By Edward Lee
10:00 PM EST, December 10, 2012
John Harbaugh’s decision to fire offensive coordinator Cam Cameron and promote quarterbacks coach Jim Caldwell to that position was shocking in terms of the timing, but it wasn’t unprecedented in the NFL this season. The Philadelphia Eagles dismissed defensive coordinator Juan Castillo two days after the team fell to 3-3, and the Tennessee Titans did the same with offensive coordinator Chris Palmer one day after that squad dropped to 4-7.
Making a change at coordinator wasn’t even unheard of among the Ravens. In 2006, Brian Billick relieved offensive coordinator Jim Fassel of his duties on Oct. 17 and took over the play-calling himself.
Speaking on the NFL Network Monday, the former Ravens coach said Harbaugh’s decision shouldn’t be stunning considering the track record of success the franchise has developed – and expects to repeat – over the years.
“Keep in mind you’re talking about an organization that has won a lot of games, won a Super Bowl championship with a defensive dominated mentality. Clearly this is changing, and that happens,” Billick said. “You would like to be all things to all people, but you can’t be. Clearly with the acquisitions they’ve made offensively, they’re in the process of this transition. It has been accelerated with the loss of [inside linebacker] Ray Lewis, with [outside linebacker] Terrell Suggs, with the corners on the outside, so obviously, it has accelerated with, ‘We’re going to put this on the back of our offense.’ And they do need to step up and that is always tough with a team makes that kind of transition. [Quarterback] Joe Flacco, I don’t know if he’s ever been really comfortable with Cam Cameron. He really enjoyed having Jim Zorn as his quarterback coach. That created a problem in this trifecta that you’re talking about, so they shipped him off. Now Jim Caldwell has that relationship with Joe Flacco. We’re going to see how for a guy who has never called plays in this league before, how that is going to exhibit itself with a quarterback that clearly has a comfort zone and we’re going to see how that changes the structure of what they’re doing.”
Some have questioned the timing of Harbaugh’s decision with just three regular-season games remaining and the offense ranked 18th in yards per game (344.4) and ninth in points per game (25.5). When Billick parted ways with Fassel, the team was 4-2 and the offense was ranked 28th in yards.
Billick agreed that making the move now – with the Ravens still in the driver’s seat in the AFC North – was curious.
“It is dramatic,” he said. “I don’t remember one being done this late under those circumstances with a team that is sitting there at 9-4. We’ve seen coordinators go down already – Juan Castillo in Philadelphia, Chris Palmer in Tennessee – but those are teams that are struggling and out of the playoffs. John Harbaugh obviously felt like he had to do this for his team. I’m not going to say the players were calling for it or it was mutiny, but he obviously felt a sense that the team lacked the confidence in Cam Cameron to go forward. On a 9-4 team that still thinks of itself as a Super Bowl-caliber team and on a team that is transitioning from a defense that has struggled to where the offense needs to be the strength, he obviously felt this is what he had to do to shake things up to get them back on track.”
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