Ravens fire Cameron, Caldwell takes over as offensive coordinator

Baltimore Ravens offensive coordinator Cam Cameron talks with head coach John Harbaugh during the Ravens' Sept. 10 win over the Bengals in Baltimore. Cameron has been fired and quarterbacks coach Jim Caldwell will take over as offensive coordinator.
Baltimore Ravens offensive coordinator Cam Cameron talks with head coach John Harbaugh during the Ravens' Sept. 10 win over the Bengals in Baltimore. Cameron has been fired and quarterbacks coach Jim Caldwell will take over as offensive coordinator. (DYLAN SLAGLE/STAFF PHOTO , Carroll County Times)

OWINGS MILLS - It was just three months ago that the Ravens looked to be on the brink of a breakthrough season offensively.

There was excitement from players and coaches surrounding the team's new no-huddle offense, substantial optimism regarding the development of quarterback Joe Flacco and genuine enthusiasm about what appeared to be the deepest and most talented group of skill position players in team history.

This was supposed to be the year that the Ravens took that proverbial next step as an offense, establishing themselves as one of the league's truly elite groups.

Instead, Baltimore's offense has been wildly erratic, as has Flacco, and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, as had been the case in previous seasons as well, was criticized for his incorporation, or lack thereof, of running back Ray Rice into the team's offense.

And just three months after the Ravens scored 44 points in a season-opening blowout of the Bengals, Cameron was fired Monday after nearly five years as Baltimore's offensive coordinator. He'll be replaced by quarterbacks coach Jim Caldwell.

"It's just an opportunity to get this going and become the offense and the best team that we can be, and we feel like it's what's best for the team at this time," Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said. "That's why we made the move."

Baltimore is ranked ninth in the league in scoring, but is just 18th out of the league's 32 teams in total offense. Flacco, meanwhile, has regressed after an impressive start to the season. He's been limited to 188 yards or less in six of the Ravens' last nine games and his total quarterback rating (total QBR), as generated by ESPN, is just 21st out of NFL quarterbacks. At the same time, Rice, widely regarded as Baltimore's best offensive weapon, has seen a surprisingly limited workload at times.

Cameron's firing comes just a day after the Ravens' 31-28 overtime loss to the Redskins, a game during which the Ravens scored touchdowns on three of their first four possessions before going scoreless on their first five drives of the second half.

Harbaugh, however, said his decision to part ways with Cameron wasn't based off anything "specific" that happened Sunday.

"Not specific," Harbaugh said. "I mean, we put 28 points up, so you're not going to say it was a reaction to a down offensive performance. It's not that, and I think that's really important to point out. It would be really easy to go the route that says it's a result of something and somebody's taking the blame for something. It's not that.

"People are going to believe what they're going to believe. It's what I believe is best going forward for our offense and our football team. That's not to say anybody can't do the job, or didn't do the job. Cam was doing a heck of a job ... but I also believe right now, at this time, the timing says this is the best thing, and that's what we're going to do."

Baltimore did show glimpses of being a high-powered offense under Cameron - the Ravens tallied 30 points or more 26 times during Cameron's almost five seasons as offensive coordinator - but, overall, Cameron's offense was consistently inconsistent.

The Ravens were among the bottom half of the NFL in total offense during three of Cameron's five seasons with the team and never finished a season ranked better than 13th in the category.

Nonetheless, the timing of Cameron's dismissal was surprising.

Despite its offensive struggles, and any issues it's had defensively, Baltimore is 9-4 and leads the AFC North by two games with just three games left in the regular season.

Harbaugh said he didn't feel like the timing of the move would be disruptive to the team.

"That's always a consideration," Harbaugh said. "That's one of things you think about, and there are a lot of considerations. You try to take all of that into account and try to come to a conclusion about what is best for your football team. ... Every decision is based on what's best for the team.

"I don't think it will be disruptive. I think it will be positive. I believe that, but it will be up to all of us to make it that way."

Harbaugh declined to say who else had input in the decision, and said that Flacco wasn't consulted, instead emphasizing: "The decision was mine."

"This is an opportunity for us to try and win some football games, and to try and be the best football team we can be," Harbaugh said.

Caldwell was hired by the Ravens in January after 10 seasons with the Colts - the final three of which he served as the team's head coach.

Caldwell has never served as offensive coordinator before, but is a respected offensive mind that is credited for playing a primary role in the development of quarterback Peyton Manning.

"Jim is qualified," Harbaugh said. "Jim's a heck of a coach, and we've got a heck of a staff. He'll do a great job. I'm looking forward to seeing how it plays out."