Thu, 25 Feb 2021

John Harbaugh Defends Ravens' Passing Scheme From Critics

Baltimore Ravens
21 Jan 2021, 22:25 GMT+10

Ryan Mink

For a team that scored the seventh-most points in the league this year, the Ravens' offense sure has taken a lot of heat since Baltimore's playoff exit.

Part of it is being held to just three points in the postseason loss in Buffalo. Much of it is the Ravens finished ranked last in passing yards per game.

Then, former Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith Sr. and former quarterback Kurt Warner, two analysts for the NFL Network, poured gas on the flames with stinging critiques calling Baltimore's aerial attack too simplistic.

Head Coach John Harbaugh strongly stood against that Wednesday during his season-ending press conference.

"I disagree with Kurt and Steve on that," Harbaugh said. "We have every route in football and we have every route concept in football.

"We throw it less than most teams do because we run so well. Kurt would probably love to see us being a drop-back passing team that gets the ball out on time in a West-Coast type style or the 'Greatest Show on Turf'-type style [like he had in St Louis], but that's not the offense that we run. And we're not going to change our offense because it doesn't fit his eye."

The Ravens led the league, by a wide margin, in rushing yards per game this season (191.9). Part of that is because they also led the league in rushing attempts (555). But Baltimore also was tops in rushing yards per attempt (5.5). They ran a lot because they were so good at doing it.

Conversely, the Ravens ranked last in passing yards per game (171.2). Part of that was because they had the fewest passing attempts in the league (406). But Baltimore was in the middle of the pack when it came to passing efficiency, which is a much better measure of success. They ranked 18th in passing yards per attempt.

Harbaugh said there's no team that has more effective movement passes and more effective play-action passes off the Ravens' run game because Baltimore has the "most complete run game."

"All of our drop-back passes, yeah we're not going to be as complex as a Pittsburgh or a team that throws the ball 40-50 times a game because we don't throw the ball as much as they do. I think that just stands to reason," Harbaugh said. "We build the passing game around our players and our talent, and around our quarterback, and around our running backs, and around our offensive line, to suit our players to play winning football and score points."

One thing to keep in mind is anyone can pick out a few plays from a game and break down, in detail, what went wrong with them. Bad plays happen in football all the time and in every game. Not every call works out. It's the totality of the product that must be evaluated, and the Ravens and Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman will surely go about doing that this offseason, looking for what worked, what didn't, and what to alter going forward.

Harbaugh acknowledged the Ravens need to get better in the passing game. He said they are a "dominant running football team, and we're a middle of the pack pass efficiency team." Middle-of-the-pack efficiency is not where Baltimore wants to be - in anything.

But a complete overhaul of Baltimore's offense? That's not in the cards.

Wide receiver Marquise Brown said Monday after the Ravens' loss that Baltimore needs more offensive balance. Being No. 1 in rushing and No. 32 in passing is "not right." Harbaugh agrees, but it's not like the Ravens are going to start throwing the ball a lot more to make up the difference.

"We need to be more efficient. We need to be better. So, we need to protect better. We need to throw better. We need to catch better. We need to get open better. We need to do everything more efficiently," Harbaugh said. "So, I agree with Marquise in that sense; balance in the sense of our success with it and just keep building on it."

Harbaugh isn't afraid to keep the Ravens' offense different from the rest of the league. The Ravens rebuilt their offense from the ground up when Lamar Jackson took over under center and they aren't looking back now. Harbaugh just wants to make it the best version of itself.

"It goes back to the same criticism that we've heard the last three years about not being the type of offense or type of quarterback that some people want to see," Harbaugh said. "They're just going to live with it because Lamar Jackson has won a lot of football games here and our offense has won us a lot of football games here, and we're not going to apologize for that for one second.

"We'll leave the criticism to the critics. When they're ready to coordinate their offense and put that product on the field, I'll look forward to competing against it."

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