The Baltimore Ravens fired offensive coordinator Cam Cameron on Monday following a crushing late game collapse against the Washington Redskins. While the timing of Cameron’s firing was curious and spelled of desperation the result was celebrated by many Ravens fans. Cameron’s offenses had been inconsistent, his play calling often baffling, and his in-game adjustments seemingly non-existent in just less than five seasons.
The fact that Cameron was dismissed the day after his team scored 28 points on the road says something about the depth of Baltimore’s offensive dysfunction. The loss to Washington could’ve been blamed on the Ravens injury-riddled defense. Baltimore has operated without major contributors on defense for much of the season and was down to its third string middle linebackers against the Redskins. The fact that the Ravens defense surrendered late game leads in consecutive weeks is no great shock to anyone who has watched the team throughout the season.
Despite the defensive struggles fans have always been quick to point the finger of blame at Cameron and QB Joe Flacco. Ravens fans are so accustomed to the team’s defense bailing out the offense that the former’s struggles have largely been brushed aside. The Ravens knew that this would be a transitional year for the defense. The team lost four major contributors to free agency and figured to be without OLB Terrell Suggs for much of the season as he rehabbed from offseason surgery. The early season injuries to LB Ray Lewis and CB Lardarius Webb further weakened the Baltimore defense.
After surrendering late game leads to the Charlie Batch-led Steelers and the Redskins in consecutive weeks one would assume that defensive coordinator Dean Pees would be on the chopping block. Canning Dean Pees would have been punitive and had little effect on the field. A new defensive coordinator wasn’t going to make Lewis, Suggs and Webb healthy. Instead it was Cameron who got the axe.
Perhaps the Ravens’ disjointed final drive of Sunday’s first half was the final straw for coach John Harbaugh. Flacco’s visible frustration with Cameron, and his looming contract situation, likely played a major role in Cam’s ouster as well. Flacco has been successful in his five seasons in Baltimore but the same inconsistencies that have troubled the fan base have likely frustrated the quarterback. Flacco is a free agent following the season and it’s arguable that Cameron’s offense wasn’t making the most of the QB’s talents. Flacco is going to get big bucks from the Ravens, or someone else, but Cameron may have been limiting his earning potential.
Replacing Cameron now gives Baltimore a bit of a jolt heading into the season’s final stretch. Management may be hoping that the change lights a fire under the entire team. Rumor has it that Cameron was about as popular with the team as he was with fans. The move also gives the Ravens a chance to audition Jim Caldwell for the offensive coordinator job for next season. Flacco will be under more pressure than ever. The Ravens can slap the franchise tag on Flacco after the season and give him a full season with a new coordinator before deciding to commit close to $100 million to a QB who still struggles with consistency and backside sensing pressure.
I’m not one of those fans who scream for coaches to lose their jobs but it was time for a change. The Ravens were right to remove Cameron but the problem is they did it about 14 months too late. The Ravens aren’t going to suddenly get younger or healthier on defense. The defensive unit is a banged-up shell of its former self. The only way Baltimore can achieve postseason success this season is with an efficient, high-scoring offense. Despite the team’s success over the past five seasons Cameron was never able to deliver the type of offensive efficiency required to make Baltimore an elite team. While it’s unlikely that Caldwell is going to turn the Ravens into the Patriots over the next three weeks it’s worth a shot.
Cam Cameron is out, Jim Caldwell is in, and the fans of Baltimore can now begin their search for a new scapegoat.