Bringing A Qb

Welcome to the Ravens, coach

now fix quarterback

On Cam Cameron

January 24, 2008|By DAVID STEELE

So, we know Cam Cameron has a fine reputation around the NFL for his offensive mind. We know he steered a lot of talent to great success in San Diego two seasons ago, and we know he has ties to the head coach who just hired him, John Harbaugh.

But the real wild card that makes Cameron's arrival with the Ravens so significant, the factor that sealed the deal?

He can bring Cleo Lemon with him!

Laugh if you want (or if you can't help yourself). But Cameron's only win as an NFL head coach, in his one and only season with the Miami Dolphins, came against the Ravens in December, with Lemon at quarterback - and playing well, throwing for 315 yards and the game-winning touchdown in overtime. He's a free agent.

And - here's where you can stop laughing - the Ravens don't exactly have somebody better to play the position right now. Seriously. Check the numbers.

How that problem gets solved will determine the Ravens' success. More than that, it will determine how good a head coach Harbaugh ends up being and how good an offensive coordinator Cameron is. It's hardly a stretch to say solving that problem this season would have prevented the current upheaval - because Brian Billick would still be coaching.

Everything that has happened the past three weeks at the Castle is really just a prelude to the one decision that looms above the rest: picking a quarterback, from the trio on the roster or from elsewhere. That will have to be Cameron's first task and far and away his most critical.

He should be up for it. The credit he gets for his work in San Diego, he deserves: Philip Rivers barely took a snap in his first two years. When it was Rivers' turn in 2006, he was ready, 14-2 ready and, after Cameron went to the Dolphins, AFC title game ready.

And as he pointed out to reporters yesterday a few hours after taking the job: "It wasn't that long ago that the San Diego Chargers were the worst team in the league." That would be two years before he got there.

In Miami, though, Cameron had no quarterback, not after Trent Green got hurt, and it was debatable before Green got hurt. How good can a competent, much less exemplary, quarterback make a coach look, and how bad can a subpar quarterback make him look? Billick has already learned, the hard way.

Cameron was diplomatic about evaluating the current players on the spot, especially the quarterbacks. What he did say was encouraging - about talking to players about their strengths and weaknesses, even their goals, and about how the talent on hand was, at worst, nothing to keep him from taking the job. Also, about how developing players, including quarterbacks, was something he enjoyed and felt he did well.

And how, he said, "We'll put together an offense that'll fit the guys that we have."

It's not even remotely a coincidence that Harbaugh made this his first priority. That has been unfortunate for Rex Ryan, who is starting to look like the guy left without a chair when the music stops, now that the Atlanta Falcons unearthed Ryan's Jacksonville Jaguars counterpart, Mike Smith, as their head coach. Ryan might end up back here as defensive coordinator, and he might not. For those who have seen him do what he has done over the years, it's hard to watch Ryan be put on the back burner.

But those same people have watched this offense. They understand.

Virtually everything about his resume says Cameron is a smart hire for Harbaugh, particularly that he has been around a while and has done well. It always sounds better to have an experienced hand at the side of a neophyte NFL head coach, which wouldn't have been the case had Harbaugh chosen his former Philadelphia Eagles colleague, Pat Shurmur.

In return, everything Cameron said pointed to this idea: Good coaching can supplement good players, as long as you have the players. The Ravens have made it clear from start to finish that they think the players are not such a big problem. But unless Cameron can work real magic, the exception is at the position that counts the most. The issues about the Ravens that have gotten a lot of play lately - who controls the locker room, what coaches have the players' attention or respect - are microscopic compared with the big one.

Steve, Kyle, Troy or somebody else?

Like Cleo Lemon?

david.steele@baltsun.com

Listen to David Steele on Tuesdays at 9 a.m. on WNST (1570 AM).

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.