Cam Cameron was named Ravens offensive coordinator yesterday, becoming new coach John Harbaugh's first and perhaps most important hire.
If Harbaugh wants to turn around the Ravens in the 2008 season, he'll need Cameron to revitalize an offense that has consistently ranked among the NFL's worst for a decade.
Before he was fired as head coach of the 1-15 Miami Dolphins three weeks ago, Cameron built a reputation for directing one of the NFL's most explosive attacks. In his last three seasons as the San Diego Chargers' offensive coordinator (2004-2006), the team finished in the NFL's top five in scoring, averaging 28.3 points a game.
"I know we're going to work hard and we've got a system that we like," Cameron said during a conference call yesterday. "I can't ever remember having to make a whole bunch of promises offensively. We're going to let our play speak for itself."
Cameron, 46, spent a couple of hours at Ravens headquarters yesterday before driving cross-country to pick up his family in San Diego, but he should have a familiarity with the team.
The Ravens have a similar look to the Chargers when Cameron was there, with a versatile running back, a Pro Bowl tight end, a receiving corps that lacks a playmaker, a developing offensive line and a question mark at quarterback.
In Cameron's final season with the Chargers, they ranked fourth in total offense (365 yards a game) and first in scoring (30.8 points).
"I think the good systems maximize the players that they have and continue to develop the guys that they have to work with," Cameron said. "To compare [players] probably wouldn't be fair, but I know I'm excited about the starting point that we have."
The only other candidate considered for the offensive coordinator's job was Philadelphia Eagles quarterbacks coach Pat Shurmur.
The Ravens' next move could be retaining Rex Ryan as defensive coordinator, an NFL source said.
The Atlanta Falcons last night hired Jacksonville Jaguars defensive coordinator Mike Smith as head coach, eliminating Ryan as a candidate for the position. Smith is a former Ravens assistant.
It is believed Ryan has been contacted by other teams about being a defensive coordinator, with the Washington Redskins being the most aggressive. But a league source said the Redskins have not requested permission from the Ravens to speak to Ryan.
Under NFL rules, the Ravens can block Ryan from making any move - other than for a head coaching job - because he has a year left on his contract.
"Rex has always told the Ravens that he doesn't want to be a defensive coordinator anywhere else," a team source said. "He wants to become a head coach."
Cameron, meanwhile, will inherit an offense that has ranked in the bottom half of the NFL in eight of the past nine seasons.
"Getting Cam makes this a very good day for the Ravens," Harbaugh said in a statement. "We share many of the same philosophies about the game: We're going to be tough, we're going to be exciting, we're going to be disciplined, and we're going to play really hard."
Cameron declined to comment on Ravens players, saying the evaluation process will take time. But he didn't seem to rule out Steve McNair at quarterback when asked how much he thought McNair had left.
Said Cameron: "I think the minute you start trying to predict that kind of stuff ... I know there were a lot of those predictions going around the last couple of years in Green Bay, and we all saw what happened."
Terms of Cameron's deal with the Ravens were not disclosed.
"In life, we all get stung on occasion," said Cameron, whose only NFL head coaching job lasted one season. "If you're in the NFL as a coach or a player long enough, you're going to get stung. The sting is going away."
One reason Cameron chose the Ravens was his connection with Harbaugh, which dates to his college coaching days. Harbaugh served as a defensive backs and special teams coach when Cameron was the head coach at Indiana in 1997.
Cameron, who will be the Ravens' play-caller, said Harbaugh is "extremely bright and one of the hardest-working coaches that I've been around. He's a great game-day coach and a great teacher. ...
"The players are going to enjoy playing for him, and the assistant coaches are going to enjoy working for him. He brings a team concept I'm excited about being a part of."
Sun columnist Mike Preston contributed to this article.
Full name: Malcolm Cameron
Born: Chapel Hill, N.C.
Playing career: Was a high school All-America quarterback in Terre Haute, Ind. Played football and basketball at Indiana under coaches Lee Corso and Bob Knight, respectively, until a knee injury ended his playing career. Graduated from Indiana in 1983 with a business degree.
College coaching career: Was wide receivers coach at Michigan from 1986 to 1989 before becoming quarterbacks and receivers coach there from 1990 to 1993. Was head coach at Indiana from 1997 to 2001.
NFL coaching career: Was Redskins quarterbacks coach from 1994 to 1996. Was Chargers offensive coordinator from 2002 to 2006. Was Dolphins head coach for 2007 season and was fired after team went 1-15.
Personal: He and his wife, Missy, have four children - sons Tommy, Danny and Christopher and daughter Elizabeth.