“People are going to believe what they want to believe. It’s what I believe is best going forward for our offense and for 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 here – doing a heck of a job here for a long time. Nobody knows that better than me, and nobody has stated that more times. I believe that. I also believe that right now at this time, the timing says this is the best thing, and this is what we’re going to do.”
– John Harbaugh (December 10, 2012)
THE SHORT RIDE HOME FROM Fed Ex Field after an excruciating loss was particularly disturbing for John Harbaugh. On the bus he started thinking about where the Baltimore Ravens would be in the coming weeks if things remained the same and this team continued to perform inconsistently. He’d been thinking about the end of this season since the end of last season. Harbaugh was a big picture guy with all of his assistant coaches. It’s the NFL – Not For Long. Change is inevitable.
But when exactly is the right time to make a glacial movement in philosophy? When, exactly, do you decide to decide to make a change in personnel? And how do you know if it’s the right decision?
“I was on the bus back from the Redskins game, and I just did it,” Harbaugh said. “I just decided this is what we needed to do.”
Twelve hours later, head coach John Harbaugh brought his longtime friend, former boss and current offensive coordinator Cam Cameron into his office in Owings Mills and fired him. Later in the afternoon, Harbaugh did his usual Monday press conference.
“We’ve replaced Cam [Cameron] with Jim Caldwell,” he began. “It’s been something that we went through last night and this morning and had a conversation with Cam real early this morning and then with Jim. And I just want to say that Cam Cameron has done an excellent job here over the last, almost, five years as our offensive coordinator. The record proves that. When you take a look at what’s been accomplished on offense for the last four years – the games that have been won, the points that have been scored, and really, by every measurement – Cam is a very good football coach. He is a loyal, hard-working guy. He’s a great friend. Obviously, it’s a difficult thing, personally, to do something and make a move like that with any coach, especially guys that you’ve been battling with for all these years, and Cam has been right in there battling. He has been a member of this team, and I’m proud of what he has accomplished here. At this time, the move is made to give us a chance to be the best that we can be. And that’s not saying anybody can’t do it, but it’s just an opportunity to try to get this thing going and become the best offense and the best team we can be, and we feel like it’s what is best for the team at this time. And, that’s why we made the move. There’s no more to it than that. We’ll go forward with that. So, Jim will take over. That started this morning. He’s working on the game plan with the rest of the staff. The rest of the staff is on board, and we’ll go to work like we always do and see how it plays out.”
In trying to piece together the story of how it had gotten to this point, this desperate place where Harbaugh felt he had no other option but to fire Cameron on the bus ride home from Fed Ex Field in Week 14 of the season, you have to go back to the biggest of big picture philosophies in Owings Mills.
“What gives us the best chance to win the Super Bowl?”
Much like when Bisciotti fired Billick nearly five years earlier, or when Billick fired his pal and offensive coordinator Jim Fassel during a bye week in 2006, this was as much about the team as it was any one or two issues, disagreements, or personal relationships.
The truth? It was hard to find anyone in the building who truly trusted, fully understood or had an ideal two-way communication