By Matt Vensel
6:30 PM EST, January 27, 2014
It was a whirlwind couple of days for Gary Kubiak after arriving in Baltimore on Sunday. Ravens coach John Harbaugh sold him on his vacant offensive coordinator position over dinner -- and presumably a fine bottle of wine -- at his Baltimore County home that night and Kubiak and the Ravens spent much of Monday finalizing the terms of his new contract and discussing how their offense might come together in the coming months before Kubiak was introduced to the Baltimore media late Monday afternoon.
But perhaps the most important thing that Kubiak did during that hectic stretch was pick up the phone and make a brief call to quarterback Joe Flacco, the most important player he will be coaching in 2014.
Flacco was close with former coordinator Jim Caldwell, who served as his quarterbacks coach before taking over for Cam Cameron late in the 2012 season. And he was just as tight with wide receivers coach Jim Hostler, who could often be spotted chatting with Flacco on the sidelines between series. Caldwell left for Detroit and Hostler, a strong in-house candidate to replace him, could soon be out the door, too.
It isn’t going to happen overnight, but Kubiak will need to quickly build a similar rapport with Flacco. And after the most frustrating season of his six-year NFL career, Flacco should be receptive to that sort of thing, because the hiring of Kubiak could be one of the best things that happen to him during his Ravens career.
Kubiak’s resume as an offensive coordinator and play-caller speaks for itself, and as I wrote this morning, hiring him should end up being well worth the wait for the Ravens. Rick Dennison, who was Kubiak’s offensive coordinator in Houston, will be the new quarterbacks coach, though it sounds like he could have his hands in a little bit of everything. Kubiak’s presence will be the bigger key to Flacco bouncing back from a season in which he threw a Ravens-record 22 interceptions as he potentially takes that proverbial next step as a franchise quarterback in 2014.
“It’s our job to find the things that Joe’s comfortable with and make him as successful as he possibly can and we’ll do that. But I’m just looking forward to sitting down with Joe and really picking his brain in a lot of ways in how he’s been taught and what he’s done in the past, and then taking the things that John and I have talked about, that we want to do,” he said. “But he’s a championship quarterback and that’s all that you can ask for from a coach in this league.”
Flacco, who turned 29 earlier this month, got crushed while trying to carry the offense in 2013. He threw more pass attempts for more yards than he ever had in his career, but without a stable offensive line, a semi-respectable running game and a consistent group of pass-catchers, he made an uncharacteristic number of mistakes.
Kubiak said that the first thing he will do Tuesday morning, presumably after he gets a much-needed full night’s rest, will be looking at what went from for Flacco in 2013. He will then compare notes with the quarterback and try to come up with a plan that not only helps Flacco progress individually, but makes the offense as a whole better.
“I think that’s what I need to get in there and start working on,” said Kubiak, the head coach of the Texans the past seven seasons. “Joe and I will need to sit down together and I’ll need to talk to him about how he feels with what he’s done up to this point, how he feels about the future and what he thinks he needs to do better.”
It sounds like Kubiak, a run-heavy coach in Houston with an affinity for zone blocking, and the Ravens will find some kind of middle ground when it comes to the identity of their new offense. Kubiak will have do things a little different than he did with the Texans, when he didn’t ask quarterback Matt Schaub to take many shots downfield.
But after Harbaugh made it clear during the coordinator search that “you definitely build your offense around the quarterback,” Kubiak is excited to take on that challenge.
“Joe’s been very successful and done a lot of great things, but there is a lot of pressure playing that position and a lot is expected of you,” Kubiak said. “I think if anything, I feel very comfortable helping Joe through his years of growth as a player because I’ve been with so many guys and have seen how that has to take place. This thing is about rebounding. You’re going to have tough times. You’re going to have tough days. There are going to be some years where things don’t go the way you want them to go. But you keep battling and it’s about the long haul. And there is no doubt in my mind that when Joe is said and done -- he’s already a championship quarterback -- but there is a lot of great things left to happen and I’m looking forward to being part of that.”
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