Former Ravens quarterbacks coach Hue Jackson has been named head coach of the Oakland Raiders, a team that surprised many in going 8-8 and for a long while contending to win the AFC West despite being unsettled at the quarterback position. I personally saw no reason why the man who orchestrated the tremendous turnaround of this moribund franchise, Tom Cable, wasn’t retained, but that is just how Al Davis does business. In Jackson’s assembling of a new coaching staff, he is likely to target a number of Ravens coaches, including offensive assistant Al Saunders. Quarterbacks coach Jim Zorn is already rumored to be heading to Cleveland to rejoin Mike Holmgren and new head coach Pat Shurmer. Whoever else joins them will certainly be a topic of conversation around Baltimore, but will it matter? What impact will their departures have?
Luckily for the Ravens, there is such a thing as addition by subtraction. Jim Zorn hasn’t shown much at any of his recent stops (Seattle, Washington, and Baltimore) to indicate that he can develop a quarterback, and while we might not know what happens behind closed doors, he hasn’t exactly worked wonders with Joe Flacco. The problem is that you can never know whether Flacco is simply a mediocre quarterback regardless of his coach, but given the flashes of potential he has shown, I am willing to roll the dice with a new quarterbacks coach. John Harbaugh is clearly loyal to his guys, regardless of the results (see: Cam Cameron). He wasn’t going to cut ties with Zorn after one year, so perhaps it is best that the Ravens are forced to reach out and hire someone new to mentor a still-developing Flacco. If Zorn heads to Cleveland, more power to him- he will probably be a better fit there with Mike Holmgren, his old boss in Seattle, in charge. I doubt he will be missed in Baltimore.
As for Al Saunders, he is not the kind of guy you bring to your staff expecting him to remain long. Not because he likes to bounce around a lot, but because with his resume, he is either going to be an offensive coordinator for you or someone else, it was only a matter of time. Sure, his offense in Washington left much to be desired, but he orchestrated productive attacks behind Tim Green in Kansas City and St. Louis with aging and questionable talent. It is difficult to discern his impact on the offense, considering his role as “offensive consultant” which is a fancy way of keeping a guy on the staff because of his resume even if he doesn’t have a formal role. If his job was to keep Cam Cameron in check, I think he could have done a bit better. As a mentor and general offensive coach, I have no doubt he was an asset to the staff.
The Ravens are due a housecleaning. This team is too talented to be near the bottom of the league offensively, and if it takes a few new faces joining the staff to realize that talent, then I am all for it. I know that it is often said that if you don’t produce, then you clearly aren’t that talented. But players like Anquan Boldin, Derrick Mason, TJ Houshmanzadeh, and even Willis McGahee were productive before they came to Baltimore. I am not yet ready to believe that Baltimore is simply a place where offense goes to die. Being as Cam Cameron isn’t going anywhere, a bit of offensive reshuffling in the staff might not be so bad. If the Ravens won’t do it, their fans should be grateful that someone else is doing it for them.