You could practically see the smoke billowing from Mark Andrews’ nostrils.
Three days after the Ravens lost to the Cleveland Browns, failing to score a touchdown for the first time in four years, the All-Pro tight end was asked if he still has faith in the team’s offensive coaching staff, led by embattled coordinator Greg Roman.
“It’s never been a question,” he said, his fierce gaze scanning side to side. “For us, there’s no question in this building what’s going on, that people in this building are doing everything they can to win games and be at their best and put us in the best situation. So, we have full trust, and again, this is going to be a fired-up group. This is too good of a team to take a game off or not to play our best.”
Roman reviewed every offensive snap of the Browns loss with every player on his offense. “We got a chance to really dive into what exactly happened,” he said of the candid meeting. “It’s clear as day what happened, and there’s some things we’ve got to clean up. I think everybody understands exactly what happened.”
We’ve all heard the statistics summarizing the depths to which Roman’s offense has sunk: The Ravens have scored just 29 points over their last three games, have not thrown a touchdown pass to a wide receiver since Week 3, have fallen to 28th in the league in red zone efficiency and have ranked 29th in Football Outsiders’ passing DVOA since Week 3.
Their offensive roster is in tatters. Projected No. 1 wide receiver Rashod Bateman lasted just six games thanks to a Lisfranc injury to his foot. Fellow starter Devin Duvernay joined him on injured reserve Tuesday, also with a foot injury. The Ravens are now relying on Demarcus Robinson, whom they signed after the Las Vegas Raiders discarded him in August; 36-year old DeSean Jackson, who wasn’t playing for anyone when they signed him in October; and Sammy Watkins, whom they claimed off waivers Tuesday after the Green Bay Packers dropped him. It’s a trio long on experience but light on 2022 production.
And that’s burying the lede: The Ravens are still awaiting the return of franchise quarterback Lamar Jackson, who has played just one quarter over the last three games because of a knee injury. Several reports suggested Jackson could resume his place at the controls for the Ravens’ Christmas Eve home date with the Atlanta Falcons. But he did not practice Tuesday or Wednesday, casting doubt on his availability for Saturday.
If Jackson can’t go, Tyler Huntley, who’s averaging just 5.6 yards per attempt (Jackson averaged 6.9) with no touchdown passes and two interceptions, would likely start for the third week in a row, though he was limited in practice Wednesday because of a right shoulder injury. Rookie Anthony Brown would be the next option.
As fans vacillated between anger and despair in the wake of Saturday’s 13-3 loss to the Browns, they saved their most vehement ire for Roman, a coach many of them wanted to see replaced after last season. The complaints were familiar: his passing offense falls apart as the year goes on, yet he chose to abandon his successful running attack in the fourth quarter against Cleveland.
“I usually wouldn’t get into it that early,” Roman said Wednesday when asked why he went to pass-first mode with the Browns’ lead at 10. “We got more into a hurry-up mode, trying to change the tempo of things, trying to get things going in a different way. … We were moving it really well on the ground for sure. Could we have stayed into that mode a bit more? Probably. On Monday, it’s always easy to say that.”
Critics saw this as a last straw, so their rage only intensified when head coach John Harbaugh stood by his offensive staff in his news conference Monday while acknowledging that the Ravens must throw more efficiently.
“All of our coaches, including Greg and everybody else, are fully capable of understanding the pass game and what we’ve got to do to get it done and scheming it up and all that kind of stuff,” he said. “We can do things a lot better, we can look at how much we’re calling, how much motion and stuff we put in, all the football-related X-and-O stuff, we’re definitely looking at really hard.”
When asked if he had considered a coaching change, akin to his late-season switch of offensive coordinators that helped fueled the Ravens’ 2012 championship run, Harbaugh said: “No, we’re not getting into all that.”
Roman said he’s a fan when watching other sports and appreciates the passion even his critics bring to their interest in the Ravens. But that discourse has little to do with the effort required to fix football problems, he added.
“It’s two different worlds,” Roman said. “The first thing you’re told when you get into this profession is don’t listen to any of the noise. If you’re an offensive coordinator and you don’t think that’s going to happen in the NFL … it comes with the job. The second world is in the arena, where you really have to laser-beam focus on the task at hand. … It’s pretty simple, really. First-time coordinators, when I talk to them, it’s the first thing I tell them: ‘You can’t listen to anything other than doing your job.’”
“It doesn’t move me at all,” he said when asked if he takes criticism personally.
Players lined up with Harbaugh, refusing to speak ill of Roman or his staff when asked what’s wrong with the offense.
Robinson answered with a simple “yes” when asked if the Ravens have the plan and the talent to rev up their production.
He has exceeded expectations by becoming the team’s most productive wide receiver, but he fumbled twice in Cleveland. He doesn’t forget bad games like that one.
“We’re trying to move on to the next team,” Robinson said. “You’ve definitely got to address the details and see what’s going on, what happened in the game and try to fix those details, to the best of our ability.”
Outside linebacker Tyus Bowser opened his session with reporters by apologizing for a social media post that showed “Fire Greg Roman” flyers on the ground outside the team’s practice facility. “I have full, 100% respect for him, and I told him that,” Bowser said of Roman. “I’ve got nothing but love and appreciation for what he does. It takes a lot of hard work to do what he does. Everybody in here respects him. I definitely respect him.”
Andrews, who has not reached 100 yards receiving or caught a touchdown pass since Week 6, was the most emphatic.
“I don’t give a [crap], to be honest. I don’t give a [crap],” he said of the criticism swarming around the offense and its coaches. “If someone wants to take that and use it as fuel, that’s fine. I have a chip on my shoulder either way.”
Falcons at Ravens
Saturday, 1 p.m.
TV: Ch. 45
Radio: 97.9 FM, 101.5 FM, 1090 AM
Line: Ravens by 7 1/2