Baltimore Ravens

Five pressing questions for the Ravens’ next offensive coordinator

Until the Ravens hire their next offensive coordinator, the identity of said coach — and they’re linked to almost a dozen names — will be the primary question on fans’ minds.

As soon as Greg Roman’s successor is introduced, however, the narrative will pivot to the messy situation he will inherit. It starts with the uncertainty around quarterback Lamar Jackson’s future in Baltimore, but the fact is that even with Jackson at the wheel, the Ravens’ offense was careening toward a precipice in the second half of the 2022 season. The new coordinator will be charged with reviving a passing attack short on playmakers while holding onto the effective elements of Roman’s ground attack.


This will be a tricky line to walk, even for a sharp, accomplished coach. With that in mind, here are the most pressing questions the Ravens’ new offensive coordinator will face.

Will Lamar Jackson be the quarterback, and if he’s not, should the offense be tailored to a different skill set?

As soon as the Ravens announced their parting of ways with Roman, coach John Harbaugh faced an obvious question: Would the best coordinator candidates even want the job without any guarantee that Jackson will be the team’s quarterback in 2023?


Harbaugh and general manager Eric DeCosta sought to dispel this line of inquiry at their season-ending news conference, saying they expect Jackson to be their offensive centerpiece for years to come. Harbaugh, in turn, called the open coordinator position “one of the top football coaching jobs in the world.”

It’s true that plenty of coaches would relish the chance to design an offense around Jackson’s rare abilities and might perceive an opportunity to earn substantial credit for helping the Ravens climb to another level in the postseason. But with that upside comes significant potential downside: Jackson could be traded to another city or he could hold out over the same summer months when his teammates will be learning a new playbook. The Ravens’ next offensive game planner will need to have a healthy appetite for risk, because there’s no evidence this situation will be resolved immediately.

The Ravens have made every decision over the last four years with an eye on optimizing their team for Jackson’s skills. Harbaugh elevated Roman in the first place because he believed no one would be better suited to build a “revolutionary” attack around the greatest running quarterback ever to hit the NFL. Every personnel decision, every schematic tweak that followed was designed to accentuate this quest. It was a smashing success in Year 1; returns diminished from there.

It’s no longer exotic to fashion an NFL offense around a quarterback’s mobility. With the Philadelphia Eagles and Jalen Hurts bound for the Super Bowl, we’re watching it work on the highest possible level. Even in that context, however, the Ravens have gone to extremes in relying on Jackson’s running ability as their ace in the hole. Will a new coordinator seek more balance? That might be Jackson’s preference; he has emphasized again and again that he thrived in a pro-style offense with coach Bobby Petrino at Louisville. And if he’s not the man at the helm, the offense will need to function without a once-in-a-generation runner taking snaps.

It’s difficult to envision the Ravens returning to the straight drop-back days of Joe Flacco given all they’ve built around Jackson. But with so much uncertainty around their most important player, it’s equally difficult to guess exactly how the path ahead might look.

Ravens wide receiver Devin Duvernay (13) celebrates after catching a touchdown pass during the season opener against the Jets at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

Who will catch the passes?

When a new coordinator arrives to tune up the Ravens’ passing attack, he will first need to assess his tools in a wide receiver group that “took on some water” in DeCosta’s words.

That’s putting it kindly. Demarcus Robinson led all Ravens wide receivers with 48 catches and 458 receiving yards in 2022, astonishingly low totals for a modern NFL offense. There were weeks in the second half of the season when the position hardly seemed relevant to Roman’s game plans, dominated by heavy personnel. Injuries to 2021 first-round pick Rashod Bateman and to Devin Duvernay, who caught three touchdown passes in the first three weeks, accelerated this trend. But the Ravens entered the season with a deficit of talent at the position after they traded 2019 first-round pick Marquise Brown, and the veterans they added in desperation — DeSean Jackson, Sammy Watkins — did little to change this. It was a familiar, dispiriting story for Ravens fans who feel they can never have nice things at one of the sport’s most exciting positions.

