General manager Ozzie Newsome met with the local media Friday morning to talk about the Ravens’ journey to their second appearance in the Super Bowl.
The nearly half-hour session covered a number of topics, from the makeup of this team to Newsome’s accomplishments as a general manager to Newsome’s views on the number of African Americans in NFL leadership roles.
Those will be covered in a handful of entries on this blog over the next couple of days. So let’s start with one of the most interesting: the team’s decision to fire offensive coordinator Cam Cameron on Dec. 10.
One day after a loss to the Redskins, Baltimore dismissed Cameron and replaced him with quarterbacks coach Jim Caldwell. The Ravens had lost two in a row and saw their offensive production dwindle as the season progressed.
There had been rumors at the time that Newsome and owner Steve Bisciotti pushed coach John Harbaugh to make the move. And Harbaugh’s effusive praise of Cameron on the day of the firing seemed to support that.
But Newsome said Friday that was not the case.
“No, no, no, no, no. That wouldn’t be fair to John,” Newsome said Friday. “John has to stand before his coaching staff and his players and if at any one point do they ever think that he’s overly influenced by Steve or I, then he loses his staff or his players. It has to be him.”
So what was Newsome’s role in the decision? Newsome said he provided counsel to Harbaugh to help the coach make the right call.
“We used to call it the barber shop, but now we call it the scrimmage. John and I, we talk about everything,” Newsome said. “What I try to do is help John look at the downside and upside of every decision, and when I have to make a decision, John does the same thing for me - what’s the upside of us making a trade or giving away a draft pick or something like that, or what’s the downsides of not having a Jarrett Johnson on our football team.
“So what we try and do is look at the upside and the downside, and that’s what I do with John. I try to paint the picture so that he can have as much information as he can so he can go about making that decision. And it came down to when he walked into my office and told me that he was going to make that decision, he had a peace about himself and that’s all I can ask of my people, for them to be, ‘Yes, I think this is the right thing to do.’ “
Newsome later delved deeper into the specific process behind letting Cameron go, revealing Harbaugh called to begin discussing a change on the way home after the Redskins game.
“We try to have a process in everything we do. We talk about a lot in the draft, we talk about it a lot in free agency. But the process of hiring Jim Caldwell is something John and I talked about, and why we wanted to do it,” Newsome said. “He did not just walk in my office that Monday morning and say he wanted to make that move. As a matter of fact, when we got off the bus downtown and we both were riding home from the Redskins game, John and I talked about it that night.
“He said, ‘I think I have to make a decision,’ and telling me all the reasons why. So there’s a process in place. What we try to do is minimize the downside and maximize the upside. The other thing about that is, Steve and John knew I had already gone through that when Brian (Billick) fired Jim Fassel. So I had a history of why we did it and what we went through to do it.”
Many view Cameron’s firing as a turning point in the Ravens’ season.
Baltimore lost to Denver in its first game under Caldwell, but proceeded to handily beat the Giants the next week. After resting most starters in the regular season finale, the Ravens have been on an offensive roll since, riding it all the way to the Super Bowl.
Now, even Cameron now views the decision as a good one, telling the New York Times this week that “it was a brilliant move.”
“Everyone on the team took a look in the mirror after that,” Cameron told the Times. “We were inconsistent. And if I’m in charge, I’m saying: ‘Why are we inconsistent? We need to get the team’s attention.’ “
Cameron has few hard feelings, apparently.
“You can’t do anything but root for those guys,” he told the publication.