The Ravens made a bold decision on Monday by dismissing Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron and replacing him with Quarterbacks Coach Jim Caldwell.
The move ends a nearly five-year run in Baltimore for Cameron, who was one of the original members of John Harbaugh's staff in 2008. Harbaugh called the move the "hardest thing I've ever had to do as a coach," but he told the media that the call was his to make.
"This is my decision," Harbaugh said during Monday's press conference. "Really, there's not a lot of places you go to make a decision like this."
Harbaugh said that fifth-year quarterback Joe Flacco was not consulted in the process, explaining that "this is a coaching decision."
Reporters also asked if Owner Steve Bisciotti was involved, but Harbaugh did not get into the specifics of all the factors and conversations that went into the move. Instead, Harbaugh wanted to keep those conversations private.
"I'm not getting into any of that," Harbaugh said. "We do a great job in this organization of communicating and talking, and we have great leadership here, all across the board, and I'll just leave it at that."
Harbaugh did say that General Manager Ozzie Newsome is "on board" with the move.
The decision was reached after phone calls and conversations between members of the team's senior leadership following the Ravens' 31-28 overtime loss to the Washington Redskins Sunday. Harbaugh then met with Cameron early Monday morning.
"We have a great leadership group; we have a great owner, a great [general manager], great team president, right through our organization at that level who is involved in any kind of conversation, personnel-wise, whether it's coach or player," Harbaugh said. "I'm just privileged to be a part of that and be with these guys, and they're a big help in all those kinds of things."
It's rare for a playoff contender to fire an offensive coordinator with just three games left in the regular season, but Harbaugh felt like the offense needed a change.
The move has the potential to either disrupt or galvanize the locker room, and the reaction from the players was something Harbaugh considered before making a call.
"It's always a consideration," Harbaugh said. "It's one of the things that you think about; there are a lot of considerations. You try to take all of that into account, and you try to come to a conclusion about what is best for your football team."
Firing Cameron was not only challenging for Harbaugh from a professional sense, but also personally.
The two men have known each other for years and they first coached together in 1997 when Cameron was a head coach at Indiana and hired Harbaugh as an assistant. Cameron was also the quarterbacks coach at Michigan when Harbaugh's brother Jim played there.
"It's tough," Harbaugh said. "It's tough when you cut players. It's tough at training camp when you have to tell guys they're not going to play anymore, that their dream might be over.
"Cam is going to go on and coach. He is going to be coaching very soon in the National Football League. A five-year run as an offensive coordinator in this league is pretty good."
The Ravens have been up-and-down as an offense this year and currently rank 18th in the league with 344.4 yards per game. The group is in the top 10 in the NFL in points per game.
Monday's move came after a game on the road where the offense put up 28 points, one of the finer showings on the road of the season. The Ravens came up short, but Harbaugh said the move wasn't related to one specific issue or incident from Sunday's game.
"It's not that," he said. "I think that's really important to point out. It'd be real easy to go the route that is saying it's a result of something and somebody is taking the blame for something. It is not that. People are going to believe what they want to believe. It's what I believe is best going forward for our offense and for our football team."
After replacing Cameron, Caldwell quickly went to work as the Ravens new offensive coordinator. He met with players and the offensive staff Monday, and the group has already starting game planning for Sunday's game against Denver.
The focus now is to wrap up a playoff spot and the AFC North title, which the Ravens have a chance to do this Sunday.
"The move was made to give us a chance to be the best that we can be," Harbaugh said. "And that's not saying anybody can't do it, but it's just an opportunity to try to get this thing going and become the best offense and the best team we can be, and we feel like it's what is best for the team at this time. And, that's why we made the move."