OWINGS MILLS, Md. —
Former Terre Haute South High School football and basketball standout Cam Cameron was fired Monday as offensive coordinator of the Baltimore Ravens, who have lost two straight and are still striving for consistency in the running and passing game.
The 51-year-old Cameron ran the Baltimore offense since the start of the 2008 season for coach John Harbaugh. Since that time, the Ravens’ attack has repeatedly taken a back seat to the team’s defense, and this year the offense ranks 18th with 344.4 yards per game.
Cameron, a 1979 South graduate, has one of the best win-loss records for offensive coordinators in the NFL, going 100-58 in 10 seasons with San Diego and Baltimore. He also served as head coach at Indiana University from 1997-2001, posting an 18-37 cumulative record, and was 1-15 in one season as head coach of the NFL’s Miami Dolphins in 2007.
Former Colts head coach Jim Caldwell will assume Cameron’s duties with the Ravens through the remainder of the season. Caldwell, fired after Indy’s 2-14 season in 2011, was hired as Ravens quarterbacks coach before the 2012 season.
The timing of the move is somewhat surprising because Baltimore remains on course for its second straight AFC North title — and fifth straight playoff appearance — despite being mired in its first losing streak since October 2009.
“It’s not about fair or unfair, right or wrong. My responsibility is to the whole team and what’s best for them right now,” Harbaugh said. “We need a change. Our plan and our goals are to win games, win our division and get to the playoffs.”
Harbaugh believes the move will enable the Ravens to reach those objectives.
“With our coaches and players, the solution is in the building,” he said. “We are going to make the most of our opportunities going forward, and this change gives us a better possibility to achieve our goals.”
Baltimore (9-4) scored seven points after halftime Sunday in a 31-28 overtime loss to the Washington Redskins. Quarterback Joe Flacco passed for only 182 yards, lost a fumble and was intercepted in the third quarter.
Baltimore’s running game ranks 17th in the NFL despite the presence of Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice, who has topped the 100-yard rushing mark only three times (compared to six times last year). Rice led the NFL in yards from scrimmage in 2011.
Flacco, meanwhile, has been erratic while operating the no-huddle attack and has showed little improvement from a year ago.
Flacco has committed pivotal turnovers in the last two games, but those defeats can be attributed heavily to the defense. Two weeks ago, the injury-riddled unit couldn’t stop Pittsburgh Steelers third-string quarterback Charlie Batch in a 23-20 loss, and the Redskins moved downfield rather easily during a beat-the-clock touchdown drive in the waning minutes of regulation.
After being fired as Miami’s head coach in 2007, Cameron was chosen by Harbaugh to run the Baltimore offense. The Ravens made the playoffs in each of his previous four seasons, and under his direction Flacco became the team’s career leader in passing yards, touchdowns and completions.
Harbaugh worked as an assistant coach for Cameron in 1997 at Indiana. After taking over for Brian Billick in Baltimore, one of his first moves was to hire Cameron.
“There is a very human side to this. Cam is my friend, he taught me a lot about coaching, and he is an outstanding coach,” Harbaugh said. “Personally, this is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do as a coach. Cam has been a significant contributor to all of our successes over the past four, almost five, seasons. Deservedly, he is highly-regarded, and we owe thanks to him for what he did for the Ravens.”
Caldwell, 57, was quarterbacks coach for Peyton Manning at Indianapolis before taking over as head coach. He will make his NFL debut as an offensive coordinator on Sunday against the Denver Broncos (9-4).
Cameron broke into coaching as a graduate assistant under Bo Schembechler at Michigan in 1983, and quickly became the Wolverines full-time receives and quarterbacks coach. He spent three seasons (1994 to ’96) as the Redskins’ quarterbacks coach, before taking over at IU as head coach of his college alma mater. At IU, like Terre Haute South, Cameron played two sports — playing backup quarterback for the Hoosiers’ gridiron squad, and then earning a roster spot on Coach Bob Knight’s Indiana basketball team.
At South, he starred in football under Coach Bob Clements, and also led the Braves’ basketball squad to three consecutive IHSAA Final Four berths.