Have you ever dated somebody that made you want to put your own head into a wall?
You’re dining in Little Italy with your significant other and somewhere between the wine and the caprese salad a light bulb goes off in your head. If you had to choose between sticking a rusty screwdriver in your eye or continuing to talk to this person, you’d consider going blind. What’s one eye? That’s usually when the breakup happens.
Next thing you know, some evil force has you dialing those all too familiar digits on the phone. A few hours later you’re resolved to being a one-eyed miserable being and head out to meet the ex.
It’s called being a glutton for punishment, and we’ve all done it. At some point in life, every person finds themselves trapped in a vicious cycle. When one thing fails, we immediately go back to what we know, whether it’s healthy or not. To quote McLovin from "Superbad," “That’s how we roll.”
Apparently that’s how former Miami Dolphins head coach Cam Cameron rolls as well. The one-time offensive coordinator of the San Diego Chargers wanted more, as most NFL coaches do. So he headed to Miami with hopes of the grass being greener. After a horrendous 1-15 season as head coach, he was dumped.
Immediately, Cameron was considered the hottest candidate for offensive coordinator positions around the league. It was clear he would be headed back to his former love -- running offenses. Now with the Ravens, his professional career has cycled back to almost the same position he was in six years ago.
Just like those of us that run back to dysfunctional relationships, Cameron has run back to a dysfunctional offense.
Cameron joined the San Diego Chargers in 2002 as offensive coordinator. In five years he was able to turn a sub-par offense into the fourth-ranked offense in the NFL. But can he do the same in Baltimore with similar personnel?
In 2002, the Chargers had a question mark at quarterback, an exceptional running back and an average receiving corps. The season before Cameron arrived, the Chargers went 5-11. Sound familiar?
Comparing the 2007 Ravens to the 2001 Chargers is easy. An aging Doug Flutie was the Chargers' starting quarterback at the time. During the 2001 season, Flutie had a 56.4 percent completion rate, 15 touchdowns and 18 interceptions. Flutie’s numbers are comparable to Kyle Boller’s 2007 stats. Boller posted a 61.1 percent completion rate and, like Flutie, threw more interceptions (10) than touchdowns (nine).
Here’s the difference -- one that made Cameron’s chances of success as a coordinator in San Diego dramatically greater than here in Baltimore. Cameron was handed Drew Brees when he joined the Chargers. Brees was a second-round draft pick in 2001 out of Purdue. He had one season to learn under Flutie, and the Chargers franchise felt he'd be the quarterback of the future. Two years after Brees was drafted, he went to the Pro Bowl.
The Ravens have Troy Smith. While Smith could surprise people in the NFL, it’s hard to argue he is the same caliber young quarterback Brees was. Smith was a Heisman Trophy winner out of Ohio State, but he wasn’t taken in the 2006 draft until the fifth round. Then again, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was chosen in the sixth round of the 1999 draft, but I digress.
Should the Ravens take a quarterback with their eighth overall selection in April’s draft? Cameron proved that when given young, talented quarterbacks, he can develop them. Besides Brees and Philip Rivers in the NFL, Antwan Randle El was also a pupil of Cameron’s when he was the starting quarterback at Indiana University.
Some speculate Cameron will bring to Baltimore the same style of offense he used in San Diego because, just like the Chargers, the Ravens have a solid running back to build an offense around. Under Cameron, the Chargers’ offensive attack showcased the talent of Pro Bowl tailback LaDainian Tomlinson. The same could happen in Baltimore with Willis McGahee.
Back to Cameron’s first year in San Diego. The previous season, a rookie Tomlinson rushed for 1,236 yards and 10 touchdowns. The next year, when Cameron took over, those numbers improved to 1,683 yards and 15 touchdowns. If given the carries, McGahee could realistically reach those same marks. It will be interesting to see if McGahee becomes Cameron’s bread and butter as Tomlinson was in San Diego.
Cameron is undoubtedly walking into a tough situation. He carries the burden of righting a ship that has been off course for eight years. Some may say he is a glutton for punishment. Then again, maybe he's just a football coach who enjoys a challenge.
Issue 3.5: January 31, 2008