If Todd Monken had an offseason motto, it’d be “On to 2024.”

In four months since the bitter finish to the Ravens’ season in the AFC championship game, Baltimore has lost pieces and added pieces. Monken, headed into his second year, will be charged with improving an offense that finished fourth in points and first in rushing. In his view, it’s time to look forward.

But the ghosts of playoff disappointments are not easily banished.

Organized team activities mark the first time the media has been able to speak to Monken about the Ravens’ 17-10 loss to the Super Bowl-champion Kansas City Chiefs. Going strictly by benchmarks, the 58-year-old was successful last season after being hired out of Georgia. He got more juice out of the passing game, led one of the NFL’s highest-scoring offenses, coaxed another MVP season from Lamar Jackson and helped win big games — until the biggest.

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It was this disappointment — not the successes from last season — that Monken was asked about the most, no matter how great his desire is to move forward.

“We didn’t play well enough, didn’t coach well enough,” Monken said. “Didn’t execute at a high level, and that starts with me.”

Living in a pressure cooker might just be a Baltimore offensive coordinator’s lot in life.

It seems the Ravens are always above average, if not elite, on defense. Even an MVP quarterback and a dynamic run game have not tilted the perception that the offense always is playing catch-up to the defense’s high standards. It hurts more when a team that averaged 28.4 points per game can get in the end zone only once. In one case, they fell a yard shy on a crushing fumble by Zay Flowers.

What critics have seized on is Baltimore’s running game drying up. The Ravens ran the ball only 16 times, and only six carries were by running backs. The Chiefs came in with a reputation for a sieve-like run defense (the week before, they allowed 182 ground yards to Buffalo), and even when they showed light boxes with six or fewer defenders, the Ravens dropped back to pass 33 of 35 times.

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In February, coach John Harbaugh admitted, “When it’s all said and done, and you look back on it, that’s not really going to win us an AFC championship game, for sure.”

Weighing in publicly for the first time, Monken didn’t focus so much on how many times the Ravens ran the ball as how inefficiently they ran it.

“I’m not trying to justify this s***, I promise you that. I’m not,” Monken said. “But I’m just saying, in general, we needed to run the ball better and we didn’t. That’s a fact. You can’t control the game if you can’t run the football, and then not execute at a high level when it presents itself.”

If it feels like a familiar quandary, it has strong parallels with Monken’s predecessor. Before he was widely criticized as regressive and medieval, Greg Roman helped unlock Jackson as a playmaker, setting a team record for most rushing yards in a season.

As glorious as that first year was, however, it was quickly overshadowed by how disappointing the top-seeded Ravens played against the Tennessee Titans. Jackson threw a whopping 59 pass attempts, while Mark Ingram and Gus Edwards accounted for just nine carries.

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Some accountability ought to fall at the common denominator in those two playoff games: Harbaugh. Ultimately, though, the guy sitting in the booth calling the shots with the playbook in front of him bears the most burden when the game plan goes south.

It might feel slightly poetic that one of the players who helped author that dramatic 2019 upset — Derrick Henry — could help Monken this season. The refrigerator-sized back also gets downhill in a hurry; a rare power-and-speed combo makes him playable in almost all downs and distances.

“I know this,” Monken said. “If he carries it 300 times, we’re having a hell of a year.”

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Beyond Henry, beyond another year with Jackson, Flowers, Mark Andrews and some of the other dynamic players on offense, Monken might have to clear a higher bar. He’ll be replacing three offensive line starters, and while he said he has high hopes for younger players such as Daniel Faalele and Ben Cleveland, there’s no doubt there are more question marks there.

The AFC championship game might cast an unfairly long shadow over Monken’s performance, but that’s the way it goes in Baltimore. Getting out of that rut is likely to be a tougher feat than he took on last year.

But it might as well be in the job description. No matter who fills the role, the Ravens offensive coordinator always seems to have to play a little defense.

Kyle joined The Baltimore Banner in 2023 as a sports columnist. He previously covered the L.A. Lakers for The Orange County Register and myriad sports at The Salt Lake Tribune. He’s a Mt. Hebron High and University of Maryland alum.

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