Can Joe Flacco achieve more under Jim Caldwell than he did under Cam Cameron?
That was surely one of the underlying questions that led to the Ravens' move Monday to fire Cameron, the team's offensive coordinator since 2008, and replace him with Caldwell, the Ravens' first-year quarterbacks coach.
Caldwell had spent the previous 10 years in Indianapolis, first as quarterbacks coach working with some guy named Peyton Manning, and then the final three as the Colts' head coach.
Caldwell has been in the football coaching business for 35 years, the past 12 in the NFL, but, perhaps surprisingly, has never been an offensive coordinator.
"I agreed to take on the challenge," Caldwell said in a brief session with the media at the Ravens practice facility on Monday.
He is a proponent of a hurry-up, no-huddle offense, which was the heart of the Colts' success with Manning at the helm. The Ravens this season have used the no-huddle at times to great effect but have struggled with it at other times, particularly on the road. The hurry-up look has been less prevalent over the past few weeks, but that is likely to change with Caldwell now in charge of the offense.
"It's not a system change," Caldwell said. "The Ravens offense is the Ravens offense. It's not a philsophical change."
Caldwell spent one season as quarterbacks coach in Tampa Bay, in 2001, and then took the same job in Indianapolis. He spent six seasons as Manning's position coach before becoming associate head coach and then head coach in 2009, replacing Tony Dungy.
Caldwell, 57, led the Colts to the Super Bowl in the 2009 season, losing to the Saints. Last season, the Manning-less Colts struggled to a 2-14 record and Caldwell was fired after the season.
The Ravens hired him a month later, and there has been speculation that Caldwell was always viewed as a fall-back option if the Ravens offense under the much-maligned Cameron struggled this season.
Flacco, in the final season of his rookie contract, had the best training camp of his career, and the Ravens showed Caldwell's influence with an increased emphasis on the no-huddle and hurry-up look that Flacco seemed to thrive in.
But Flacco and the offense have again been inconsistent this season. Flacco has had four games of more than 300 yards passing, and five games of under 200. His passer rating this season is 100.7 at home, but 75.4 on the road, and the past two weeks he has been hurt by turnovers, with strip-sacks in each of the past two games.
Certainly one play didn't lead to Cameron's ouster. Flacco and Cameron have co-existed and have had their share of differences as well. Flacco is viewed as the franchise quarterback, and his progression under Cameron seems to have hit a plateau.
The goal is that Flacco -- and the offense -- can elevate to another level under Caldwell.
"It’s not about fair or unfair, right or wrong," coach John Harbaugh said in a statement. "My responsibility is to the whole team and what’s best for them right now. We need a change. Our plan and our goals are to win games, win our division and get to the playoffs."