What Ravens can do now to help Flacco

If I'm Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, I would have a lengthy wish list for the coach John Harbaugh and general manager Ozzie Newome that starts with:

  • Find a younger Anquan Boldin-type receiver who can make tough intermediate catches and convert first downs.

  • Upgrade the offensive line so there is time to stand in the pocket and step into throws, a luxury that Tom Brady and Peyton Manning often have.

  • And, just as important as the other two requests, hire a quarterbacks coach.

Adding a wide receiver and an offensive lineman will come later, whether it's free agency in March or the draft in May. Bringing in a quarterbacks coach can be done by the end of the month.

After the Ravens name a new offensive coordinator, the next priority should be bringing in a coach who can be in Flacco's ear, taking on the role of confidant and critic. Everything the Ravens do this offseason should be focused on helping him rebound from the worst season of his career.

Flacco's track record shows that a quarterbacks coach will help. In four seasons when a quarterbacks coach was on staff, Flacco threw 82 touchdowns and 44 interceptions for a passer rating of 87.8. In the two seasons without one, he produced 39 touchdowns and 34 interceptions for a passer rating of 76.7.

Flacco has always had a strong relationship with his quarterbacks coaches, from Hue Jackson (2008-09) to Jim Zorn (2010) to Jim Caldwell (2012). It seems more than coincidence that Flacco has a better completion rate (61.3 percent) and yards per attempt (7.2) in seasons with a quarterbacks coach. The fact that Flacco went on that Joe Montana-like playoff run last year when his quarterbacks coach took over as playcaller should only underscore the need for one.

Last season, Caldwell remained the offensive coordinator and the Ravens didn't add anyone to take his old role as quarterbacks coach. This was among many factors why Flacco threw 22 interceptions, the total of his two previous seasons combined.

Who should the Ravens get for that job? While this probably won't happen, my first choice is bringing back Zorn. His only season as Ravens quarterbacks coach resulted in Flacco's best regular season. Flacco's career highs in touchdowns (25) and passer rating (93.6) were set that season, as well as a career-low 10 interceptions. Zorn was fired because he clashed philosophically with then-offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, and Flacco made it known how unhappy he was with the decision. There's no obstacle hindering Zorn's return because Cameron is now gone.

Another option is Kyle Shanahan, the former Washington Redskins offensive coordinator, if he doesn't get the Ravens' offensive coordinator job. Shanahan was the Houston Texans quarterbacks coach in 2007 before serving as an offensive coordinator for the past six years.

The Ravens have plenty of work to get the NFL's 29th-ranked offense on track again. They may need to find two new starters on the offensive line (center and right tackle) and they could draft a playmaking receiver in the first round like Texas A&M's Mike Evans or USC's Marqise Lee.

But this is a quarterback-driven league, and the Ravens were at their best in last year's playoffs because Flacco was at his best. The first step to helping Flacco get back to that level is hiring a quarterbacks coach.