Will Roman’s replacement demand a greater investment, whether in the form of another first-round pick or a trade for an established star such as DeAndre Hopkins? The Ravens used the 25th overall pick on Brown in 2019 and the 27th overall pick on Bateman two years later, so it’s not as if DeCosta has ignored their holes at the wide receiver. But Brown became dissatisfied after three years in Roman’s offense, and injuries have derailed both of Bateman’s seasons in Baltimore. Will DeCosta bet on a better outcome with the 22nd overall pick this year?


The Ravens have one of the league’s best tight ends in Mark Andrews and two promising young complements in Isaiah Likely and Charlie Kolar. Bateman has plenty of talent; he just needs to stay on the field. Duvernay might be miscast as a No. 2 wide receiver, but he did flash when the Ravens’ offense was riding high in the early weeks of the season. The cupboard is not bare, but the next coordinator will need to figure out how many pieces need to be added and how to squeeze more out of what’s there.

Will a new coordinator mean a whole new staff?

When Mike Macdonald replaced Don “Wink” Martindale as defensive coordinator at this time last year, he did not make wholesale changes. Two coaches who interviewed for the position, Anthony Weaver and Chris Hewitt, stuck around on his staff. This was not surprising given that Macdonald was only one year removed from working for the Ravens and that Harbaugh did not want a complete overhaul of his defense.

With the Ravens casting a wider net in this search and the possibility of more sweeping playbook reform, we could also see a greater staff shake-up on the other side of the hire.

Tight ends coach George Godsey and quarterbacks coach James Urban have interviewed for the job. Wide receivers coach Tee Martin has also been mentioned as a candidate. Would they wish to stick around if a new boss arrives from outside the organization? Would that new boss prefer to clean house and bring along a few trusted lieutenants?

The staffing process might give us an early hint of how much Harbaugh wants to start over on offense. He has said he wants to maintain a similar identity and hold on to some of Roman’s concepts. But the proof will be in what he does.

Ravens running back J.K. Dobbins (27) takes the handoff during a wild-card playoff game against the Bengals on Jan. 16 in Cincinnati.

Will J.K. Dobbins become more of a featured running back?

Dobbins wanted to carry the Ravens on his sculpted shoulders in their playoff matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals. He felt it was the natural culmination of a season in which he came back from two knee surgeries to become one of the league’s most productive runners. So Dobbins could not contain his frustration after he watched quarterback Tyler Huntley fumble at the goal line on the game’s crucial play. He believed he should have had the ball at that moment.


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“I’m tired of it,” he said in the losing locker room. “I’m a playmaker. I’m a guy that my teammates feed off me when I’m on the field. I should be out there all the time.”

Harbaugh said he and Dobbins talked the morning after the game and were on the same page. But Roman’s successor will inherent a gifted, ambitious, potentially outspoken runner who expects to be great in the last year of his rookie contract with the Ravens.

Does that mean Dobbins will take the lion’s share of carries for the first time in his pro career? Roman believed in a balanced backfield, with Gus Edwards trading off duties with Dobbins and Jackson looming as the team’s actual top threat. A new coordinator would also presumably want Edwards and Jackson heavily involved if both are around in 2023 (Edwards, the team’s most powerful short-yardage threat, is under contract for next season). Such multipronged attacks are more prevalent than workhorse running backs in the modern NFL. But maintaining such balance while also giving Dobbins the work he has earned will be a weekly challenge.

Can the Ravens restore a sense of purpose to their passing game?

Roman’s sharpest critics always seemed perplexed by his intentions for the team’s aerial attack. They harped not just on poor execution or a lack of playmaking talent but on what they described as the incoherence of his designs.

“It’s still so frustrating to watch,” ESPN analyst and former NFL quarterback Dan Orlovsky wrote on Twitter in November, accompanied by a video clip in which he dissected a failed third-down play against the Jacksonville Jaguars. He referred to it as one of too many “wasted reps” in Roman’s offense.

The Ravens’ declining passing numbers, after a hot start, lined up with such assessments. Their offense was never built on a great volume of pass attempts, but over Roman’s four seasons, it fell from one of the most efficient play-action attacks in the league to one of the least efficient.


Even if their identity, built around Jackson and the elite running production he guarantees, remains similar, a new coordinator will have to find ways to make the passing game work more in concert with what they do well. Teams such as the Eagles, San Francisco 49ers and yes, the 2019 Ravens under Roman, have showed this is possible.