Firing Cam Cameron: a Knee-Jerk, Face-Saving Reaction from Baltimore

In Baltimore, when it comes to football, losing two games in a row is both uncommon and inexcusable. Cleveland is envious. Baltimore’s two consecutive losses to the divisional rival Pittsburgh Steelers and regional foe Washington Redskins — the first consecutive losing games since October of 2009 — prompted a coaching change immediately on Monday morning. San Diego is now envious ones.

Cam CameronIt is tough to call it imminent. Baltimore’s strong stance in retaining Cam Cameron in the face of consistent criticism from fans for year further strengthened his job security.

But, now after two consecutive losses, Cameron finds himself without a job.

While most of Baltimore’s faithful are saying “about time” and asking what took so long?,” others are asking “why now?”

Cameron has come to fruition as Baltimore’s favorite scapegoat, eclipsing Orioles’ owner Peter Angelos. His play calling has often been pointed to as the reason for losses, the shortcomings of quarterback Joe Flacco, as well as the conservative use of running back Ray Rice. Many believe Cameron was holding the Ravens from bigger things.

The 2012 season has been characterized with injuries as veteran linebacker and leader Ray Lewis, starting corner backs Lardarius Webb and Jimmy Smith, and premier pass rusher Terrell Suggs have all missed significant time as a result of injuries. Clearly, the defense has sputtered. The squad has been unable to perform at the level expected of a typical Ravens’ defense.

Ray Lewis' injury has affected the team's ability to stop the run and passes to the middle of the field.
Ray Lewis’ injury has affected the team’s ability to stop the run and passes to the middle of the field.

These defensive short-comings have been highlighted in their performances against back-up quarterbacks in the last two weeks. Steelers’ third string, 38-year old quarterback, Charlie Batch, was able to pass to the tune of 276 yards and a win on the road in Baltimore. And, rookie Kirk Cousins of the Redskins was able to finish a game-tying drive with a touchdown pass and a scramble for a two-point conversion.

The Ravens losing two games in a row is a problem, and the defense is to blame for it. However, it is hard to label the defense as the problem itself, but rather the injuries. There is no one the Ravens can fire to put Webb, Smith, Lewis, and Suggs in full health and back on the field.

Whether Cameron was truly preventing the offense from accomplishing great things, we will see in the following three weeks.

But, if injuries on the defensive side of the ball has been the overwhelming factor in the consecutive losses, why fire Cameron today?

The answer is simple: to save face.

When asked at the press conference to officially announce the dismissal of Cameron as the offensive coordinator about the role the front office played in the decision, head coach John Harbaugh said he “didn’t want to get into that.” If owner Steve Bisciotti did not play a role in firing Cameron, it is hard to see Harbaugh responding the way he did.

The explanations have remained consistent and stereotypical of a team after a firing: it was in the best interest of the team. But the underlying reason, based upon Harbaugh’s response to the role of Bisciotti and the two-losses having little to do with offensive performance, was to save face.

The Ravens expect Flacco to perform better in the weeks following Cameron's dismissal.
The Ravens expect Flacco to perform better in the weeks following Cameron’s dismissal.

Baltimore needed to do something. Fans were restless, not used to losing streaks or a failing defense. Bisciotti and those in charge knew the dismissal of the hated Cameron would re-ignite passion and excitement in the fan base — a passion and excitement that almost mentally erases the losses as well as employs the mentality that dead weight is trimmed and now the team can truly win.

And it has worked.

What will be interesting is if the team continues to struggle in post-Cameron 2012. Baltimore needs a new scapegoat. Is Harbaugh’s head next? Or is it Flacco’s? Cameron’s replacement Jim Caldwell’s?

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