Baltimore Sun columnist Mike Preston will answer fans’ questions throughout the Ravens season. After Baltimore’s season ended with a 24-17 wild-card playoff loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, plenty of questions remain as the team heads into a crucial offseason.
Here’s Preston’s take:
(Editor’s note: Questions have been edited for length and clarity.)
Mike, who is the best fit for the offensive coordinator position?
— John Spicer
John, I don’t know all the candidates but I am intrigued by Frank Reich. He played for 14 seasons in the NFL, nine of those in Buffalo primarily as the backup to Jim Kelly. Not only did he learn from Kelly but former Bills coach Marv Levy and former Ravens coach Ted Marchibroda, who developed their own version of the hurry-up offense, the K-Gun. This is an offense that needs direction, and having played under former Maryland coach Bobby Ross, Reich understands the need for a power running game. With his pedigree, he won’t be a “yes” man for anyone on this coaching staff but will also take input from other assistants. Byron Leftwich, the former offensive coordinator with Tampa Bay, could also be a good fit in Baltimore and, like Reich, has a Super Bowl ring.
Mike, going to keep this short and simple: What do you think is going to happen with Lamar Jackson based on the information you have as of today?
— Andy in Hagerstown
If the Ravens can get what they think is good value, they will trade him because I think most of the top people in the organization are exhausted from dealing with Jackson. Maybe the new offensive coordinator wants to come in and work with Jackson, which might affect their plans, but the Ravens want to move on and they will probably select a quarterback in the early rounds of the NFL draft. Jackson hasn’t played in the last month of the past two seasons but that probably won’t impact his demand for a fully guaranteed contract.
Lamar came out this year looking so much more precise with his passing. Then the interception came. Do you think Lamar is so competitive that when he throws an interception it gets in his head so much never to do that again that his long pass numbers plummet? And if the stats or film show that to be true, does Lamar need a sports psychologist to help him with his mental game? I know a pretty famous one and that’s the kind of stuff he works on with his clients. Do Brady, Mahomes, Allen have them? Do all teams have them now? It seems like as soon as he got that second interception this year and last, every long ball was 2-3 yards ahead of the receiver.
— Tom Horeff
I am sure every team provides some type of counseling for their players but not to the degree where they have professionals working with quarterbacks throwing interceptions. Most of the quarterbacks in the NFL have played that position since Pee Wee football, so I can’t imagine them “falling to pieces” over some interceptions. In the NFL, all these guys have this mentality of shaking off bad plays and getting ready for the next one. After all, they are competing against the best players in the world. I do believe Jackson has a problem handling pressure but it’s hard to single him out because the team has played poorly in playoff games, winning only one during Jackson’s tenure. I’ve heard of other quarterbacks and players bringing in professionals to help, but those situations usually occur when initiated by the player, not the team.
As for the long ball going 2-3 yards ahead of the receiver, Jackson has had that problem since his first day of training camp in his rookie year.
Hey Mike, your column is always required reading for my family and I — thank you so much. The Bengals are who we thought they were, and we let them off the hook! So close/disappointing. One question: Why was Lamar not on the sideline with a clipboard helping his backup in this playoff game? Thanks!
— Steve in Silver Spring
I’ve heard a lot of speculation about why Jackson wasn’t on the sideline for that game, including that the team doesn’t allow injured players to accompany the team on the road. I also heard he was sick. The bottom line is that if Jackson wanted to be there, he would have. He should have been out there helping backup Tyler Huntley scheme against the Bengals’ defense or offering advice to both Huntley and No. 3 quarterback Anthony Brown. But he wasn’t, and that’s all I needed to know. To me, that spoke volumes.
The Ravens were heading down a bad path with fan apathy at an all-time high after the 2017 season. Then they drafted Lamar and he electrified the NFL and the Ravens’ fan base. Now, somehow, despite having Lamar, the Ravens are on a slippery slope again regarding fan apathy. Do you think somehow saner heads will prevail, they’ll remember how the days of having Stoney Case, Scott Mitchell, Redman, Wright and Boller were, and all parties will come together and finally knock out a deal? Lamar has his flaws, but I’m not ready to go down that quarterback abyss again if he goes. Thanks.
— Paul in Orlando
The Ravens have won two Super Bowl championships since moving to Baltimore for the 1996 season. There are 12 teams that have never hoisted the Lombardi Trophy, including Buffalo, Cincinnati, Detroit, Cleveland, Minnesota and Houston.
So, if that’s the abyss, take the ride. It’s not about one player. It’s about the team and the organization. If the Ravens think Jackson makes them a better team and can lead them to the title, then sign him.
If not, then trade him.
If you want the abyss, look at Cleveland or Houston or Arizona.