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Eisenberg: Timing Of Bold Move Speaks Volumes

Posted Dec 10, 2012

This is a dramatic attempt to keep a season of high hopes from possibly going off the rails.


Before the Ravens dropped Monday’s bombshell about Cam Cameron, I was planning to write a column saying the Ravens didn’t pass the Super Bowl sniff test.

With three games left in the regular season, they didn’t seem to have the right stuff to go all the way, even with their second straight AFC North title within reach.

And I was going to write that I didn’t need to see the team lose close games on the past two Sundays to understand that, because it was evident even before those games that something was amiss.

To me, the firing of Cameron, the team’s offensive coordinator and chief play caller, is an indication that Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh felt the same way and, in his view, the season wasn’t going to end happily.

The New York Giants also didn’t pass the sniff test a year ago in December (they were 7-7) and neither did the Green Bay Packers in 2010  (they were 8-6) and both wound up hoisting the Vince Lombardi Trophy, so you never know how things can change. This is Harbaugh’s attempt to salvage a season headed in the wrong direction and create the same kind of turnaround.

To make such a change in mid-December goes against every tenet of how the Ravens operate. They pride themselves on taking a deep breath and staying the course, believing in their decision making and riding out the rough times instead of panicking – a mindset that has served them well.

This is the opposite kind of move, abrupt and shocking. Cameron loses his job in the midst of a playoff drive, less than a day after his offense generated enough yards and points to beat the Washington Redskins, only to watch the team’s defense crumble in the final minutes?

Wow. But the startling timing tells you that, indeed, larger problems existed in Harbaugh’s view, problems that extended back beyond Sunday’s defeat. The offense just seemed stuck in neutral, forever caught in various philosophical quandaries. To run or pass more? To huddle or not? To give the quarterback more authority or not? Some days were better than others, but there was always something to fret about.

I was never of the mind that Cameron, a veteran coach, was the entire problem, and I’m sure Harbaugh feels the same way. He loves his coaches. I’m sure this was the last thing he wanted to do, brutally hard for him. The guys on the field are also a major part of any equation of failure.

But I can’t blame Harbaugh for making the move. The offense is 16th in passing, 17th in rushing and ranked near the bottom of the league in time of possession. It was the same old story, blah, blah, blah. Barring a major reversal, Cameron probably was gone after this season anyway.

Now Joe Flacco – another target of fan criticism – sits alone at the top of the responsibility chart. The fans have long debated whether he or Cameron was more responsible for what the offense didn’t do. That the organization has gone with Flacco is hardly a surprise. Replacing a coordinator is a lot easier than replacing a starting quarterback with a history of taking you to the playoffs.

It remains to be seen whether this change will make a difference and give the Ravens a jolt. Cameron’s replacement, Jim Caldwell, is an impressive guy, a former head coach with a long track record of success. His personality meshes better with Flacco’s. But he has never stood on the sideline and called plays.

“The solution is in the building,” Harbaugh said in a statement announcing the change Monday, and by that I take it he means he believes the coaches and players already “in the system” can produce a better offense.

It’s a bold statement and a bold move by the head coach, but this is what a CEO does – steps in and makes important decisions when he feels they’re necessary. This is a big one, a huge one, a dramatic attempt to keep a season of high hopes from possibly going off the rails.

Anyone who watched the Ravens in recent weeks would agree that, win or lose, the team needed a jolt. And for better or worse, things just got a lot more interesting, didn’t they?

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