Jim Caldwell will have to prove quite a bit in just a few games

December 22, 2012|Kevin Cowherd

If I'm feeling sorry for anyone on the Ravens right now, it's Jim Caldwell.

Going into today's game against the New York Giants, the new Ravens offensive coordinator finds himself in a no-win situation.

He's basically auditioning for the offensive coordinator job for 2013 — assuming another team doesn't snap him up to be a head coach.

But he can't make any major changes to this struggling Ravens' offense this late in the season. Which means he has to essentially call the same ho-hum plays Cam Cameron called before he got the axe.

This is sort of like taking over as the president of a failing widget company and being told: "Let's just keep making those same lousy widgets, OK?"

On top of that, Caldwell had an absolutely disastrous debut in his new job last week. In fact, outside of the skipper of the Titanic, I can't think of anyone who's ever had a worse job debut.

The offense looked terrible for most of that 34-17 loss to the Denver Broncos. Joe Flacco looked shell-shocked from the moment he threw that pick-six to Broncos' cornerback Chris Harris with 30 seconds left in the first half.

Ray Rice finished with just 38 yards rushing and got smothered time after time when the offensive line collapsed around him. Except for Flacco's two touchdown passes to tight end Dennis Pitta in garbage time, the offense was pretty much a no-show all afternoon.

So you would think Caldwell would be feeling a little more pressure today to get things turned around, pronto.

But at least according to him, you'd be wrong.

"In our business, I'm not certain when there's not any pressure on you," he said the other day. ". . . That's just kind of the nature of the business. It's a performance business and it's a right-now business.

"So we certainly have to straighten some things out and see if we can perform well more consistently. We were up and down last week. Obviously we had some real bad spells. But those are the things that we're practicing for and against to try to make certain it doesn't happen again."

"Real bad spells" — that's one way to put. But it was also Caldwell giving it to you straight about this reeling offense, which is a good sign.

It's way too early to tell what kind of job Caldwell is doing and whether he's the right guy to breathe life into an attack which was expected to do great things this season.

But since being hired as the quarterbacks coach in February after the Indianapolis Colts fired him as their head coach, he's made a great impression with the Ravens.

For one thing, he's the ultimate nice guy who seems to have the respect of Flacco and Rice and Anquan Boldin, and everyone else who matters. And while Cameron was said to be a one-man show who resisted advice from others, Caldwell has said all the right things about being surrounded by talented coaches and players and wanting their input to make the offense better.

But there's still no guarantee he gets to be the offensive coordinator next season. And if the offense tanks in these next two regular-season games and the playoffs, you can pretty much assume he'll be gone.

In fact, you're already hearing in some circles that he's a long-shot to return.

One name being bandied about as his replacement is San Diego Chargers head coach Norv Turner, who will probably be fired about 10 seconds after the season ends.

Another is Arizona Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt, who also figures to get a pink slip with his team 5-9 amid whispers that he's lost the locker room.

But if Caldwell can get this offense going in however many games the Ravens have left, maybe he saves his job.

It won't be easy. The offensive line is a mess right now, and you won't convince me a rusty, out-of-shape Bryant McKinnie at left tackle is the miracle cure.

For all his brave talk about holding his head high, Flacco's confidence had to take a hit with that pick-six and that all-around woeful performance against Denver. And if the offense stalls and the Ravens' banged-up defense gives up a lot of points early to the Giants, Ray Rice could have another tough day carrying the ball.

"When you're getting three-and-outs, three-and-outs, three-and-outs, and then the other team is scoring, there's no time to hand the ball off to Ray Rice," the running back said.

And when Ray Rice doesn't get the ball, the Ravens tend not to score points.

Which won't do a whole lot for Jim Caldwell's job security.



Listen to Kevin Cowherd at 7:20 a.m. on Tuesdays on 105.7 The Fan's "The Norris and Davis Show."

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