Greg Roman and Lamar Jackson are only getting started

Baltimore Ravens, NFL Playoffs

The Baltimore Ravens better hope that Greg Roman doesn’t become the next head coach of the Cleveland Browns. He and Lamar Jackson are just getting started.

The Baltimore Ravens were the best team in the NFL during the regular season. This franchise has always played great defense and prioritizes special teams play more than most teams. Yet, for the better part of their franchise history, the Ravens were bland offensively. That all changed in 2019 when offensive coordinator Greg Roman unleashed NFL MVP quarterback Lamar Jackson.

Baltimore is on a 12-game winning streak and went 14-2 this season en route to the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs. Though the Ravens have won two Super Bowls in their 20-plus years in Baltimore, they have never hoisted the Lombardi Trophy as a No. 1 seed. They beat the Oakland Raiders in the Coliseum in 2000 and the New England Patriots on the road in Foxborough in 2012.

Admittedly, this is uncharted territory for the Ravens to be the hunted as opposed to the hunters in the AFC. That being said, they’ve never had a quarterback as elusive as Jackson, nor an offensive mind as innovative as Roman is in the ground game. This is a franchise that landed the 1998 Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator Brian Billick to be their second-ever head coach.

2019 was the first year Jackson was the full-time starter in Baltimore. The 2016 Heisman Trophy winner out of Louisville was picked No. 32 overall by the Ravens in 2018 and had to back up the underwhelming incumbent Joe Flacco for half of his rookie season. But once Baltimore gave Jackson the keys to the offense, he started to make magic happen in the Charm City.

After getting trounced by the Los Angeles Chargers on Wild Card Weekend last year, the Ravens honestly assessed the situation, realizing they needed to build an offense around Jackson’s skill set and not shoehorn him into whatever they were trying to do with Flacco under center. The results were tremendous in 2019, as the plus-one offense has taken the league by storm.

It’s been so captivating that Roman is a candidate to be an NFL head coach. Though he already interviewed for the last vacancy available, Baltimore should want no part of him heading to the division-rival Cleveland Browns. That’s because the Jackson/Roman offense is just getting started in Baltimore.

Yes, we’ve seen flashes of what plus-one offenses look like in prototype form. If you remember, Roman had been the offensive coordinator of the San Francisco 49ers when Colin Kaepernick was at his peak. Roman was also the offensive coordinator with the Buffalo Bills on Rex Ryan’s staff, helping Tyrod Taylor emerge as a decent NFL starting quarterback. But with Jackson, it’s different.

Those 49ers and Bills’ offenses were ground-centric, but very much in the West Coast vein. Is what the Ravens are doing with Jackson in 2019 some variation of that? Sure, but we’re seeing the Ravens run the football in ways we haven’t seen in the NFL since the 1950s. Unlike the collegiate triple-option, this is a ground game that is appealing to watch as the viewer.

What makes this offense sustainable is its adaptability. Over time, Jackson will progress as an NFL passer. He has had plenty of starts in college at Louisville and in high school in Boynton Beach, Florida. Jackson is the type of player who works on his craft perpetually and always finds the little things necessary to get better. He put on muscle this offseason and his game is better for it.

At some juncture, Roman will do enough to merit being a serious candidate as an NFL head coach. Heck, he might even get it with the Browns during this coaching cycle because Cleveland wants to be creative offensively for its Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Baker Mayfield, and the Browns have to be super jealous of what they’re seeing out of Jackson in the plus-one attack.

But for the Ravens’ sake, and the viewing public’s sake, let’s hope the Browns go with somebody like New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels or Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy. That way, we can keep this good thing going between Jackson and Roman, at least for a little while longer. We’re seeing true innovation here, and that’s remarkable.

Ultimately, we can’t know what Cleveland’s plans are to replace Freddie Kitchens. The Browns are the last team with a head-coaching vacancy in this cycle. It would serve them to take their time to try to salvage the fleeting NFL career of Mayfield. If they think Roman is the answer that will solve all of their problems, then they should try to pry him away from a division rival.

All we know is it would be such a shame to not get at least a few years out of the Jackson/Roman offensive partnership. Neither the runs with Kaepernick in San Francisco nor Taylor in Buffalo were long-lasting. Let’s hope this pairing is given a good run to see where we can take football in the future. If this wins Baltimore a Super Bowl, then together, they will have discovered something iconic.

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