When Trevor Lawrence replaced Kelly Bryant as the Clemson quarterback after four games in the 2018 college football season, I had a great feeling about the nature of the move. You see, Kelly Bryant was a good college quarterback. He even leading the Tigers to the College Football Playoff last season. But a 24-6 loss to Alabama in the semi-finals showed that while he was good, doubt arose on whether Bryant could lead the Tigers to a national championship as Deshaun Watson did the year before.
Trevor Lawrence would end up leading the Tigers to an undefeated season and a national title.
A similar move happened in college football the year before. Ohio State made it to the CFP in 2016 but were blown out 31-0 by, guess who, Clemson. Ohio State passing offense, which was led by offensive coordinator Tim Beck was up-and-down all season, switching between attacking and conservativeness. But the Clemson loss was apparent that a change was on the horizon. Beck shifted to Texas the next year, and Ohio State hired Kevin Wilson and Ryan Day to co-lead the offense. Wilson is still the OC, and Ryan Day is currently the head coach.
Ohio State and Clemson shifting player and coaching personnel highlight that sometimes good is not good enough. Heck, the Rams just traded Jared Goff for Matthew Stafford. Perhaps, the Baltimore Ravens are in the same boat in terms of changing for the better.
Let’s get to what this piece is all about. The Ravens have ended another postseason on a disappointing note. Baltimore exacted revenge on the Tennessee Titans in the first round, but the Ravens offense faltered once again in a 17-3 loss to the Buffalo Bills.
The Ravens gained 150 yards on the ground-their strength but only 190 yards in the air. Those numbers are not bad, but perhaps the predictability of the passing offense is. Taron Johnson, who intercepted Jackson in the red zone, stated that he knew Jackson would throw the ball to his favorite target: Mark Andrews.
Taron Johnson's Pick Six is one of the best moments of the #NFLPlayoffs!
Listen to those @BuffaloBills fans too! 🔊 pic.twitter.com/IGTDKJENK7
— NFL UK (@NFLUK) January 27, 2021
That interception ended up sealing the Ravens game and advancing the Bills to the AFC championship game. But it also highlighted that the Ravens needed to do a deep dive into their coaching and player personnel offensively. Like Ohio State, Clemson, and most recently the Los Angeles Rams, the Ravens need to figure out what additions need to be made by subtraction. Is Lamar Jackson their long-term quarterback? Does there need to be a change in scheme or coach responsibility? Or do there need to be more weapons added on the receiving end?
All of these questions are what head coach John Harbaugh needs to ask himself this offseason. The Ravens ranked first in the NFL in rushing yards but dead last in passing. That is not a balanced attack. As the offense has figured out the past three seasons in the NFL Playoffs, this imbalance means that a competent run game means nothing without a passing game to complement it.
Jackson is a good NFL quarterback. He has thrown for 62 touchdowns while completing 65.25 percent of his passes in the last two seasons. And we cannot forget that he won the NFL MVP in 2019. However, has the scheme maximized his real potential? Or does he need more wide receivers outside of Hollywood Brown? Jackson can play the position, but there may be a need for restructuring to get the wide receivers more open. Perhaps a more experienced play-caller who can design more creative plays.
Or, the Ravens can ride this wave for another year or two and take the Harbaugh approach that nothing needs to change, but things need to improve. Ironically, Jackson’s stats give him some credibility that this notion can be banked on. However, Jackson is no Patrick Mahomes. However talented he is, the scheme and play calls matter an excellent deal for Jackson to succeed. Mahomes and Aaron Rodgers could win some games playing sandlot football. They enhance the playbook, but the Ravens playbook enhances Lamar.
Relying on Jackson to improve as a passer to remedy the issue is a dangerous game for Harbaugh. Not saying it could not happen, but falling into that mindset makes it easier to live with status quo and hoping for Jackson to figure it all out. But again, that is a massive leap of faith. Harbaugh is in a Russian roulette game, and he must choose what the Ravens offense will do wisely. It is not just Lamar: from coaching to scheme to personnel, it is a variety of factors.
Whichever way the wind blows, Harbaugh and Jackson have eight months to get it right. Jackson is a dynamic talent, and it would be a waste if it did not get adequately nurtured. Again, he is no Mahomes. But he is Lamar Jackson, a superstar in his own right. However, we all know that success is measured in the postseason. If Mahomes, the centerpiece of Kansas City, continues to win Super Bowls while the Ravens and Jackson go out with a whimper every year, something’s got to give.
The Ravens need to put themselves in position to legitimately contend for Super Bowl titles. They need to figure out how, and fast.