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Jim Caldwell joins Ravens as quarterbacks coach

Former Colts coach will oversee Joe Flacco's development

By Jeff Zrebiec, The Baltimore Sun

6:21 PM EST, January 30, 2012

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Three days after he confirmed that offensive coordinator Cam Cameron will be retained, Ravens coach John Harbaugh gave his offense -- and Joe Flacco -- an additional voice, hiring Jim Caldwell as the team's quarterbacks coach.

Caldwell, who was fired two weeks ago as head coach of the Indianapolis Colts after the completion of a 2-14 campaign, has been a quarterback coach for 15 seasons, most recently for Peyton Manning and the Colts from 2002 to 2008.

"After spending considerable time with Jim over the last week, we think he will be an excellent fit with our team, coaching the quarterbacks and helping with our offense," Harbaugh said. "We believe he enhances our staff. Jim has a tremendous history coaching at the college and pro level, especially working with quarterbacks and providing help with offenses."

The news doesn't come as a surprise, as Harbaugh said last Friday that hiring a quarterback coach was a "possibility." In doing so, he also credited the arrangement of Cameron serving as both the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach this past season, calling it a "smashing success."

"The timing is right to add a quarterbacks coach after Cam and Joe worked so closely and well together this year," Harbaugh said today. "It's the right step for us now."

Said Cameron: "Jim Caldwell's one of the best QB coaches over the years at teaching fundamentals that translate to the game."

The Ravens had a quarterback coach for the 2010 season but Jim Zorn, who succeeded Hue Jackson in that role, was fired after just one year. The move angered Flacco, who had grown extremely close to both Jackson and Zorn and took the decision to mean that the organization was dissatisfied with his own performance.

The Ravens' top decision makers didn't expand on why Zorn was fired, but the decision was believed to be motivated by a desire to get Flacco and Cameron more on the same page. This past year, Cameron worked directly with Flacco while also getting input from offensive assistant Craig Ver Steeg.

Flacco had an uneven season, finishing with the worst completion percentage of his career and the lowest passing yards and quarterback rating since his rookie season. However, he also led the Ravens to 13 wins and had one of the better performances of his career in the team's season-ending 23-20 loss to the New England Patriots in the AFC championship game.

It's no secret that Flacco and Cameron haven't always had the closest relationship and the quarterback made several subtle comments about the play-calling at different times this past season. However, their relationship seemed more cordial as the season went on and Cameron went to great lengths to praise and -- at times -- defend the quarterback.

Now, Flacco will have another resource in Caldwell, the 57-year-old who went 26-22 in three seasons as the Colts' head coach before he was fired early this month amid a significant shake-up of the organization by Indianapolis owner Jim Irsay.

"I am really excited to work with Coach Harbaugh, Cam and the rest of the coaching staff," said Caldwell, who reportedly was also interviewed by the Pittsburgh Steelers for their offensive coordinator vacancy. "It's a great fit for me, and I'm happy they saw it that way. I can't wait to get started with the Ravens, an organization that from top to bottom is one of the NFL's best. I'm looking forward to coming to Baltimore."

Caldwell, whose Indianapolis teams won two AFC South championships and went to the Super Bowl in his first season as head coach, was fired after the Colts' two-win campaign despite the fact that his star quarterback Peyton Manning did not play the entire season because of a serious neck issue.

Before becoming Colts' head coach, Caldwell was the team's quarterback coach for seven seasons. During that span, Manning won three of his four NFL MVP awards, produced league highs in completions (2,482), completion percentage (66.5), passing yards (29,210), passing touchdowns (222) and passer rating (100.5).

In 2004, Manning threw for a career-high 49 touchdowns and just 10 interceptions, while setting a career-high 121.1 quarterback back rating.

Caldwell, whose coaching career started in 1977 when he was hired as a graduate assistant for the University of Iowa, his alma mater, has also had college coaching stints with Southern Illinois, Northwestern, Colorado, Louisville, Penn State and Wake Forest.

He coached Penn State's wide receivers and quarterbacks from 1986 to 1992 before he was hired to become head coach of Wake Forest , where he led the Demon Deacons from 1993 to 2000, becoming the first African-American head coach in ACC history.

Caldwell then jumped to the NFL in 2001 as the quarterbacks coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, where he spent one season before being hired by Indianapolis.

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com