When the Ravens announced the hiring of new offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak and quarterbacks coach Rick Dennison, this should have caused Ravens fans to collectively breathe a sigh of relief, albeit a somewhat nervous one.
I want to start out by saying that the hire of Gary Kubiak is a brilliant one for the Ravens, proving that they, unlike the Cleveland Browns, don’t often self-destruct just as a gift horse arrives. (The Browns, by the way, have reportedly hired Kyle Shanahan to run their offense, which should also prove to be a good move, but a far better move for them than Baltimore.)
Yet the Kubiak/Dennison hire, should prove to be a brilliant move or unfortunate mistake only when Flacco has fully been given time to adjust to the West Coast-style system the two run. This is critical that there be a commonality in working style between the coaches and notoriously temperamental Flacco. Yet this West Coast style figures to have wrinkles that appeal to Flacco such as mixing in some play-action to take advantage of Flacco’s cannon arm that helped the Ravens win a Super Bowl trophy.
Flacco has never been known as a Phillip Rivers/Tom Brady yeller at his coaches, but when Flacco doesn’t like something he isn’t afraid to make that clear through either tuning out a coach (Cam Cameron) or subtly taking shots in the media (John Harbaugh and Jim Caldwell on the Wildcat Offense).
It is a smart move that the Ravens have already gotten Flacco and the new coaches together to talk things up because Flacco trusting in Kubiak and his system will be so critical, along with fixing the offensive line and running game, to the Ravens having success in 2014.
In my opinion, while the ultimate hiring of Gary Kubiak certainly involved John Harbaugh, it is clear from reports from ESPN’s Jamison Hensley and others that Harbaugh wanted Hostler and did not want to look outside the organization.However Hostler’s one opportunity to be a coordinator (for San Francisco) went horribly wrong with his offense being ranked last in the league in many key categories.
Hostler stepping in to fix a broken system he was a part of would have been a terrible idea, and unlike the “locker room lawyers” Harbaugh has subtly tossed aside, he couldn’t do the same to the advice of owner Steve Bisciotti who clearly, along with Ozzie Newsome and the mysterious team president Dick Cass, called the shots on hiring someone other than Hostler.
The likely scenario was that Bisciotti told Harbaugh that he wanted a variety of candidates to be considered, including from outside the organization. Harbaugh probably resisted that, but went along because Bisciotti has the final say.
When the first slew of candidates came in, it looked like Kyle Shanahan, Hostler, or Kirby Wilson (then-Steelers running backs coach) would get the job. But it was clear Bisciotti didn’t want the winner to be Hostler as the team needed an outside voice.
Kubiak appeared likely to go to Cleveland, but reports were that the Browns resisted him bringing on a number of assistants from a 2-14 Houston Texans team. So things fell through in classic Browns DE combustion manner. “Only in Cleveland” is what the writers there often put into their pieces, and this is another example.
So, the Ravens, like they came across a gift named Elvis Dumervil due to an agent’s faxing error, another gift horse was delivered to them in the form of Kubiak. Despite the Texans’ unfortunate year, Kubiak has made a career of turning subpar QB’s into superstars, at least for a time, and that’s something the Ravens must have liked.
Kubiak has been known to be an approachable coach, and one who can relate to being a QB, since that is the position he played, for years backing up Bronco legend John Elway.
Kubiak also has a very good offensive sense about him and has an imagination that allows a variety of plays to be called that take advantage of a personnel group, whether that involves having a great runner, or a QB with a deep or accurate arm.
Flacco has the former of those, but a better offensive system could take the pressure off him to help him improve accuracy.
Overall, the chemistry is the most important thing. Flacco and Kubiak need to be able to get along – that won’t be a problem with Dennison since he and Kubiak already are on the same page, and Dennison won’t do anything to confuse messages to Flacco, as had happened when Jim Zorn was his QB coach and Cameron his coordinator.
This was, in short a great hire by the Ravens. While Browns didn’t do badly at all with Shanahan, he has had a reputation as a prickly-at-times coach, who fell out of favor with Robert Griffin III this past season with the Redskins.
Flacco now just needs to pay attention, and listen, and then, get better.