As the Ravens said goodbye to one coach Wednesday, they appeared ready to promote one from within and possibly retain a controversial one for the 2012 season.
The Indianapolis Colts hired Ravens defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano to become their new head coach Wednesday morning, and the front runner to replace Pagano is linebackers coach Dean Pees .
Meanwhile, according to a league source, Ravens offensive coordinator Cam Cameron called the offensive assistants Wednesday morning and gave them instructions for the upcoming weeks, a sign that he will return next season.
Neither Cameron nor Ravens head coach John Harbaugh returned phone calls Wednesday night, but the source was confident that Cameron would serve in the same capacity with the only stipulation the Ravens hire a quarterbacks coach. Cameron served in both roles last season.
The hiring of Pagano was a surprise considering that he had only been the Ravens defensive coordinator for one season. But the Ravens had the No. 3 ranked defense in the NFL, and Pagano is young, bright and fiery, even getting into a heated argument with Harbaugh in the closing minutes of the playoff game against Houston when the Ravens offense failed to run out the clock.
According to the source, Pagano's relationship with Harbaugh was still slightly strained.
"That would have been interesting to see how things would have worked out if Chuck didn't get the job in Indianapolis," said the source. "Their exchange was very heated."
While Pagano was in Indianapolis on a three-hour interview Tuesday, Pees was the only other Ravens assistant invited down to the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala.
Pees served as the defensive coordinator at the University of Miami (Ohio), and later in the same capacity with the New England Patriots from 2005 to 2009 before coming to the Ravens in 2010.
Pees has been involved a lot in shaping the defense including devising strategy and breaking down video to develop keys. Like Pagano, Pees is very vocal.
"We all knew Chuck would get a look because of the defense's success and his personality," said Ravens outside linebacker Jarret Johnson. "We thought it would happen, but not this fast.
"I would be surprised if we hired someone outside of the building.If they hired Pees , or Clarence Brooks (Ravens defensive line coach), I would be all for it. Chuck called the plays, but all our coaches have tons of input. Dean is very vocal, very hands on, like Chuck was with Rex Ryan. I think whoever we hire the defense will remain the same in philosophy. I would be shocked if someone tried to come in here and overhaul it."
Jack Del Rio, who is a former Ravens linebackers coach and former head coach in Jacksonville, has been mentioned as a possible replacement for Pagano, but Del Rio developed a lot of enemies in the coaching fraternity because of the number of assistants he fired in his nine seasons in Jacksonville.
Del Rio, though, is an excellent defensive coach and extremely competitive. His style might not mesh with that of Harbaugh, but Del Rio does have a history with Ravens Pro Bowl linebacker Ray Lewis, the team's top vocal leader.
As for Cameron, he finally seemed to come to the conclusion halfway through this season that quarterback Joe Flacco couldn't carry an offense. After Flacco's rookie year, Cameron allowed Flacco to throw more and opened up the passing game. If the Ravens succeeded and Flacco became an All-Pro, it would have been Cameron's ticket back to become a head coach again.
But that formula didn't work here. Some blamed it on Cameron and others on Flacco. In all honesty, we'll never know, but Cameron did find a solution. He ran the ball and allowed a good defense to rest and dominate.
Second guess him all you want, but if the Ravens receivers could hold onto passes in the postseason during the past two years, the Ravens could have been in two straight Super Bowls.
Cameron played to the team's strength in the final eight weeks of the season, and allowed running back Ray Rice to become the centerpiece of the offense. But as early as Monday morning, Cameron was walking around the team's training complex telling people he didn't expect to get a new contract in late February, once his old one expired.
The real concern now is if Flacco has hit his ceiling as far as development in this offense, or would he improve in another system.
We'll soon find out.