In a season of dramatic moves by the Fabulous Harbaugh Brothers, older brother John might have just topped Jim.
Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh fired offensive coordinator Cam Cameron on Monday following a 31-28 overtime loss to the Washington Redskins on Sunday. Whereas Jim made a seemingly abrupt call to replace starting quarterback Alex Smith with the inexperienced Colin Kaepernick, John's decision was an accumulation of personal issues between Cameron, quarterback Joe Flacco and the rest of the coaching staff, team sources have indicated.
In short, Cameron is a control freak. He has been for years. Ask people who were in Miami when he served as Dolphins head coach for just one season (2007) and you'll hear stories about how it was actually easier for people in the building to deal with Nick Saban than Cameron.
That is why, despite a pretty reasonable performance by Baltimore's offense against Washington, this move had to be made. Whether that was now or in the offseason, the Ravens were going to have to divorce themselves of Cameron if they eventually wanted to keep Flacco happy.
"My charge – our responsibility as a coaching staff – is to maximize the opportunities for our team to win, and we can still reach all of our goals for this season," Harbaugh said in a statement released Monday. "With our coaches and players, the solution is in the building. We are going to make the most of our opportunities going forward, and this change gives us a better possibility to achieve our goals."
While there are some people who will debate the veracity of keeping Flacco happy, the truth is that it's a lot harder to find a good quarterback than an offensive coordinator. The Ravens (9-4), still with a two-game lead over the Bengals and Steelers in the AFC North, spent almost a decade looking for someone to build around at quarterback. They went through Tony Banks, Trent Dilfer, Elvis Grbac, Kyle Boller and Steve McNair without finding a long-term solution.
Baltimore wasted years with one of the greatest defenses in the history of the game, winning only one Super Bowl largely because it lacked a great triggerman on offense. While it's hard to call Flacco great just yet, he's on a pretty good path. To junk him would be an outrageous gamble.
So instead, do your best to make him happy.
Subbing in Jim Caldwell, the low-key former quarterback coach to Peyton Manning and eventual Colts head coach, was a terrific first move. While Caldwell is just as smart as Cameron, one of Caldwell's best qualities is that he doesn't crave attention. Caldwell is a facilitator of other people's success. He knows when to interject himself and when to back away.
By contrast, Cameron is like the Advanced Placement high school teacher who wants to show everybody how smart he is every day. He's also overtly religious and comes off as a preacher at times, rather than a compatriot.
Between Flacco, running back Ray Rice and wide receivers Torrey Smith and Anquan Boldin, the Ravens have still managed to be a top-10 scoring offense at 25.5 points per game. However, the unit has faced its share of scrutiny, often leading Flacco to make snide remarks and replies to reporters about how they should go talk to Cameron.
The issues between the pair apparently became significantly worse in 2010. That season, the Ravens brought in Jim Zorn to be the quarterback coach. The gregarious, enthusiastic Zorn got along great with Flacco, but rubbed Cameron the wrong way. Some people believe that Cameron became concerned about how well Zorn and Flacco got along. Whatever it was, Zorn was out after one season.
On top of that, the pressure is also growing for Flacco. He's in the final year of his contract and this season has been a study in inconsistency. He was good Sunday, but struggled in the previous three games (San Diego and two against Pittsburgh). Flacco was also subpar against Houston, Kansas City and Philadelphia this year.
Given where the Ravens are in terms of both their immediate future (they are a fourth-and-29 conversion away from losing three in a row) and the long-term (Flacco is presumably the face of the franchise for at least another few years), a change had to be made.
Even if it's a change with only three weeks left in the regular season.
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