Early in the morning, around 9 a.m., was when the winds of change started stirring in the wake of our latest loss. Twitter and fan forums were abuzz with news of a “shake-up” at The Castle, the nickname for the Ravens’ state-of-the-art training facility in Owings Mills, MD. What sort of “shake-up” would it be? Big or small? On offense, defense or special teams? Would it be meaningful, or would it be an Andy Reid-like canning of Random Coordinator X—a diversion to get people off John Harbaugh’s back? No one knew. Every time someone said it was probably nothing, because the Ravens usually never let stuff like that leak, someone else said it was probably something, because the Ravens almost always issue a statement against rumors, and this time, in light of the biggest rumor in years, the Ravens were silent. Harbaugh, beat writers said, had been in hush-hush meetings all morning.
It was lunchtime when the news finally broke: Cam Cameron, much-beleaguered offensive coordinator of the Baltimore Football Ravens, was nevermore. I think, actually, it was 11:22 a.m. on the dot when the first comment on my favorite Ravens forum cemented the news with a bunch of swears and exclamation points.
I can’t even think of the words to describe how I felt when I realized Cameron was done; when I realized the reign of terror was over, or at least entering an age of semi-enlightenment. Let me see, I’ll dig here, as deep as I can. I felt … euphoric. Like it was a dream. I felt almost the same way I did when I saw the scoreboard read, “Ravens 24, Patriots 0” before the first quarter was over in that playoff game a few years ago: As if, at any moment, my eyes would fly open and I would realize that I had Eternal Sunshined the whole thing, because it had been too sweet and glorious and impossible to be true. I was relieved, obviously, but in an unsure way: In the way that comes when you have finally gotten something you’ve dreamt of and cried for, but never actually planned on getting (or had expected to get after A LOT more suffering). I was so happy I couldn’t function normally for a few minutes; I needed some time to be numb and to process life, the world, the universe. So, I sat at my computer and ate two pork chops and some spinach while I read 200 internet posts that consisted, basically, of grown men weeping onto their keyboards. … I was Fry. I was Fry after he found out his bank account had gained 4.3 billion dollars in interest.
Now, there are a lot of things to say about this. It’s a momentous occasion. I’m pretty sure this is the most joyful Baltimore has ever been on a Monday following a loss, ever. So, I’ll try to get everything out of the way as quickly as possible.
For starters, remember my “unsure” euphoria? There was a little bit of sadness, too. Color me sentimental, but dude: A man lost his job about two weeks before Christmas; and, not only that, he lost it publicly, and the fact that he lost it has openly made a lot of people happy. He probably had to go home to his wife and children (who might be grown/not exist, but you get my point) and tell them they need to uproot and move to some other city—so say sayonara to all your friends from school, church, book club, A.A., etc. That is just sad, OK? It is. It’s not sad that this man is a millionaire and got that way by failing HARD, but on the face of it, it’s not a situation that makes you laugh with glee. Or, at least, it didn’t have that effect on me. I just drooled like Fry. (WATCH THE CLIP, YOU.)
With that out of the way, we can state the obvious: CAMERON DESERVED TO BE FIRED. In the coming days—this is just to prepare you, because I love you—you are going to encounter the following three people: Smug Asshat who loudly wonders why the Ravens yanked Cam just one day after his offense put up 28 points; Haughty Douchebag who reminds you that Cam’s offense was, earlier this same year, a dropped pass away from the Super Bowl; and Smaughty Assbag who blames everything on the fact that Joe Flacco sucks and has bad facial hair. But you will know better. You will remember that 21 of those 28 points came against the Redskins in the first half (i.e., before the Redskins had a chance to adjust), and that when it truly mattered—with everything on the line, at every single point the Ravens came up against it and needed to score—the Ravens went three and out. And that includes the laughable sole possession we got at the start of overtime, three of our eight magnificent yards coming on a Flacco run off some busted, doomed play where all of our receivers were covered, as usual, despite the curious fact that the ‘Skins rank 21st against the pass.
Know this: The reason we went from tearing the Redskins a new white man’s burden to losing that game—a game we did not need for playoff seeding, but desperately wanted—was because the ‘Skins, to their credit, made adjustments on defense. Specifically, in a last-ditch effort, they sent lots of blitzers. And Cameron, to his anti-credit, did not adjust back, as good, smart and observant coordinators do. He did not call the very basic plays that keep pass-blitzing Ds honest—screens, quick slants over the middle—and kept sending Flacco back on deep drops with a shoddy line in front of him. On first downs, he kept calling runs up the gut—runs, runs, and more runs—and, while some of these worked and some of them didn’t, why even develop this inflexible tendency? Or, if you do develop it, why not exploit it with the occasional play-action on first down? Why not call the occasional OUTRIGHT PASS on first down? And, speaking of, why are our passes always home runs or dump offs? Why do we REFUSE to use the middle of the field when we have the second-most athletic tight end duo in the league? And WHY for Thor’s sake do we use the no huddle off and on, on and off, when Flacco’s rating goes up 40 POINTS WHEN WE USE IT?! Cameron’s whole resume is filled with questions like these, and they apply to just about every game he’s ever called for us, not just this last one. Honestly, I left, like, five more angry rhetoricals in the holster for the sake of time.
So, with Cameron gone, now what? Joseph Vincent Flacco—that’s what. Flacco has long believed he is an elite quarterback, and we Ravens fan have mostly defended him for that thought, if only because with a coordinator who seemed to subvert him and work against his strengths—a coordinator Flacco never liked—he has gotten yards, touchdowns and wins. But now is the big show. Flacco will play at home for two of the last three games, and those games will be against a division rival and the Manning Brothers. He will be going to the playoffs again, too, with the playbook wide-open, the leash looser than ever. If Flacco soars now, then Cameron was always the problem.
Oh, how I want Cameron to have always been the problem.