Ravens coach John Harbaugh has always had a clear vision of what his team's offense should look like. When he left M&T Bank Stadium late Sunday afternoon following the Ravens' 16-10 loss to the Washington Redskins, he knew that the offense he had just watched bore no resemblance to that vision.
There was no commitment to establishing and maintaining a run game. There weren't enough plays being made downfield. The execution wasn't as precise as it needed to be to exploit one of the league's worst-ranked defenses.
Harbaugh called team owner Steve Bisciotti and general manager Ozzie Newsome on Sunday night and told his bosses of his decision. He then met with offensive coordinator Marc Trestman early Monday morning and informed him that he was relieving him of his duties.
Trestman was replaced by quarterbacks coach Marty Mornhinweg, who will call the offensive plays the rest of the season. Harbaugh will then evaluate the position following the season.
"We just need to get better and I didn't feel in my gut that going the way we were going was going to change, that it was going to be able to get better," Harbaugh said. "Everybody was doing everything they could do. I just think we need a different chemistry in there right now to get to where we need to go.
"I think we all know what it needs to look like. It's philosophical, it's what plays get called in certain situations, but it's also the physicality of our offense, it's the attack-mentality of our offense, it's how we go about our business. Those are things that just weren't getting there. It's like I told the offensive coaches, 'Let's take this on us. Marc Trestman is the guy that's going to suffer the most at this time, but it's all of our responsibility that this happened, and it's all of our responsibility to get it right.'"
Trestman leaves midway through a three-year contract signed in January of 2015. His dismissal after just 21 games with the Ravens marks the second time in five years Harbaugh has fired his offensive coordinator during the season in an effort to jump start a struggling Joe Flacco and a seemingly regressing offense. Coincidentally, both times it occurred following a regular-season loss to the Redskins.
Whereas the December 2012 firing of Cam Cameron was a surprise — the Ravens were 9-4 at the time and leading the AFC North — Monday's decision to move on from Trestman seemed inevitable given the palpable frustration of the players following Sunday's loss.
Flacco said he was embarrassed following a performance in which the Ravens were held scoreless by the league's 29th-ranked defense for the final 44 minutes, 56 seconds. Flacco threw for just 210 yards on 46 passing attempts. The Ravens ran the ball 11 times for 74 yards in the first quarter, but had only seven more designed runs over the final three quarters.
This played right into the common criticisms of Trestman, that he too often abandoned the running game, and he was unable to unlock the downfield passing game, too.
"We didn't run the ball enough. When you go back and look at it, I feel like we were running the ball well enough to run the ball a lot more than we did," Harbaugh said. "In the end, that's what we're talking about. In the end, that's what matters. We're talking about production. We're not putting enough points on the board, and we're not putting enough yards on the board for the amount of times that we're throwing the ball. I think we were 46 passes for 188 net yards passing. That's just not going to cut it, and we all know that. And Marc knows that, too."
Under Trestman, who replaced Gary Kubiak after the latter became the Denver Broncos head coach before the 2014 season, the Ravens scored 20 or fewer points in 13 of his 21 games as a play caller, and averaged just 18.7 points per game — eighth fewest in the league during that span.
Last year, the Ravens set a franchise-low with 383 rushing attempts, and was a respectable 14th in total offense, but it was tough to evaluate the job Trestman did because injuries robbed the offense of many of its marquee players and forced the team to start four different quarterbacks.
This year began with high hopes as the Ravens boasted of having as much depth at the skill positions as they've had in a long time. However, in three of their first five games, the Ravens have managed just one offensive touchdown. The Ravens currently ran in the bottom third of the league in points, total yards and third-down conversion percentage.
"Right now, we're playing to win on the last drive or have our defense hold on the last drive, and it's not a good formula," Flacco said following Sunday's game.
Flacco leads all NFL quarterbacks with 216 passing attempts through five games despite the fact that the Ravens have been in close games every week. The Indianapolis Colts' Andrew Luck is the next closest with 205 passing attempts. No other quarterback had more than 195 heading into Monday night's game.
"That's not what we're looking for, ideally," Harbaugh said. "If we're throwing the ball 45-50 times, we're probably playing catch-up."
More problematic, Flacco, known as one of the game's better deep passers, is averaging just 5.94 yards per passing attempt. The only starting quarterback with a smaller number is the San Francisco 49ers' Blaine Gabbert (5.93).
"To me, we have to put together an offense that attacks a defense," Harbaugh said. "If we have one of our guys against somebody we feel they match up really well against, we've got to be able to go to that guy. Have we done a great job of that? No. That's not what we've done a great job of so far. I think that's the thing we can do better. It's not so much figuring out how to use guys. It's using those guys and getting the ball to them in a way that really challenges the defense."
Mornhinweg, a former offensive coordinator for the San Francisco 49ers, Philadelphia Eagles and New York Jets, and the ex-head coach of the Detroit Lions, has plenty to try to fix. The Ravens' pass-blocking has struggled, and both starting offensive tackles (Ronnie Stanley and Rick Wagner) are dealing with injuries. Receivers have been plagued by drops, and the team's top target, Steve Smith Sr., is hobbled by an ankle injury. Flacco has also struggled with his footwork and fundamentals.
The decision to fire Cameron in 2012, and quarterbacks coach Jim Caldwell's ascension into the offensive coordinator role, was viewed as a key factor in Flacco playing the best football of his career and spearheading a Super Bowl run. The Ravens can only hope for the same boost this time around.
"It's hard for me to go back and compare the two," Harbaugh said. "I think on the surface, it compares obviously, but in a lot of ways, it is different. This is earlier in the year, and I think we had won a bunch of games early in that year and then we lost a few in a row. It's less about the record, it's less about anything that you see as far as play calling or anything that specifically. It's more about direction. It's a big-picture type of a feel thing. Are we heading in the right direction? Do I see us getting there doing the things we're doing now? I think as a coach, you've got to assess that and make that call."