Harbaugh on the hot seat!

Lombardi's Way Harbaugh on the hot seat!

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We’ve heard the rumors of the sideline argument between John Harbaugh and Cam Cameron. And some want to believe that the mildly heated debate led to Cameron’s firing.

Let’s not be naïve here – it’s not that simple!

These two men who have been friends for a long time. They probably share cookies and hot cocoa during Christmas.

If it were only about the play calling against the Redskins, Cameron would be at practice today implementing a game plan to take on the Denver Broncos. Instead the Ravens have at least temporarily handed the offensive reigns over to Jim Caldwell.

Now let’s think about this for a moment…

You have a 9-4 team that is one win away from clinching the AFC North in a league that is ripe for the taking for any post season participant. And just because there’s a little squabble between the head coach and his buddy, the offensive coordinator the Ravens are going to disrupt the entire season and assign play-calling duties to someone who has never done so at the NFL level?

C’mon man!

I’ve mentioned before on these pages that I participate in radio/TV show with Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti once per season. Bisciotti isn’t exactly forthcoming with information but when questioned he answers honestly – brutally honest sometimes.

During this season’s show Bisciotti mentioned that he is more involved with the team than most people know or think. He described how after Lardarius Webb’s season ending injury he discussed a potential trade with Ozzie Newsome involving a conditional seventh-round pick in 2013 to acquire a reserve corner for this season.

Ultimately he convinced Ozzie to pass on the deal.

Now if Bisciotti is involved in such a minor deal, don’t you think that he is involved in the firing of the team’s offensive coordinator?

Staying with that TV show for a moment, and I’ve mentioned this before – I asked Bisciotti why the Ravens have been able to keep their window of opportunity open for four, going on five consecutive seasons in the playoffs.

Is it personnel? The coaching? The front office? The scouting? The organization as a whole?

What is it that keeps that window open?

His answer…

“Joe Flacco.”

The reply hung in the air for a while, accompanied by a few brief moments of silence that helped to accentuate the answer.

Not the team coming together.

Not the effectiveness of the scouting department.

Not the collective focus of all facets of the organization.

Not John Harbaugh.

Joe Flacco!

He’s the difference maker in the eyes of the team’s owner.

Fast forward to today – and clock is ticking.

The playoffs are nearing. Bisciotti sees that it’s anyone’s ballgame yet his offense is still dysfunctional characterized by the same inconsistencies that plagued it during the 2010 season. A season after which Bisciotti wanted Cameron gone, saved only by Harbaugh’s pleading and the pending lockout.

All of this is going on – a tangled mess that grows more perplexing with each passing game. There are no answers, no solutions, only more confusion.

Adding to the dilemma is the “difference maker’s” contract, or lack thereof beyond 2012. Rumors have recently surfaced that Flacco’s agent Joe Linta didn’t want his client attached to an offense managed by Cameron and that discussions with Ozzie Newsome about an extension consequently, have been hit by the mute button.

Many of us have heard and/or read about the near mutiny as reported by Yahoo Sports’ Michael Silver. The word is that the players’ gripe had to do with Harbaugh’s decision to practice in pads.

Are you buying that?

After 10 days off, these guys are complaining about a practice in pads after that spanking in Houston?

Now we’re hearing some well-place rumors that the near mutiny was really about Cam Cameron and how both offensive and defensive players had had enough of the offensive inconsistencies. Now THAT could trigger a near mutiny, not a decision to practice in pads after 10 days off.

Could the feed to Silver, a national writer mind you (not one of the local guys who camps out at the Ravens facility every day), simply have been a nicely executed pre-emptive strike by the Ravens capable PR Department?

Have you listened to the players when questioned by the media about Cameron’s firing? The responses are borderline glee.

“Joe [Flacco] seems like he’s happy about it and I’ve seen him smiling,” left tackle Michael Oher said when asked about how Cameron’s firing will help Flacco.

A locker room rich with quality players who are quality people with quality character yet nonetheless divisive. All tied to one man’s blind loyalty in another.

A man who Joe Flacco no longer wanted to play for (or so we hear) because he and his agent believed it could negatively impact his future earnings potential in the league.

And it all falls on Harbaugh.

He was the enabler.

So you have to wonder, if the team’s owner is going to pull rank to save his team and keep the window of opportunity ajar where does that leave Harbaugh?

Clearly there’s precedent set by Bisciotti (see Billick firing). If he reaches the end of his rope, remaining years on Harbaugh’s deal be damned, he will not be held hostage by a contract. This isn’t to say that Harbaugh will soon follow Cameron out the door BUT if that window closes, the exit door could open shortly thereafter.

So that puts Harbaugh squarely on the hot seat.

Meanwhile, where is Ozzie Newsome when all of this is going on? Why does it take the owner’s involvement to fix a rather glaring problem that has reared its ugly head for years? Shouldn’t Newsome have been more proactive?

But back to Harbaugh…

Take a look at his staff. Is there anyone there capable of being a head coach?

It seems to me that unlike his predecessor Brian Billick who had five assistants go on to become head coaches (Rex Ryan, Mike Smith, Jack Del Rio, Marvin Lewis, Mike Nolan) Harbaugh prefers instead to have assistants, particularly coordinators, who really won’t challenge his position in a down season at the top of the coaching food chain.

Hopefully Harbaugh grows from this experience and he becomes a better head coach. This gauntlet thrown down by Bisciotti should also send a signal to the other coaches whose future in most cases hinges on Harbaugh’s job security.

But make no mistake about it, Harbaugh’s inaction as it relates to Cameron and the subsequent affect on the team calls into question his accountability. And now, contract or no contract, nor winning season after winning season, can keep him off the owner’s radar screen.

Because by doing nothing Harbaugh has messed with the difference maker and THAT messes with Bisciotti’s treasured window.

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Tony Lombardi

About Tony Lombardi

Tony is 24x7 Networks, LLC's founder (the parent of EutawStreetReport.com and RussellStreetReport.com) His work has been featured on various sports websites and he is a regular guest on 105.7 The Fan and he hosts "The Fanimal" also heard on 105.7 The Fan, Saturdays from 8-9AM. Among his favorite things in life are his wife, kids, family, friends, The Beatles, Breaking Bad, Gladiator, The Godfather, Guinness, orange crushes, meatballs and Key West, not necessarily in that order. Follow Tony on Twitter @RSRLombardi. More from Tony Lombardi


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