Preston: John Harbaugh's future with Ravens could be linked to success of Marty Mornhinweg

John Harbaugh's future as head coach of the Ravens could be determined by the success or failure of Marty Mornhinweg as the team's new offensive coordinator.

Since the Ravens won the Super Bowl at the end of the 2012 season and the team parted ways with eventual Hall of Fame players Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, the Ravens have produced only one winning season and one postseason appearance.


In the past five years the Ravens have had five offensive coordinators. Two of them — Cam Cameron and Marc Trestman — were fired and a third — Jim Caldwell —would have been had he not taken over as head coach of the Detroit Lions.

Only Gary Kubiak, in 2014, really left on his own terms to become head coach of the Denver Broncos. So if the Ravens don't show significant improvement under Mornhinweg, owner Steve Bisciotti has to look in the direction of Harbaugh.


History could be repeating itself in Baltimore. The Ravens went through this situation with former coach Brian Billick, who went through four offensive coordinators — including himself — in his final four years before he was fired after the 2007 season.

Billick lasted nine seasons in Baltimore, and Harbaugh is in his ninth as well. Harbaugh, though, isn't as worried about history right now as he is about winning. The move Monday to replace Trestman with Mornhinweg wasn't out of desperation, but necessity.

The offense had become stagnant. The Ravens either had no running game, or chose to ignore it. After losing to Washington on Sunday, player frustration with Trestman reached an all-time high, forcing Harbaugh to make a move.

That move could save the Ravens' season, but there is no certainty. However, it did provide Harbaugh with job security. When a head coach keeps firing coordinators, it not only shows the shortcomings in that slot but the head coach's as well. It's apparent that Harbaugh's weakness is offense and that he is at the mercy of his coordinator.

If he isn't, why didn't he just order Trestman last week to run the ball more? The previous fired coordinators were all let go with similar problems: not having a strong vertical game or a good ground attack and being too predictable.

But enough is enough.

There can be no more excuses because Mornhinweg is one of the chosen, a longtime friend and assistant who coached with Harbaugh when they were on the same staff with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Head coaches like to hire their former coaching buddies. It's understandable because of the comfort and loyalty factors, and that's part of the reason former Eagles assistant Juan Castillo is the Ravens offensive line coach.

Kubiak was different, though. The team's front office ordered Harbaugh to stand down, and Kubiak was given the green light to hire his own coaches and run his own offense.

Trestman had differences with Castillo over the running game last season and the impression here is that Trestman never fit in with the trio from Philadelphia. Again, Trestman deserved to be fired, but Castillo and Mornhinweg were probably shoulder to shoulder trying to get into Harbaugh's doorway once the coordinator position opened up.

At least now there is harmony. The players seem excited about Mornhinweg and maybe the Ravens can build some chemistry. I've said before that this team is still a year away from possibly being a serious contender because it has too much youth on offense in receivers Chris Moore and Breshad Perriman, running backs Kenneth Dixon and Buck Allen, and offensive linemen Alex Lewis and Ronnie Stanley.

The only game-changer on offense is receiver Steve Smith Sr., 37. Until the Ravens get more of those players, they have enough talent to compete and defeat a lot of teams in the NFL, but not enough to beat the good ones consistently.


If they don't finish above .500 and continue to struggle offensively, then Bisciotti has to look at the big picture. Harbaugh is in that window of his career in Baltimore where coaches and their message get old.

Since purging the team of most of its alpha males following the 2012 Super Bowl season, Harbaugh has a regular-season record of 26-27. There have always been those whispers that Lewis, not Harbaugh, was the driving force of those early Harbaugh teams.

But that all can be silenced if Mornhinweg can get this offense going. The Ravens have a good defense, one built around strong young players like defensive linemen Brandon Williams and Timmy Jernigan, and middle linebacker C.J. Mosley.

They just need a stronger running game, a more physical offensive line and a vertical passing attack. Sound familiar?

They have to be more creative, which means Mornhinweg has to step it up.

And if that happens, Harbaugh will be able to stick around a lot longer.



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