Lamar and The New OC Need to be Partners4 min read
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By: Dev Panchwagh
Borrowing a Page From Shanahan & Young
History tends to tell us a lot about how to be successful in the NFL. There are patterns you simply cannot ignore. The very best organizations, the ones that seem to either rise to the top or can sustain their standing, take those history lessons and apply them to their roster building processes today.
As the Ravens decided to finally cut the cord with offensive coordinator (OC) Greg Roman, after what I believe was a mostly successful four-year run, it was ironic that I had just finished watching an America’s Game featuring the 1994 San Francisco 49ers. In that episode, Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young talked at length about how then offensive coordinator Mike Shanahan would help him prepare for the Super Bowl.
I would implore any fan of football to watch that minute or so segment on their own, but the gist was, Young explaining how Shanahan had him recite every play over and over again (like in the movie Rain Man). If Young nailed the sequence right, Shanahan had him do it again (one more time) just to be sure. Once he got it right the last time, Shanahan said, “We’re gonna kill them.” [WATCH HERE]
After the game, Shanahan met with Young and said they could have scored even more points. The Niners scored 49 points against San Diego.
Young: “Mike Shanahan at the end of the game was upset. Because there were only 6 TD passes. He wanted 8. You want to know why I love that guy? 49? That’s not nearly enough.”
Shanahan’s relationship with Young as OC and quarterback wasn’t just a coach and a player. It was a partnership. They were equals and built that offensive juggernaut together.
Shanahan trusted Young. He believed in Young. And he pushed Young to be at his very best.
For all that Roman accomplished in Baltimore – and I believe we should recognize just how historically good his offense was for a period between 2019 into 2020 – he and Lamar Jackson weren’t quite partners.
You hear Roman in press conferences talk about Lamar and what he can do, and it never came across that way at least.
I’m not looking to stir the pot by the way. It’s just an observation.
If you peel back the onion some more, schematically, it didn’t seem like they were exactly partners either. Roman designed and called plays to take advantage of Jackson’s rare athleticism. But did he push the boundaries as a passer and really advance his playbook beyond his bread and butter? I think we all know the answer to that.
Roman probably did the best he could in that regard but he’s not a passing-game guru at all. That’s also not to say that whoever the team brings in next to be their OC has to be a passing-game guru either.
However, as the Ravens start their search, they need to find a coach who is all in on Lamar Jackson. He needs to see Jackson for who he is today and what he can become years from now. That coach needs to fully exploit all that Jackson could potentially do for the offense, as a runner and a passer, equally.
I also referenced Young specifically because he shares a lot of similarities with Jackson. He had to learn how to become a more disciplined passer, operating from the pocket, and under the very precise West Coast offense principles that Bill Walsh instituted. That meant leaning on his legs a bit less and making less off-script plays overall.
But it wasn’t until Shanahan was his coach that he was really able to string together consistent, dominant play over multiple seasons.
That’s a next-step evolution I can envision for Jackson as well. Not that he isn’t already a proven pocket passer – because he absolutely is. It’s more about structuring an offense and a system around him to bring out that side even more. Perhaps using Jackson’s gifts as a runner to open up shots downfield off moving pockets and coordinated play-action. A more cohesive structure that doesn’t seem as bolted on as that which Roman put together.
In whatever scenario that this takes, the offensive coordinator must trust and believe in Lamar first.
Young and Shanahan is a historic example but you can fast forward a few years to today’s NFL. My good friend Michael Crawford astutely pointed out the example of Mike McDaniel and Tua Tagovailoa in Miami. There are plenty of clips and quotes from McDaniel in which he was outspoken about how much he believes in Tua. It wasn’t just lip service.
Look at Sean McVay and Matthew Stafford. The two are practically tied to the hip.
Drew Brees and Sean Payton. For many years, when you heard the two describe their relationship, they talked about how they made each other better.
This is a chance for Jackson to really take off in his career. He’s already a unanimous MVP who arguably is the most scary offensive force in the league when he’s on top of his game.
The coordinator the Ravens pick has to earn his trust. He needs to figure out a way to develop that rapport. That means the two should be talking about the game plan, working on it together, and Jackson should really believe in the OC being the leading catalyst for the offense to exploit any defense.
If that type of bond can be established, I can easily envision Jackson winning a Super Bowl with that OC like Young did with Shanahan nearly 30 years ago.
[Takeaways From The Ravens End-of-Season Press Conference]
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Originally posted on Russell Street Report