Baltimore Ravens

Preston: Seems like it's already third down for Marty Mornhinweg, an offensive coordinator in a tough position

If John Harbaugh is on the hot seat this season, then offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg has to be feeling uncomfortable, too.

In nine seasons as coach of the Ravens, Harbaugh has gone through five offensive coordinators, firing two of them, Cam Cameron and Marc Trestman, during the season. The Ravens haven't been to the NFL playoffs in three of the past four seasons, and everyone knows Harbaugh's job is on the line.


So if the offense falters early in the season, it wouldn't be surprising to see Mornhinweg get the hook. He should be a little nervous.

Coaches downplay the pressure or sense of urgency when it comes to winning immediately and job security, but they have wives and children. They have college tuition, mortgages and auto loans, and must put food on the table the way everyone else does.


After Harbaugh, Mornhinweg has the Ravens' toughest coaching assignment. He must piece together an offense that was ranked No. 28 in rushing and No. 12 in passing a year ago. Worse yet, general manager Ozzie Newsome went back to his old philosophy and used his first four picks in the 2017 college draft on defensive players.

In other words, Newsome didn't do Mornhinweg any favors.

The team's long-term history isn't on Mornhinweg's side, either. When the team moved from Cleveland to Baltimore in the mid 1990s, the Ravens had great offensive production for the first three years. But they've struggled a lot of years since then, except in 2014, when Gary Kubiak was offensive coordinator.

Mornhinweg has been a part of the offensive mess. When Harbaugh fired Trestman and gave him control of the offense in Week 6 last year, there were expectations that Mornhinweg would commit to the running game and add more vertical passing.

Instead, Marty ball was small ball. The running game was even more of a passing thought and quarterback Joe Flacco continued to throw check-down passes to his favorite targets, tight end Dennis Pitta and fullback Kyle Juszczyk. The concepts were basically the same, with no traps or misdirections in the running game and little creativity in the downfield passing.

During the offseason Harbaugh promised a new emphasis on the running attack. He could have fired Mornhinweg in January but decided to keep his longtime friend. Instead, he hired Greg Roman as the tight ends coach and running game assistant.

The move certainly raised a few eyebrows around The Castle. Was this move just to improve the running game or to have Roman as an option for Mornhinweg if the offense faltered early?

Mornhinweg might be looking over his shoulder, much the way Trestman did last season with Mornhinweg and Juan Castillo in the background.


Few can question Mornhinweg's resume. In 23 years as a NFL coach he has tutored Pro Bowl quarterbacks Michael Vick, Donovan McNabb, Jeff Garcia, Steve Young and Brett Favre. In 10 seasons in Philadelphia, from 2003 through 2012, he built some franchise-record setting offenses.

But things are so helter-skelter in Baltimore. Flacco missed all of training camp and the four preseason games with a back injury. The Ravens' commitment to the running game can't be considered serious without a fullback on the roster. Their best blocking tight end might be rookie Patrick Ricard, a converted defensive lineman in training camp.

The two top running backs, Terrance West and Buck Allen, have similar running styles, and the team's top home run threat, rookie Taquan Mizzell out of Virginia, was cut over the weekend. The offensive line has been a revolving door, with recent additions being reminiscent of the Ravens bringing in street free agents to play cornerback late in the preseason in other years.

The receivers?

Breshad Perriman, Mike Wallace and Jeremy Maclin have speed, but the Ravens didn't show they had an intermediate or deep passing game in the preseason.

Maybe the Ravens are holding out. Maybe they don't want any other team to get a look at their real offense until the opener against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday.


The guess here is that the Ravens will have an unconventional offense at times. They don't have enough strengths to just line up and go toe-to-toe, so they have to be creative on offense to manufacture points. Roman stayed with the run when he was the Buffalo Bills' offensive coordinator the past two seasons, but he ran the option and a lot of sprint-out passes with Tyrod Taylor. He also ran the wildcat formation at times.

Flacco isn't as nimble as Taylor, but you get the picture. The Ravens' philosophy will likely center on beating teams with defense and field-goal kicker Justin Tucker. On offense, if they can't beat teams physically, then they have to trick them.

Will that be enough? Who knows? But we'll have a better idea around midseason if Mornhinweg is still around.