Last year at about this time give or take a week, we learned that Hue Jackson was leaving the Ravens to accept the offensive coordinator position in Oakland. We also learned that John Harbaugh and Jim Zorn were growing a bit chummy, breaking bread and casually discussing the opening left by the departed Jackson.
The hiring of Zorn on the surface seemed like a logical choice.
"I’ve gotten to know Jim for the last couple of years, and I have been impressed with him as a person”, said Harbaugh last January. “He’s a good, decent man, and he will be an excellent addition to the Ravens. This is an exciting addition to our staff."
The hopeful benefactor of the move also expressed his optimism.
"I am excited to hear about the addition of Coach Zorn to our staff," Joe Flacco said in a statement provided to 24×7 by his representatives. "The Ravens did a tremendous job selecting this great individual and coach. The amount of success that Coach Zorn has achieved on the field both as a player and coach is going to be a huge asset to me personally, and us as an organization."
Considering the Flacco-speak that we’ve all grown accustomed to, does that read like a prepared statement or what? Would anyone be surprised if Flacco hadn’t even heard the name “Jim Zorn” before?
Not that this really matters (it probably doesn’t), but what does matter is Zorn’s background and experiences. The former Seahawk is well versed in the subtleties of the West Coast Offense but not necessarily familiar with the nuances of the Don Coryell offense.
And guess who runs the Coryell program?
Why of course Cam Cameron.
Does the notion of square peg, round hole mean anything to John Harbaugh?
Mix in this apparently bad hire with the foolish pride and stubbornness of Cameron and the result is QB coach who carries little to no street cred on the Ravens’ sideline. Instead of a collaborative effort resulting in Joe Flacco’s growth, you get a developing quarterback caught in the crosshairs.
Making matters worse, was the force feeding of TJ Houshmandzadeh and other new “toys” with whom Flacco had no rapport. In the post season presser this past Thursday, Ozzie Newsome acknowledged as much.
“The process starts in March – would start in March if there is not a lockout or work stoppage – where the coaches, with the personnel that they have, they start to prepare themselves for the season. If you think back to March, it was Derrick [Mason], Mark Clayton, Anquan [Boldin] and Donte’ [Stallworth]. So you build a profile off of that, along with a Todd Heap. Then, you go through a draft and you end up picking up two really athletic tight ends, and you [say], ‘We need to add those guys to the mix.’ So, that changes your profile a little bit. But then you get into training camp, and you add a [T.J.] Houshmandzadeh. I think if we would have had all the pieces in place – and that goes back to being on me – at the beginning of March, then the success of all of those guys would have been increased.”
So if you are keeping score, that’s adds up to a QB coach who really provided next to nothing, a coordinator who at best unwillingly accepts input, and diva wide receivers that can’t mesh. Oh and let’s not forget about an offensive line without continuity given three players playing different positions across the front.
Surely the team will learn from these mistakes right?
Maybe but early signs point towards similar issues in 2011.
Will Donte Stallworth return? What about Houshmandzadeh? Keep in mind that Housh took the NFL veteran minimum from the Ravens because Seattle was still paying him millions. Would he settle for that again with the Seahawks now off the financial hook?
Will Derrick Mason return or retire?
What if all three aren’t part of the scenery AND there is a lockout in March? Yes the Ravens could and would replace one or all three of them but how do they get on the same page and develop that rapport with Joe Flacco that Ozzie says is so important?
I don’t have the answers. Hopefully the Ravens do but from my vantage point 2011 could look a lot like 2010 when the Ravens have the football.
Can you see now why the league’s labor issues may have saved Cameron’s job?
More change may have invited an even bigger mess without the OTA’s ultimately leading to a less productive training camp and consequently placing the Ravens in a competitive disadvantageous position.
Speaking of such positions, I found Steve Bisciotti’s choice of words and rationale for retaining Cameron to be quite revealing.
“And John [Harbaugh’s] feeling is that we like Cam under fire as our offensive coordinator next year.”
Don’t think that for a second the player’s didn’t take note of that and knowing that doesn’t it weaken Cameron’s grip on the offense particularly if it goes awry early on during the season?
Here’s something else to think about regarding Cameron next year. During his three seasons as a pro Flacco has been tied at the hip to Cameron. Next season will be their fourth together. If they struggle on offense again, surely Cameron will be gone and another coordinator will be brought in.
The first year of that coordinator’s tenure will be the last year of Flacco’s rookie five year deal. That could make it difficult to assess Flacco’s value going forward, particularly if there’s the expected adjustment period to a new offensive system. Of course the Ravens could control Flacco in year six as a restricted free agent but then again, teams don’t generally handle their franchise quarterback in that fashion.
Perhaps the Ravens should have thought about that before they gave Cameron a mulligan.
They might need another a year from now.