OWINGS MILLS — Joe Flacco went all of last season without a quarterbacks coach after Jim Zorn was fired last winter, huddling every day with offensive coordinator Cam Cameron on the practice field and in the meeting room.
Now, the Baltimore Ravens have hired former Indianapolis Colts head coach Jim Caldwell as their new quarterbacks coach.
Fired by the Colts following a 2-14 season, Caldwell is an experienced hand with quarterbacks having served as the quarterbacks coach for Peyton Manning for seven seasons.
"After spending considerable time with Jim over the last week, we think he will be an excellent fit with our team, coaching the quarterbacks and helping with our offense,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "We believe he enhances our staff. Jim has a tremendous history coaching at the college and pro level, especially working with quarterbacks and providing help with offenses. The timing is right to add a quarterbacks coach after Cam and Joe worked so closely and well together this year. It’s the right step for us now.”
Cameron was retained after the Ravens made it to the AFC championship game and ranked 15th in total offense, 19th in passing and 10th in rushing.
Flacco went 13-5 as the starter last season, passing for 3,610 yards and 20 touchdowns with 12 interceptions.
Working with new receivers, Flacco’s completion percentage was the lowest of his four-year career as he dropped to 57.6 percent. And his quarterback rating of 80.9 and passing yardage were the lowest they’ve been since his rookie season.
Flacco was outspoken in his anger when Zorn was fired.
However, Flacco and Cameron seemed to build a better rapport last season after clashing in the past over the game plan and direction of the offense. There was no buffer between Cameron and Flacco as there was in the past when Hue Jackson and Zorn were on the staff. And Cameron, Flacco and offensive assistant Craig Ver Steeg collaborated together last season.
"The way that it worked out last year on offense, to me, was tremendously successful with putting Cam in there along with coach Ver Steeg and Joe in the quarterback meeting room was the right move at the right time," Harbaugh said last Friday when he announced that Cameron would return. "The quarterback and the offensive coordinator need to really be of one mind, both relationally and football-wise. Those guys being in the room together to me was a smashing success. That really helped Joe grow in this offense, and it was a direct communication every single day."
Caldwell, 57, has a proven track record with quarterbacks. And he went 26-22 in three seasons as a head coach and went to the Super Bowl in his first season before being jettisoned as Manning missed the entire season after undergoing neck surgery.
“I am really excited to work with coach Harbaugh, Cam and the rest of the coaching staff,” Caldwell said. “It’s a great fit for me, and I’m happy they saw it that way. I can’t wait to get started with the Ravens, an organization that from top to bottom is one of the NFL’s best. I’m looking forward to coming to Baltimore.”
Caldwell coached the Colts quarterbacks and was assistant head coach before being elevated to head coach when Tony Dungy retired.
During the Colts’ 2004 season, Manning passed for a career-high 49 touchdowns with only 10 interceptions as he set a career-high quarterback rating of 121.1. That’s the second-best rating in NFL history behind Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ 122.5 last season.
While Caldwell coached him for seven seasons, Manning topped all NFL quarterbacks in yardage (29,210), touchdowns (222), quarterback rating (100.5), completions (2,482) and completion percentage (66.5).
Caldwell was previously the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ quarterbacks coach, holding the same job title at Penn State.
A four-year starter at defensive back at Iowa, Caldwell was the Wake Forest head coach for eight years, and was an assistant coach at Louisville, Colorado, Northwestern, Southern Illinois and Iowa.
Caldwell was hired by the Ravens after interviewing for the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offensive coordinator job over the weekend with Steelers coach Mike Tomlin.