Questioning the Concept of Continuity and Marc Trestman
For the first time since 2012, Joe Flacco and the Ravens offense will enjoy the continuity of the same coach and playbook to work with from the previous year. Marc Trestman is the first offensive coordinator to stick around Baltimore after one full season since Cam Cameron.
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The Ravens have gone through Cameron, then Jim Caldwell to end the 2012 championship season. Caldwell continued on to a disappointing 2013 campaign, after which they turned to Gary Kubiak. Kubiak did such a good job that he earned another head coaching gig for the team he played for, the Denver Broncos. Marc Trestman was hired for 2015 and will be sticking around for the upcoming 2016 season, maybe more.
“Continuity on offense”, has been one of the many excuses thrown around when things aren’t going so well in Charm City. Cameron was an Air Coryell style coach. Caldwell tried to install his version of that when he got the interim tag removed for 2013. Complete scheme change in 2014 to the west coast offense when Kubiak took over. Then Trestman, another west coast guy, would run a similar style. But each coach has their own nuances. They have their own methods of coaching. They have their own tendencies and timing of certain plays that they incorporate. Continuity will no longer be an excuse. But is there something to be said for it anyway? Does it even exist in the way fans want it to?
Andy Dalton has been similar to Joe Flacco in some aspects through his young career. Not all aspects, but some. Both are good QBs, but not among the perennial Pro Bowl group. Both have track records of leading their teams to the postseason. However, Dalton took big strides in 2015 when he was under his second straight season of tutelage from Hue Jackson. Dalton was one of the AFC’s best. Jackson has since moved on to be the Cleveland Browns Head Coach for 2016.
Everything positive went up, the negative, interceptions, went down. What else can you ask for?
Staying in the AFC North, Steelers quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger’s relationship with Todd Haley shows a similar track. There were some butting heads internally after head coach Mike Tomlin made the unpopular move to fire beloved coordinator Bruce Arians, who is having his own successes as a head coach with the Arizona Cardinals. Given the abrasiveness of year one, it took three years for the solid Roethlisberger to take his game to a higher level, in a QB/coach relationship that has become non-toxic.
So how about Marc Trestman’s track record in second seasons with a player? Because not only do players have to adjust to his style. He needs to balance it out by adjusting to his player’s strengths. I think we would be ecstatic to see if there is a history of continuity making an impact. After all, Trestman has been a play caller for 28 years over six different NFL teams now.
His first stint as an OC was with the Cleveland Browns in 1988 and 1989. Bernie Kosar was his QB. There wasn’t much difference in the rate stats in year two, but they all trended slightly down as the quarterback entered his prime. His passer rating dropped from 84.3 to 80.3. Kosar missed seven games in 88’. Joe Flacco missed six games in 2015.
Next stop for Trestman was the San Francisco 49ers in 1995 and 1996. He was away from the game for four years when George Seifert brought him in. Trestman got the treat of having a Hall of Fame quarterback in Steve Young leading his offense. Young was 34-years old, but still took great care of the football. Young often would lead the league in completion percentage and passer rating. Although, 1994 was the last year the 49ers got a full season out of the then, aging veteran. Not sure what Trestman could have done that another coach couldn’t have. It’s like being the head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers. I think I could do that job pretty well with LeBron James on my team.
After some stops as a Quarterbacks Coach, Trestman gets to run the offense for a young, promising, Jake Plummer of the Arizona Cardinals (1998-2000). Plummer was an All-American at Arizona State, drafted in the second round in 1997. Plummer never thrived under Trestman, even showing decline over the ups and downs of the three year run. Yes, the Cardinals won their first playoff game in over 50 years in 1998. They’ll have that. But Plummer was not great in that run of a 9-7 season.
Trestman stayed out west and joined the Oakland Raiders from 2001-2003. They were led by another aging veteran quarterback in Rich Gannon. It should be noted that Bill Callahan gets credit for the play calling duties during Jon Gruden’s 2001 season as head coach, and when Callahan took over as head coach the year after. That move promoted Trestman up to OC in title, while doubling as quarterbacks coach. Regardless, with Trestman, Gannon had the best season of his career in 2002, his second season with him. The Raiders went to the Super Bowl. It could have been their second straight, but what became the “Tuck Rule” with Tom Brady, screwed Oakland out of a potential title shot in the 2001 season. After the 2002 season, at age 38, Gannon would play in just ten games over the next two years before retirement.
It would be a while until Trestman got to be a play caller in the NFL again. He was assistant coach for the Miami Dolphins in 2004, joined the college ranks as a coordinator at North Carolina State for 2005 and 2006. After a year off from the game, Trestman found a home in the CFL with the Montreal Alouettes for five season as their head coach.
Fun fact for Marylander’s: While at Montreal, Trestman’s Offensive Coordinator was controversial University of Maryland quarterback, Scott Milanovich. The duo won two Grey Cups. Milanovich won a third on his own as a head coach for the Toronto Argonauts. The team he has run since 2012.
Trestman made his return to the NFL in 2013 as head coach of the Chicago Bears. Even as head coach, he was the signal caller. Jay Cutler was 30 years old at the time, and by then, you knew the quarterback “is what he is”. If you look at his career passer rating by season, save for outliers of 76.1 and 92.3, his passer rating has been: 88.5, 88.1, 86.0, 86.3, 85.7, 81.3, 89.2, 88.6. I’m not sure there is a more consistent quarterback in the NFL. Don’t confuse consistent with great though. Whether it’s Ron Turner, Mike Martz, Mike Tice, Marc Trestman, now Adam Gase, Jay Cutler is going to be Jay Cutler.
Jay Cutler is not an example of Marc Trestman being a “quarterback whisperer”.
In fact, continuity hasn’t been a real thing under Trestman at all. Those Browns teams ran the ball, a lot. Bernie Kosar might have had the most unorthodox, inconsistent throwing motion you’ll ever see. Trrestman didn’t do anything to make Steve Young amazing. He already was. The Cardinals were not a good organization and Jake Plummer was quite a let down. Rich Gannon probably gives more credit to Jon Gruden and Bill Callahan for his successes. Jay Cutler…they only surrounded him with Matt Forte, Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery and Martellus Bennett, and Cutler was still consistently mediocre.
What should we expect from Joe Flacco? That’s what everyone is dying to see. Is there something to be said for continuity on the offense making a difference? Is Marc Trestman an exception to that trend based his his track record? Does continuity even matter and should the fans drop that excuse for poor play from their lexicon?
Realistic expectations for Joe Flacco probably hover around 63% completion rate, 7.0 Y/A, 25 TDs, 12 INTs, passer rating around 88.0.
If continuity is a thing, like in Dalton’s and Roethlisberger’s case; Given the depth of receivers Flacco has to work with, dynamics of running game behind him, talent on the line in front of him as we enter the 2016 season; Joe Flacco could raise his game to a level such as 66% percent completion, 8.0 Y/A, 35 TD, 10 INT, passer rating climbing into triple digits.
If Flacco doesn’t improve, it won’t be for lack of continuity. This year, Flacco can prove that continuity might be real, or he can be a slightly better Jay Cutler. A predictable guy who just is what he is.
The excuses end here and now in 2016.
Mike was born on the Eastern Shore, raised in Finksburg, and currently resides in Parkville. In 2009, Mike graduated from the Broadcasting Institute of Maryland. Mike became a Baltimore City Fire Fighter in late 2010. Mike has appeared as a guest on Q1370, and FOX45. Now a Sr. Ravens Analyst for BSL, he can be reached at [email protected]