Ravens Seek Fresh Direction – Should That Include Ray Lewis?

Published: December 31st, 2007
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There are a lot of mixed thoughts among the masses about Brian Billick and his confident personality, but he’s an excellent football coach who deserves a lot of credit for his tenure in Baltimore.   He built a solid coaching staff throughout his tenure, created a strong culture, and did a tremendous job working with a lot of diverse personalities – especially in the early years of his tenure. 

As much as I respect Billick, I believe the Ravens made the right decision to move in a new direction. 

It was the right time.  The organization needed a new voice on the field and some fresh ideas.  One of the most frustrating aspects of the Billick regime was constant problems on the offensive side of the ball despite Billick’s background as an offensive coach.  After several years of this being known as a defensive team, the culture becomes overbearing around the organization.  It presents a lot of challenges and roadblocks for the offensive side of the ball to develop respect and confidence to commit to a plan. 

By moving in a new direction with the coaching staff, it gives this organization an opportunity to take a step back and look at the makeup of their football team.  It allows a new group of coaches to come into the organization with a clean slate towards building a new philosophy and identity on the offensive side of the ball. 

At the same time, I believe the Ravens have to take a look at their leadership core and Ray Lewis.  They have to realize this isn’t the Super Bowl team anymore.  It hasn’t been for several seasons now.   The leadership core of that team with Lewis – Shannon Sharpe, Rod Woodson, and blue collar veterans like Tony Siragusa have been long gone.  The Ravens should think about parting ways with Lewis to begin opening the pipeline for a new leadership core to grow.  Lewis has such a strong presence that looms over the whole team which could be holding the younger core or next generation of Ravens from breaking out from his shadow.  I can’t say whether I would make that move at the end of the day, but I believe a lot of thought analysis must be invested into this issue by Ozzie Newsome and the rest of the staff in Baltimore.

Where are the Ravens going from here?

I do believe the Ravens are in pretty good shape for the future.  They have a couple younger players on the offensive side of the ball with Mark Clayton and Willis McGahee that are good fits moving forward.  I like their numbers and young talent along the offensive line.  They have a good core of young players on the defensive side of the ball for the next several years. 

The biggest uncertainty is at the quarterback position.  Does it make sense to try squeezing another year out of Steve McNair under a first year coach?   Kyle Boller hasn’t shown enough consistency to be the answer.  Troy Smith has a strong arm and his teammates respect his competitiveness, but the jury remains out on whether he could develop into a legitimate starting quarterback. 

And the other question is the future of Todd Heap.  Heap has been an enigma in Baltimore – held back by lack of support around him and injuries.  When healthy, Heap is a weapon in the passing game who can create favorable matchups, but has had a lot of problems with injuries the past couple seasons. 

Who are some coaches that should be considered?

Rex Ryan certainly deserves an interview.  I believe he has an opportunity to become a very good head coach in this league.  Ryan is a tremendous communicator and has a lot of positive leadership qualities.  But Ryan might be victimized by the organization deciding it needs to go outside for a new voice much like the situation in Pittsburgh a year ago. 

If they go outside the organization, New England’s Josh McDaniels would be a very intriguing fit within their organizational structure.  McDaniels has a tremendous grasp of the big picture after working with Bill Belichick.  He has a lot of energy and would bring some fresh ideas to the organization on the offensive side of the ball.  I believe they could pick up a few ideas just from interviewing him.  McDaniels also would probably work well within their scouting structure. 

Cowboys’ offensive coordinator Jason Garrett is a hot name right now.  He has good offensive philosophies and leadership skills.  I also would talk to Indianapolis quarterback coach Jim Caldwell.  Caldwell has a quiet strength to him similar to Tony Dungy and a good reputation on the offensive side of the ball.  A lot of people would probably be surprised, but I’d also request to interview Cleveland offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski.  Chudzinski is going to be a head coach in the near future and maybe sooner than many people realize if he scores well in his interviews.  I liked how Chudzinski utilized his personnel in Cleveland this season and also has a lot of positive leadership skills. 

And finally, I’d interview Tennessee defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz.  Schwartz has a big picture organizational philosophy that could fit well with the Ravens’ personnel department.  On the field, he’s built similar types of defenses to what they are running in Baltimore. 

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