative at times, but not enough that they kept opposing defenses off balance.

The Ravens were awful on offense but never to the point where you could point the finger at one coach or one player. You could point at five, though.

They were on the offensive line. They couldn't get movement on running plays and couldn't stop Flacco from getting sacked a career-high 48 times. When those two things happen, you're not winning games.

No one foresaw the injuries on the offensive line, even though we knew there was a chance Bryant McKinnie could eat his way out of the NFL and Michael Oher could become the most penalized offensive lineman since Conrad Dobler played with the old St. Louis Cardinals.

But, certainly, it wasn't Caldwell's fault.

It wasn't Caldwell's fault that Harbaugh brought in an old buddy named Juan Castillo to change the terminology and ruin the offensive chemistry. And it wasn't Caldwell's fault that Newsome traded one of the greatest clutch players in team history, Anquan Boldin, to the San Francisco 49ers during the offseason.

It was just a year when almost everything went wrong.

Flacco underperformed, completing only 362 of 614 passes for 3,912 yards. He regressed, staring down receivers and throwing into double and triple coverage. Rice suffered a hip flexor strain early in the season and never completely recovered. Speedy receiver Torrey Smith disappeared from the offense in the final quarter of the season and tight end Dennis Pitta missed most of it with a hip injury.

Guess that was Caldwell's fault, too.

Granted, there are some things Caldwell needs to address. In the running game, the Ravens didn't give a lot of different looks like the old Redskins under head coach Joe Gibbs. He had about five to six running plays just run out of different formations.

In the passing game, where were the rubs, picks, rollouts and quick step throws? Where were the change-of-pace running backs, the big stud runner in the red zone or the pass-catching threat out of the back field?

"Yes, I think we need to diversify as much as we can with what guys can do," Harbaugh said. "I've had a lot of conversations with Ozzie and with [assistant general manager Eric DeCosta] and our different scouts about that, and our coaches, too. Yes, we want to have as many weapons as we can at our disposal. Big backs, fast backs, quick backs, route-running backs that you see around the league — we want to chase all those guys. You can't always get everything you want, but those are things that we could use."

There also needs to be a set chain of command. With former offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, you knew it was his show. He devised the game plan, he called the plays. With Caldwell, he appears to call the plays from the press box but you never know how much they got changed by receivers coach Jim Hostler before the plays got on the field to Flacco.

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