A YEAR LATER: What really happened with Cam Cameron firing?

December 10, 2013 | Nestor Aparicio

than the head coach.
“We’d always had this conservative offense,” Bisciotti said. “We had to stop acting like it was the defense’s job to win games. And it’s the offense’s job not to lose games. No other team tells their offense to play conservative. They’d probably say the defense is at it’s best when you have a lead. And the offense has to get you that lead.”

The Ravens’ defense was aging when Bisciotti took over ownership in 2004 and the search for a quarterback and an emerging offense was a corporate goal. But, with growth, there’s risk and mistakes. Kyle Boller was the team’s first stab at it. The idea was to finally win with offense or at the very least have a more balanced team. Every Ravens fan knows how that story ended.

If the Ravens throw on 1st down and throw an interception, you just tell the defense to go stop them. If they got stopped on offense, simply punt and go stop them. The defense was going to try hard no matter where they walked onto the field but at some point the defense couldn’t be the biggest part of the offense like it was when Ed Reed was scoring touchdowns seemingly every week in 2004.

“You don’t really want 13-10 games,” Bisciotti said. “We thought we could win 27-24, and if we put our defense in precarious situations by trying to grow the offense then we’ll deal with it. Our defense was shaking their heads, saying ‘I told you to play conservative.’ Hey, we’re not the 2000 Ravens anymore. We’re not holding teams to 10 points a game and that’s unrealistic anyway. If the defense gives up 17 points and we lose…then what? You say we shouldn’t have given up 17 points? We’ve got to start scoring 20 or 24. That shutout mindset that had been permeating from greatest defense of all time wasn’t the reality anymore.”

But there had always been a disparity between the offense and the defense since the drafting of Ray Lewis, Peter Boulware, Jamie Sharper, Kim Herring, Duane Starks, and Chris McAlister in 1996 through 1999. The defense was the identity of the franchise. The word “Baltimore” implied defense in NFL minds.

“I had always felt like to go on a Super Bowl run we need to be letting it go [on offense],” Flacco said. “We had been to the AFC Championship Game playing ‘safe’ football, and hoped to win. I told John, ‘I want to play to win.’ In the past, we’d get a lead and hope to hold on. The only way we’re going to win is attack. Sure, we might lose. And people might say, ‘What the hell happened?’ And we might lose the rest of our games, but eventually, this will get us to the next level.”
“We needed to switch to this kind of offense where we attack. It might take a 6-10 record one year. If that’s what it takes to get us to a Super Bowl, then that’s what we’re going to have to do. Let’s start the transition while we’re winning games.”

The Ravens were always seen as a team that had offensive talent – from Jon Ogden to Todd Heap and Derrick Mason who were all unquestionably elite—but as a defensive powerhouse. The recipe was an offense that needs to run the ball, and play conservatively. Like during the success of the Jamal Lewis era and a 2003 playoff berth, it’s how they won. The defense singlehandedly won a Super Bowl during the 2000 season. And when Billick was fired in early 2008, they hadn’t won a playoff game since 2001.

In the old days, you can see videos from NFL Films of Shannon Sharpe saying to Ray Lewis: “How many points do you need today? And Lewis saying, “Give me 10 points and we’ll do the rest.”

The Ravens were audacious enough to do that. But that’s not really the reality of any NFL team, let alone the 2012 Ravens. Bisciotti believed that mindset needed to change. Harbaugh, Flacco, and company agreed.

Firing Cameron was no easy task for Harbaugh. There was a lot of relationship there, going all the way back to Harbaugh’s father Jack, Bo Schembechler at Michigan, and even John’s brother Jim as a quarterback in Ann Arbor with Cam on the staff. There were three decades of friendships, coaching