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Robinson: Ravens' coordinator change rare

| Saturday, Dec. 15, 2012, 10:52 p.m.
This Aug. 6, 2011 file photo shows Baltimore Ravens offensive coordinator Cam Cameron (left) speaking with quarterback Joe Flacco during NFL football training camp in Baltimore. AP File

The owner of an AFC North franchise was displeased with the state of the offense but, after internal discussions, allowed the head coach to bring back the offensive coordinator for another season.

Then another.

The quarterback worked closely with his coordinator but was unhappy at not being allowed to run the no-huddle more extensively.

There was considerable in-house debate about the running game and why it wasn't consistent, and why the passing game wasn't more diverse.

Sound familiar?

The first-place Baltimore Ravens copied what the Steelers did 11 months ago by changing offensive coordinators, only they didn't wait until the offseason. They fired Cam Cameron on Monday. With three games remaining and the team in playoff contention, the Ravens (9-4) replaced Cameron with former Colts coach Jim Caldwell.

So, the man who was coaching the Colts a year ago — Caldwell — is running the Ravens' offense; the man who was running the Steelers' offense a year ago — Bruce Arians — is running the Colts, albeit as interim coach until Chuck Pagano gets well.

Charley Casserly, the former Redskins and Texans general manager, can remember numerous late-season head coach firings but never one of a high-profile coordinator of a first-place team so late in the season.

As it turns out, the Steelers' 23-20 win in Baltimore on Dec. 2, when Ray Rice never touched the ball in the fourth quarter after gaining 44 yards on his final two carries of the third, weighed heavily in the decision to fire Cameron, the overseer of an underachieving, 18th-ranked offense.

“You have the inconsistency of the use of Ray Rice — the problem there, that kind of highlights (it),” said Casserly, an NFL Network analyst. “This thing has been going on for a while.”

According to the Baltimore Sun, Cameron and coach John Harbaugh had a heated exchange on the sideline, in part because of the final possession in the first half during last week's overtime loss to Washington.

In the end, it was the lack of diversification for Flacco — who never quite takes the steps necessary to become an elite player — and the running game inconsistency that doomed Cameron.

Steelers president Art Rooney II was very much involved in the Arians decision, which was weighed for several seasons; Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti was raising questions about his own offense back in 2010.

Harbaugh dismissed as “ridiculous” the notion that there is chaos ongoing.

Chaos or not, it's the kind of gamble that can provide a turnaround or, conversely, cause so much confusion that it dooms the promising season of a team that was one completion away from going to the Super Bowl last season.

“With three games to go, they're asking, ‘Is it going to hurt us that much to do it? I think their thinking was ‘No, maybe it could help us,' ” Casserly said. “But I don't know if they know what to expect going forward.”

No doubt the Steelers are hoping it becomes, well, chaotic.

Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at arobinson@tribweb.com.

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