The Ravens and their fans find themselves in the awkward, yet fortunate, position of trying to celebrate the achievements of last year’s team for all that they accomplished, while also turning one eye toward the future and figuring out what types of adjustments will be necessary to remain competitive and to possibly make another Super Bowl run. So far, all of that talk has seemingly begun and ended with the speculation about Joe Flacco’s contract. Until that matter is resolved, the Ravens will have a tough time making any other decisions about their future, as the salary cap is wholly undetermined until that time.
Reflection on the convergence of circumstances that led to the Ravens improbable playoff run and Super Bowl victory would be difficult to believe if we hadn’t witnessed it with our own eyes. For all of the tremendous and heart wrenching storylines that unfolded around the team, it was a difficult decision made at a difficult time that seemed to have the biggest impact on the team’s ultimate success. Parting company with long time Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron, and replacing him with Quarterbacks Coach Jim Caldwell was likely the biggest of the numerous catalysts to the Ravens success.
Since that time, Cameron has probably shouldered an unfair amount of the blame. It’s tough to indict Cameron’s offense as the cause of all of the Ravens problems without at least giving him some credit for the foundation he built under those guys. And Caldwell has probably gotten an overstated amount of credit too. It’s unlikely that whatever it was that the Ravens were lacking under Cameron, was taught to them by Caldwell in just about 2 ½ weeks before crunch time was upon them. Make no mistake though, without the change being made, the season probably plays out much differently and the Ravens probably aren’t the Super Bowl champions.
What we have seen from the Caldwell led offense has been enough to have fans giddy with anticipation over what next year might be for this offense. It also has to have the Ravens concerned about the potential of their OC being a lame duck.
John Harbaugh’s ride as Ravens Head Coach has been an interesting one to say the least. As a former Special Teams Coordinator, Harbaugh is typically (and unfairly) seen as a master of neither offense nor defense. Therefore, when fans have praise or criticism to dole out on one side of the ball or the other, it usually bypasses the Head Coach and falls directly to his coordinators. This has been (mostly) a convenient position for Harbaugh.
One thing that can’t be denied is that Harbaugh’s confidence has outpaced his experience since his arrival in Baltimore and has been an essential part of his success as well. While most guys given head coaching opportunities, for the first time ever, at the NFL level have seemed to go out of their way to clear out any coaches from their supporting staff with NFL head coaching experience, Harbaugh has embraced these types.
In his first season as Head Coach, Harbaugh’s staff featured Cameron, vanquished from Miami, Jim Zorn, fresh off a head coaching stint with the Redskins, and Rex Ryan, with whom he competed for the Ravens top job. In business, top managers and CEOs have been called wise for embracing a willingness to surround themselves with people smarter than themselves in the areas that those people are hired to preside over. Harbaugh has done this at the NFL level and done it successfully. Welcoming Jim Caldwell as QB Coach last season was further evidence of that philosophy.
Another aspect of the Ravens success, one that precedes Harbaugh, on the defensive side of the ball has been the practice of promoting from within. The downside of dominant defense has been the tendency of other teams to scalp defensive coaches from the Ravens. The lineage of Ravens Defensive Coordinators, going back to Marvin Lewis, has always entailed replacing the departing coach with someone already on staff and already familiar with the language, tendencies and philosophies that made the last coach successful. The Ravens would do well to make that happen on the offense too. The question becomes whether or not that candidate is already on staff.
Make no mistake about it; with his influence over the Ravens post-season run, Jim Caldwell has made himself a hot commodity once again. It’d be fair to suggest that Caldwell is already at the top of most head coaching wish lists for 2014. Couple that with “Rooney Rule” requirements and the vocal disappointment of the league over no opportunities given to minority head coaches this year, and Caldwell is all but gone barring an offensive catastrophe for the Ravens in 2013.
So while the Ravens haven’t always felt compelled to have a QB coach on staff, it would seem imperative not only to find one for 2013, but moreover to find one that they’d feel comfortable grooming to succeed Caldwell when he likely rides off into the sunset for a head coaching gig after next season.