The first impression of new Baltimore Ravens offensive coordinator Marc Trestman is he's open-minded and extremely flexible in his philosophies.
Trestman wants to stick with the same basic terminology the Ravens used last season because it's easier for one person to adjust. He'll defer to coach John Harbaugh on whether he will call plays on the sideline or in the coaches' box. And he'll base how much shotgun alignments they'll use on the strengths of Joe Flacco.
"It's never going to be my offense," Trestman said Wednesday, a day after he agreed to a three-year contract with the Ravens. "It's always going to be the Ravens' offense."
By the end of the season, everyone will know whether it is Trestman's offense or the Ravens' one by looking at the number of rushing attempts. Toward the end of last season, Harbaugh said running the ball was in the Ravens' DNA. In Trestman's 12 seasons as an NFL play-caller, the ball has been in the air more than it has been on the ground.
Remember he's called the "Quarterback Whisperer," not a running back one. Trestman's offense has ranked in the top 10 in passing seven times and ended up in the top 10 in rushing once. Under Trestman, the Cleveland Browns, San Francisco 49ers, Arizona Cardinals, Oakland Raiders and Chicago Bears finished 17th or lower in rushing attempts in 10 of his 12 seasons.
“I don't know what he's known as, or who knows him as what, but we have a way we want to play and we have a system in place," Harbaugh said. "We've been running the ball here for a long time. That has been our philosophy and our belief, and Marc understands that. I understand what kind of an offense we're going to be going forward and Marc believes in that, and we're ready to roll with that.”
Harbaugh only interviewed two candidates when searching for a replacement for Gary Kubiak, who left to become the Denver Broncos' head coach. Trestman met with Harbaugh on Monday afternoon, and former Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase spoke with him Monday evening.
Even though Harbaugh and Trestman had only been acquaintances, something clicked during their sit-down.
"Once we had a chance to get talking, along with his background, the main thing is that he's such a good fit for us going forward," Harbaugh said. "His experience level, his background in this offense, the fact that he can take us exactly from where we are, offensively, in terms of the terminology and the system that's in place and move it forward and build off of that, that was the determining factor.”
The most impressive part of the foundation laid by Kubiak in his one season with the Ravens was his stretch zone-blocking scheme. It's turned eight different running backs into 1,000-yard rushers over the years, and it turned the Ravens from the 30th-ranked run offense to the No. 8 one.
Harbaugh said the Ravens have been using this as their primary blocking scheme since 2010, but he acknowledged Kubiak and his staff took it to another level. Trestman is familiar with this system, and he's spoken to Kubiak about it over the years.
"It's essentially a zone-blocking system, but there are also other gap plays and trap plays and draw plays and other things that go in," Trestman said. "But the platform, or the starting point, is certainly running the zone plays, and that's not going to change.”