A move made out of desperation or a long-overdue change? That's the quandary around the Baltimore Ravens after they axed offensive coordinator Cam Cameron on Monday, one day after a difficult overtime loss to Washington.
Even with an uneven offense, the Ravens currently sit at 9-4 and hold a two-game lead in the AFC North. So, how Baltimore finishes down the stretch and in the playoffs will issue a pretty clear verdict on how successful this major coaching staff move was.
Cameron's offense ranks ninth in the NFL in points scored through 14 weeks, but the Ravens have been maddeningly inconsistent on that side of the ball. A lot of the venom for that roller-coaster ride has landed on Cameron -- his use (or lack thereof) of Ray Rice coming under constant question.
Replacing Cameron will be former Colts head coach Jim Caldwell, who had been serving as Baltimore's QB coach. Under Caldwell's watch this season, QB Joe Flacco has stayed on pace to set a career high in passing yards, with the second-most TDs of his NFL stint.
Of course, Cameron deserves some of the credit there too, though his scheme is at least partly to blame for Flacco's wild home/road splits. Counting Sunday's 31-28 OT loss to the Redskins, Flacco has a road QB rating of 75.3 with seven TDs and five interceptions; at home, he posts a 100.7 rating and has an 11:4 TD:INT differential.
But back to the timing of this decision ...
Aside from a Week 10 outburst against the hapless Raiders (a 55-20 Baltimore win), the Ravens' offense has been somewhat out of sorts ever since a sloppy 9-6 victory over Kansas City in Week 5. The Ravens hung 31 on Dallas the next week in a hard-fought victory, but then managed just 176 yards in a blowout loss to Houston.
The last four weeks have been particularly painful. Baltimore split a home-and-home with Pittsburgh, narrowly stealing a 13-10 win against a Ben Roethlisberger-less Steelers team, then losing at home to Charlie Batch. In between those two games, the Ravens needed a 10-point fourth-quarter outburst to get past San Diego -- a rally that came after the offense mustered all of three points in the first three quarters.
Sunday's collapse was the final nail in Cameron's coffin. Baltimore took a 21-14 lead to halftime, then scored just seven points in the second half and OT, as Washington forced a pair of turnovers and three three-and-outs.
The Ravens also took a knee from their own 20 with 24 seconds left, after the Redskins had tied the game at 28.
Rice appeared visibly annoyed at that choice, and the Baltimore RB has been at the center of the firestorm surrounding Cameron's play calling. Rice has had more than 20 carries in just two games this season, which is the main reason why he's still under 1,000 yards rushing for the year.
There's also been some chatter out of Baltimore that Flacco would like more control over the team's play calling, particularly in the hurry-up attack.
Will he get more of that under Caldwell? Will Rice see more action, possibly at the expense of backup RB Bernard Pierce?