BALTIMORE — Ravens head coach John Harbaugh put on his big boy pants Monday and fired offensive coordinator Cam Cameron.
It might have been a year or two too late, but the Ravens replaced the often criticized Cameron with quarterbacks coach Jim Caldwell, who spent the four previous seasons as the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts.
With this move, the Ravens are hoping to breathe some life into an offense which had no identity for the past five seasons, but it also puts more pressure on Harbaugh as well as quarterback Joe Flacco.
For Flacco, there can be no more excuses. We don't want to hear about the lack of quality receivers or his poor offensive line. We don't want to hear about his strained relationship with Cameron because now he is working directly with one of the best in the NFL.
As for Harbaugh, he is the next man up.
When a head coach fires a coordinator, he eliminates a buffer or a sponge to soak up the criticism. In a sense, Cameron is the scapegoat for a player personnel department that put together a poor offensive line and drafted a quarterback who has no pocket awareness, and lacks consistency.
There is no more Cameron to beat around now. All fingers are pointed directly at Harbaugh.
“There is a very human side to this. Cam is my friend, he taught me a lot about coaching, and he is an outstanding coach,” Harbaugh said. “Personally, this is the hardest thing I've ever had to do as a coach. Cam has been a significant contributor to all of our successes over the past four, almost five, seasons. Deservedly, he is highly-regarded, and we owe thanks to him for what he did for the Ravens”
It's what he didn't do that got Cameron fired. He didn't develop an offense with an identity or a good enough quarterback. Except for Flacco's rookie year when the Ravens became a run-oriented offense, the Ravens failed every year afterward in trying to become a passing team.
A lot of it was Cameron's fault. The running game was basic composed of mostly stretch plays. The passing game wasn't sophisticated. There weren't a lot of rubs, crossing patterns, motion or a variety of sets. The Ravens seldom attacked the middle of the field and Cameron didn't have a feel for games. He ran when he should have passed and passed when he should have run.
Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti wasn't pleased with Cameron after the 2010 season and put pressure on him in 2011. Cameron survived even though the Ravens came up a dropped pass and field goal short of a Super Bowl appearance.
The Ravens got off to a strong start this season and Flacco seemed in control of the no-huddle offense, but he started faltering on the road. As he continued to struggle, the Ravens appeared to water down the offense and they hit a major snag a week ago against Pittsburgh.
Ahead by a touchdown going into the fourth quarter, star running back Ray Rice never touched the ball in the period even through his last two runs in the third quarter tallied 34 yards and 10 yards. The Ravens lost, 23-20, as Pittsburgh mounted a 12-play, 61-yard drive in the last 6 minutes.
That might have been the unforgivable football sin. And then came Sunday.
According to two Ravens sources, both Harbaugh and Bisciotti were not pleased with the play selection at the end of the half and end of the game. Harbaugh was also not happy with the pass protection in the second half and wanted Flacco to be protected more.
Harbaugh and Cameron, according to the sources, were involved in a heated exchange on the sideline that carried over into the locker room after the game. After conferring with Bisciotti and several others in the organization, according to the sources, a decision was made to release Cameron.
Bisciotti did not return phone calls Monday. Harbaugh adamantly denied Monday any confrontations on the sideline ever took place.
“It's not about fair or unfair, right or wrong,” Harbaugh said. “My responsibility is to the whole team and what's best for them right now. We need a change. Our plan and our goals are to win games, win our division and get to the playoffs.”
“We have a lot of work to do, and we have the coaches and players in place to achieve our goals this season,” he said. “We are working on that right now. I'm excited about where we are and where we are going.”
Cameron didn't get along well with Flacco, but it appeared the two had worked out most of their differences. But as the Ravens took the field in overtime Sunday, Flacco looked confused. And when he did his famed 360 move while trying to escape pressure, he looked as lost as he did doing his rookie season.
The Caldwell and Flacco relationship will be interesting. In a recent story in The Baltimore Sun, Flacco admitted he was a little frustrated about the Ravens abandoning the no-huddle and Flacco has always suggested the Ravens throw more than run. The no-huddle was Flacco's toy.
It was easy to see the influence of Caldwell right away in Flacco from the new gyrations and antics under center to some new buzz words used at the line of scrimmage. But in Indianapolis, Caldwell worked with Peyton Manning, one of the best quarterbacks ever in the history of the league.
Flacco is no Peyton Manning. He's not even younger brother Eli.
But if Flacco can't reach the next level with Caldwell, it will probably mean the end of him in Baltimore.
As for Harbaugh, he is under fire now. The move to Caldwell looks like one of desperation. The Ravens have a number of stars on the roster and this team could unravel if it keeps going south.
The Ravens made a smart move by bringing Caldwell here during the off season, and Harbaugh spent a lot of time with him having Caldwell evaluate the offense and Flacco.
Overall, it's a good move. The players and other assistant coaches were unhappy with Cameron because they thought he didn't listen to them. Also, both Flacco and the offense had hit the ceiling under Cameron.
Apparently, this decision couldn't have waited because the disagreements were too much Sunday during and after the game.
Harbaugh didn't have a lot of choices. He had to put on his big pants quickly.