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

December 10, 2013 | Nestor Aparicio

arrangements, and late nights of Doyt Perry core philosophy and football between John Harbaugh and Cam Cameron.

Harbaugh felt bad. “I still love the guy,” he said. “We did Bible study together for five years. It’ll always feel terrible because of his family.”

It’s been almost a cliché for Harbaugh from his first press conference in 2008. The guiding principle is always “team, team, team” and he really did feel like it was the best thing, moving from Cameron to Jim Caldwell.

“Bo [Schembechler] always told my dad, “Never sleep on a decision,” Harbaugh said. “I slept on the decision. But I knew on the bus ride home.”

The biggest piece of feedback that Harbaugh got from the staff and those immersed in the offense was consistent: Cameron was supremely stubborn, which Harbaugh knew as well as anyone. It was part of Cameron’s charm, his professorial mandates and self-confidence.

As one staffer said: “Cam didn’t listen to people. When you’re the smartest guy in the room, you have deficiencies. You’re going to stay the same because you’re not listening and learning.”

After four years of disappointments in January and now fully entrenched as the leader of the Ravens’ corporate culture, Harbaugh sought to be more involved in process of understanding, but not necessarily installing, the offense. Coming from special teams and overseeing the entire organization, it wasn’t Harbaugh’s job to run the offense or call plays. But he worked hard at better understanding all of the goals over the years. And once Harbaugh got to the point on Sunday where he knew more, he was asking better questions.

Frustrations with Cameron grew as he became quick to change game plans on the fly, in the midst of the action, based on gut calls more than what had been discussed during the week. The philosophy tended to meander on game day and that frustrated Flacco as well as other veterans on the unit.

When Flacco arrived, it wasn’t the Ravens’ organizational goal to score a bunch of points right away. The franchise hadn’t won a playoff game in seven years until 2008, the dawn of the Harbaugh-Flacco-Rice era, and the slow blending of a more mature offense started to germinate.

The organizational Holy Grail search to find a franchise quarterback wasn’t to have him hand the ball off 40 times and score 17 points. If that adage, “Good defenses win championships” holds up to the sniff test, then why had the Ravens only won one championship? After all, the Ravens had one of the best defenses in the NFL for 10 years and still weren’t winning playoff games, even in the years when they did qualify.

So, perhaps the best offense isn’t a great defense?

In the Redskins game, Harbaugh expected the offense to throw the ball because of the Redskins’ weak defense. All week long the credo was, “Attack in the air. Go after them!” On game day in Landover, the Ravens ran the ball and ran the ball more. When the day ended Flacco had thrown just 21 passes with 16 completions for 182 yards and three TD’s.

Meanwhile, the Ravens ran the ball 35 times in D.C. and lost the game without doing what they had talked about all week in the game planning meetings.

Even worse was the abandonment of the no huddle, shotgun offense that had been discussed for five years with a quarterback who had shown the ability to run it and run it with success. Not only did Flacco prefer that style of offense and mentally prepare for it, but the franchise was dangling $90 million of the owner’s money to him under the mandate that the offense score more points so that the team could win the Super Bowl.

The no huddle offense proved to be a challenge in Houston, where everything went wrong, and Cameron was suddenly not so enamored with it and sometimes there were issues getting plays called and installed quickly enough as the Ravens were attempting to pressure the opponent. The goal was to execute the offense using speed and to keep defenses from subbing, communicating or aligning.

But, with Cameron gone, once everyone got to work that week in preparation for the Denver Broncos, it was kind of strange. For Flacco, it was a little more surreal and sudden in his mind because even though he had disagreements with Cameron, he really never openly campaigned for his ouster. Cameron was the one who fell in love with him on the field in Newark, Delaware on a blustery afternoon in March 2008.

“Cam brought me here,” Flacco said. “He was the first real guy I had in the NFL to teach me about NFL. I owe being in the NFL to him, and being given that opportunity. That’s special. We spent five years together.”

“He was excited about grooming a rookie, getting me up to speed. Being a young kid, just getting started, he was great. I love Cam. He’s a great person. But at times we just didn’t know how to communicate the best with each other. As people, I’m not really sure what it was. At times, communication was difficult.”

Over the five years in Baltimore, Flacco always had a closer relationship with his three quarterbacks coaches when it came to discourse, conversation, and philosophy. Hue Jackson, who was also a part of evaluating