If the Ravens are playing this weekend, you can bet there is someone somewhere wondering if offensive coordinator Cam Cameron is coaching for his job.
And maybe he is.
Cameron has been a popular punching bag when things haven't gone well this season. He was caught for a time in the middle of a tug-of-war between quarterback Joe Flacco and running back Ray Rice to determine the identity of the Ravens offense. He is an easy target for criticism when that offense stalls because, well, he's the guy with the car keys.
So, as the Ravens get ready to take the field for their most important game to this point in a very successful yet uneven season, you can make the case that no one will be under more pressure to perform than Cameron.
There are some rational reasons to draw that conclusion. The Ravens are making their fourth straight appearance in the playoffs under John Harbaugh, and there certainly comes a point for every elite team when that is no longer quite enough. There is no question that Harbaugh will be back next year and no reason to think that Flacco and Rice won't be leading the Ravens into the future, which would seem to leave Cameron as the only one hanging out there if this postseason goes awry.
Maybe that isn't fair, especially when you consider that the Ravens have developed their franchise quarterback under Cameron and have averaged 11 regular season victories and two playoff games per year with him calling the plays, but you won't hear Cam complaining about it.
"I think it's really kind of the world we live in,'' he said on Thursday. "Expectations are high. That's what I love about this place. I think Joe said it best. Getting to the playoffs … that's a goal, but it's not the goal."
The Houston Texans are just the next obstacle, but they are a formidable one. They have a tough, opportunistic defense and a terrific running game that will put pressure on the Ravens to control the ball.
Of course, if things go well, it will be Flacco and Rice standing at the podium afterward accepting the bouquets. If they don't, then you're almost certainly going to hear the usual grumbling about the Ravens' red zone issues and whispers about the sudden availability of highly regarded former Ravens quarterbacks coach Hue Jackson, who was just fired as head coach of the Raiders.
"That's the NFL,'' Cameron said. "The coaches, the players…there is pressure on everybody, and everybody deals with it differently. But this is what the players and coaches have been working for all year, so let's let it rip."
Cameron is a fairly soft-spoken guy in public, but he did not shy away from questions this week about the times earlier this season when his quarterback was angling for a more wide-open passing scheme and his star running back clearly thought he should be touching the ball more often. He admitted that he sometimes felt like a referee, but insists that he wouldn't have it any other way.
"That's offensive football, absolutely,'' he said. "And you don't want it, believe me, any other way. It's been like that everywhere I've been. That's what great players do. Great players want the ball. If I was a running back and Ray Rice was calling the plays, I'd be doing the same thing. I said to Joe, 'Joe, remember, if I were you and you were me, we'd both be thinking the same thing. I'd be wanting to throw it more than you want me to throw it.' That's just the way offensive football works. It's a unique thing. When guys don't want the ball is when you've got a problem."
Though there has been the perception at times that Cameron and Flacco were not on the same page, you certainly wouldn't know it from the animated way he defended his quarterback during Thursday's interview session with the coordinators.
In fact, when he fielded a question about the possibility that Flacco could shut up his critics by winning the Super Bowl, Cameron was quick to put his answer in the context of everyone on the team – including himself.
"The bottom line is we're all shutting everybody up all the time these days,'' he said. "You have to. And Joe is just one of those guys. He's got the courage to come out and say it. He's not going to give you just the standard stuff. That's what I love about him. You've got to have a competitive spirit in you. Yeah, it wears (on you). We can say we all don't hear this stuff, but you cannot not hear it these days. It's all right there in front of you, so who's kidding who? Yeah, you get a little tired of it, but the bottom line is hey, go shut people up."
Listen to Peter Schmuck when he hosts "The Week in Review" Fridays at noon on WBAL (1090AM) and wbal.com.
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