Monday, January 27, 2014
Kubiak is key to turning around Joe Flacco
By Jamison Hensley
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- When the Baltimore Ravens announced Gary Kubiak as offensive coordinator Monday, they also named Rick Dennison as the quarterbacks coach. Make no mistake: Getting Joe Flacco back on track is Kubiak's project.
The Ravens can talk about having a rough and tough philosophy on offense. They can preach about the importance of the running game. How Kubiak will be measured as an offensive coordinator is his impact on Flacco.
It was 11 months ago when the Ravens invested $52 million in guaranteed money in Flacco. Every move this offseason, beginning with the hiring of the offensive coordinator, has to be made with the focus of making Flacco better. If the Ravens want to get back to the Super Bowl, they need the deep-ball-throwing Flacco from January 2013 and not the interception-prone Flacco from last season.
"You definitely build your offense around your quarterback," coach John Harbaugh said. "It starts with Joe, and those are conversations that we've had going forward. So, we are going to do whatever we can to make Joe the best player he can be, and Joe is fired up about that."
This is why it's dumbfounding that it took the Ravens two weeks to complete their search. It should've taken two days. When the Ravens started look for their next play-caller, there were two candidates that stood out from the rest: Kubiak and Norv Turner. And, if the Browns weren't going to give the Ravens permission to speak to Turner, the no-brainer choice was Kubiak.
Joe Flacco passed for 3,912 yards with 19 TDs and a career-worst 22 interceptions in 2013.
Why? Just look at his track record with quarterbacks:
In 2000, Brian Griese led the NFL with a 102.9 passer rating.
In 2009, Matt Schaub led the NFL in passing with 4,770 yards.
Three mediocre quarterbacks, three unbelievable results. Flacco has a better tool set than all of those quarterbacks, and even the harshest critic would agree with that. It had to cross the Ravens' mind that, if Kubiak can work this magic with an average-at-best quarterback like Schaub, imagine how much of a positive influence he can have on Flacco.
It comes as no surprise that Kubiak had already chatted with Flacco before his introductory news conference began. Their relationship will go a long ways in turning around the NFL's 29th-ranked offense.
"It's our job to find the things that Joe is comfortable with and to make him as successful as we possibly can. And we'll do that," Kubiak said. "I'm just looking forward to sitting down with Joe and really picking his brain in a lot of ways and [seeing] how he has been taught and what he's done in the past. He's a championship quarterback, and that's all you can ask for as a coach in this league."
This is just the start to the offense's reclamation project. The Ravens need to find another wide receiver. They have to find a way to either keep Dennis Pitta or bring in another pass-catching tight end. They have to bring back Eugene Monroe or get someone else just as reliable to protect Flacco's blind side.
In the end, it comes down to Flacco. The Ravens were Super Bowl champions when he threw 11 touchdowns and no interceptions in the playoffs. Baltimore was an 8-8 team when he had 19 touchdowns and 22 interceptions.
This is why the Ravens needed Kubiak. The Ravens and Flacco are in a much better spot today than they were when the season ended, just based on Kubiak's history with elevating a quarterback's play.
"Joe and I need to sit down together, and I need to talk to him about how he feels with what he’s done up to this point -- how he feels about the future and what he thinks he needs to do better," Kubiak said. "I need to take my vision of that and study Joe over the course of the [next few weeks] -- starting here very early [Tuesday] morning. And together, we come up with that plan -- how we make him better, how we progress as a player."