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Preston: If Greg Roman leaves, the Ravens might have a hard time replacing him

Ravens coach John Harbaugh confirmed that the Cleveland Browns has requested to interview offensive coordinator Greg Roman for their head coaching position.

As some NFL teams began replacing head coaches Monday, the Ravens were looking at the possibility of replacing their coordinators, especially on offense.

And it could become a very interesting situation.

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The Washington Redskins, New York Giants and Cleveland Browns fired their coaches before noon Monday, and several other teams might be moving in that direction.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh confirmed Monday that the Browns had been granted permission to contact Roman for their coaching vacancy.

It was to be expected.

The Ravens had the best regular-season record in 2019, finishing at 14-2, and with that success comes interest from other teams looking to interview “hot” coordinators.

The Ravens have two of those in defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale and Roman. Of the two, Roman would be harder to replace because his offense is such a novelty and needs a mobile, athletic quarterback like Lamar Jackson.

So if the Ravens lose Roman, who will replace him? And is that person on the current staff?

“We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it,” said Harbaugh, who probably already has a replacement in mind.

No one knows for sure if Roman will become a coach, but few can argue with his success this season. The Ravens have won 12 games in a row and rushed for a league-record 3,296 yards. They are the first team in league history to average more than 200 rushing and 200 passing yards per game.

Few teams in the NFL use run-pass option plays out of the pistol formation like the Ravens, which is why few have slowed them down.

One possible replacement for Roman could be quarterbacks coach James Urban, who was an assistant with the Philadelphia Eagles (2004-2010) and Cincinnati Bengals (2011-2017) before joining the Ravens in 2018.

Another might be assistant head coach/passing game coordinator David Culley, who has worked with similar offenses in stops in Philadelphia, Kansas City and Buffalo.

But here’s the problem: Roman designed the blocking scheme in the Ravens’ running game. The Ravens have a quality, old school offensive line coach in Joe D’Alessandris, but it’s unclear whether he is ready to take over Roman’s duty as the designer of the running game.

It will also be interesting to see how much of a chance owners are willing to take with Roman. His offense worked in San Francisco and Buffalo, but those teams had quarterbacks with similar skill sets as Jackson, including Colin Kaepernick with the 49ers and Tyrod Taylor with the Bills.

“I really feel like it, it goes back to the players,” Harbaugh said of Roman’s offense. “It goes back to the guys that we had, and we felt like we could build something that was different than what was currently, is being used in the National Football League."

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“We didn’t make up new plays, but the way the plays are packaged and organized and called, starts with Greg Roman,” Harbaugh said. “And the defensive coaches do a great job creatively. A lot of these plays were run in San Francisco, back when [Greg] was there with my brother [Jim Harbaugh]. And a lot of them weren’t. A lot of them are different and new. But the players are the ones that put the personality and the flavor to it. Lamar Jackson, obviously, is what we’re talking about, because he was going to be our quarterback, and you build around him.”

If a team has already invested in a drop-back quarterback, Roman might not get the opportunity to become a coach. But the Browns’ Baker Mayfield would fit the profile of a mobile quarterback.

Despite the claim that Jackson has started a new era of versatility at that position, there have been other elusive quarterbacks before, like Steve Young and Michael Vick.

It’s just a matter of what’s available and the proper philosophy. It worked well here in Baltimore in 2019, but it might be different if Roman leaves.

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