Harbaugh, coming off his 13th season as the Ravens’ head coach and second with Jackson as the full-time quarterback, specifically cited criticism from NFL Network analysts Steve Smith, a former Baltimore wide receiver, and Kurt Warner, a Hall of Fame quarterback.
After Baltimore scored just three points in a divisional round playoff loss Saturday to the Buffalo Bills, Smith ripped the Ravens’ wide receiver route combinations as “elementary school” and said the team needed to move on from offensive coordinator Greg Roman. A couple of days before the game, Warner posted a video chiding the “simplicity” of the Ravens’ passing scheme for not doing enough to help Jackson.
“I disagree with Kurt and Steve on that,” said Harbaugh, who indicated at another point that Roman was set to return. “We have every route in football, and we have every route concept in football.”
In two playoff games this season, including a 20-13 win over the Tennessee Titans, Jackson threw for a total of 341 yards, with no passing touchdowns and two interceptions, the second of which was returned 101 yards for a game-changing Buffalo touchdown in Baltimore’s 17-3 loss. In an era of increased passing in the NFL, the Ravens have successfully gone against the grain by running the ball more and throwing it less than any other team, but Baltimore’s 1-3 postseason record with Jackson under center the past three years has led to questions about the ultimate effectiveness of that approach.
“We throw it less than most teams do because we run so well,” Harbaugh said. “Kurt would probably love to see us being a drop-back passing team that gets the ball out on time in a West-Coast type style or the ‘Greatest Show on Turf’-type style, but that’s not the offense that we run. And we’re not going to change our offense because it doesn’t fit his eye.”
“We’ve built, you could argue, the best run offense in the history of football in the last two years,” the coach added, “so let’s continue to grow that and build that, and let’s continue to build up our efficiency.”
In defense of Baltimore’s passing attack, Harbaugh noted that it finished the regular season “middle of the pack” by some measures of efficiency, including DVOA. With an average of 7.2 yards per attempt, the Ravens ranked 18th, ahead of the likes of the Arizona Cardinals, Los Angeles Rams and Pittsburgh Steelers.
“All of our drop-back passes, yeah we’re not going to be as complex as a Pittsburgh or a team that throws the ball 40-50 times a game, because we don’t throw the ball as much as they do. I think that just stands to reason,” Harbaugh said. “We’ll build the passing game around our players and our talent, and around our quarterback, and around our running backs, and around our offensive line, to suit our players to play winning football and score points.”
Of the health of Jackson, who suffered a concussion and left the game against Buffalo, Harbaugh said, “As far as Lamar, he’s doing well. I talked to him yesterday. He has a concussion so he’s working through that. Says he feels a lot better.”
The NFL’s MVP in 2019, Jackson is heading into his fourth year in the league. At a similar point last year, star quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs and Deshaun Watson of the Houston Texans were given massive contract extensions, and Harbaugh told reporters Wednesday he was “totally certain that that’s going to happen” with his quarterback, as well, although perhaps not right away.
“Of course, absolutely we want Lamar to sign a long-term deal,” he declared. “When it happens, that’s the details. That’s what we’ve got to figure out. … That will happen either this year or next year, I’m sure.”