By Samuel Njoku
Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh walked into the podium on Monday to deliver the news. It was simply a formality as the entire nation was made aware of the news a few hours earlier. But Harbaugh, almost reluctantly, confirmed the reports to the rest of the league.
“We made a coaching change today,” stated Harbaugh. “We’ve replaced Cam [Cameron] with Jim Caldwell.”
Less than 24 hours earlier, Harbaugh lost a critical game against the Washington Redskins. The game knocked Baltimore away from the No. 2 seed and put their Super Bowl aspirations in jeopardy. But Harbaugh has been in this situation before. His strong faith and demeanor are belittled only by his resolve as a leader to a football team in dire need of one. So why was Harbaugh so drained on Sunday? The answer to that question was clear well before the press conference began.
“Cam is my friend,” Harbaugh stated prior to the conference. “He taught me a lot about coaching and he is an outstanding coach. 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.”
The 5th year head coach did not just fire an offensive coordinator. He let go of a friend he’s known for a long time. The two coached together as far back as 1997, when Cam Cameron coached at Indiana. Harbaugh was his assistant. Cameron has ties to his brother Jim Harbaugh during the 1980s when the current 49ers coach played quarterback for Michigan State. At the time, Cameron was a graduate assistant for the program. This goes deeper than simply football.
“There is a very human side to this,” Harbaugh stated.
That statement holds more meaning than anything John Harbaugh could have said on Monday. The 50 year old coach was visibly uncomfortable and a tad shaken on Monday. One of the youngest coaches in the NFL looked a lot older and understandably stressed. A transformation like that in a 24 hour span speaks volumes for the toll this move has taken on the proud coach. Harbaugh took questions from the media for almost 20 minutes. Every answer lacked the “Harbaugh Family” bark that the league has become accustomed to from both Jim and John.
“At any time during the last 24 hours, or for that matter at any time this season, did Steve Bisciotti suggest this move?” Joe Platania of Press Box questioned the coach when given the opportunity. The question was valid given the relationship of the two coaches and the timing in which the move occurred. But Harbaugh simply shrugged off the notion and made it clear that it was his decision alone – his burden to bear. And even if Bisciotti made any suggestion to relieve Cameron of his duties, it was Harbaugh who would ultimately have to make the call. And make the call he did.
But even as the cameras flashed and the film rolled, Harbaugh would remain loyal. Many in his position would use this situation as an excuse for the inconsistencies on offense. Harbaugh instead used the spotlight presented to him and shined it on someone else.
“I just want to say that Cam Cameron has done an excellent job here over the last, almost, five years as our offensive coordinator,” Harbaugh reiterated many times on Sunday. “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.”
And by all accounts John Harbaugh is right. The Ravens, while inconsistent, still ranked top 10 in scoring. The Ravens offense is as good as it’s been since 1996. But the unit was not living up to its full potential. A strained relationship between Cam and Flacco coupled with a portrayal of arrogance within the coaching staff forced Harbaugh’s hand. The right move was made, and the organization is fully aware of it. Even if the move isn’t totally fair.
“It’s not about fair or unfair, right or wrong,” Harbaugh explained. “My responsibility is to the whole team and what’s best for them right now. We need a change. Our plan and our goals are to win games, win our division and get to the playoffs.”
Even if it means letting go of a friend, Harbaugh needed to do this. Even if deep down inside he may not have wanted to. “There is a very human side to this. Cam is my friend.”
No one will ever question the faith, loyalty, and perseverance of John Harbaugh. Only one question truly remains: How will the Ravens respond?
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Samuel Njoku was born and raised in Baltimore, MD and is a graduate of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. Samuel has covered the Ravens for Examiner.com since 2010. Prior to 2010, Samuel was an avid blogger and radio personality in Salisbury, MD. He can be reached for comments at SamuelN870@gmail.com. His work can be found on Examiner.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @Ravens_Examiner.