By Tom James
INDIANAPOLIS — You can call him the Baltimore Ravens’ quarterback guru.
That’s how Ravens head coach John Harbaugh views former Terre Haute South two-sport standout Cam Cameron, who is in his second year of being in charge of Baltimore’s offense. He’s also the team’s primary quarterback coach.
Harbaugh had worked for Cameron when the latter was the head coach at Indiana University, so he knew of his reputation — and success — for working with young signal callers while an assistant with at the University of Michigan and with the National Football League’s Washington Redskins.
More recently, the ex-Braves football and basketball standout was the quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator for a high-scoring San Diego Chargers offense. He also spent one season as the head coach of the Miami Dolphins before being hired to Harbaugh’s coaching staff in Baltimore.
“Cam has a tremendous track record with quarterbacks. Phillip Rivers [San Diego], Drew Brees [San Diego]. Just a number of guys. Even when he was with the Redskins before. Gus Frerotte, he kind of came from nowhere. Cam was responsible for that,” the Ravens coach said in a recent teleconference with Colts media.
“When he was a coach at Michigan, I think his whole string of quarterbacks ended up playing in the NFL. It’s just kind of been his forte as a coach. I don’t think there’s a better developer of quarterbacks out there than Cam. And he’s doing a great job with [Ravens starting quarterback] Joe [Flacco], and I’m really happy that he’s here doing that.”
A year ago, when the Colts played Baltimore in a regular-season game at Lucas Oil Stadium, Flacco connected on 28-of-38 passes for 241 yards as a rookie starter. He failed to throw a touchdown pass but was intercepted three times in a 31-3 loss to Indianapolis.
After the game, Cameron was asked about his quarterback’s progress. He didn’t mince words.
“People have to realize that it takes time to learn how to play quarterback in the National Football League. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Joe understands that. The mistakes that he makes now will help him learn the rest of this season and on into next year,” the Ravens assistant coach said.
Cameron’s words proved to be almost prophetic. Flacco, who was the 18th overall pick of the 2008 NFL Draft, did get better throughout his rookie season. So much so that he led the Ravens to an 11-5 record and a spot in last year’s AFC championship game.
So far this year, the 6-foot-6, 230-pound quarterback has completed 65.3 percent of his passes, hitting on 196-of-300 throws, for 2,199 yards, 12 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He is tied for fourth (with the Colts’ Peyton Manning) in the league’s fourth-quarter passer ratings at 117.1, trailing Brees (124.2), Minnesota’s Brett Favre (119.3) and Tampa Bay’s Josh Freeman (117.9).
Flacco has also directed Baltimore to wins in 16 of its last 23 games (including the playoffs). Harbaugh repeated Cameron’s comments from a year ago.
“The problem with any quarterback is that it takes time. People [opposing teams] start getting a feel for how they play and what they do, and they start throwing them some looks they haven’t seen. He sees it for the first time, and he learns how to adjust to it,” the Baltimore head coach said.
“The great thing about Joe is he’s really a quick learner. Once he sees something once, he’s pretty much got it. That’s probably the key because there are a lot of different types of combinations that defenses can run at you.”
For his part, the Ravens quarterback appreciates the work that Cameron has put him through over the last year.
“He has certain ways of looking at things. I think we’ve done a good job of being able to do multiple things within our offense. I think we’re coming along at a good pace,” Flacco said this past week. “We just need to make sure that we continue to get better week-in and week-out, and we don’t take a step back. I think this week is going to be a big week for that.
“[Last year was] definitely a part of having to go through certain things, and then you’re able to react to them better the next time. Another year in the offense for everybody on this team. [It] gives [the Ravens] a lot more confidence. We’re able to go out there and play a lot faster. In order to be successful, you have to be able to go out there and play fast and react quickly and react to things on the fly. I think that’s the biggest thing. We understand our offense a little better, therefore we understand what the defenses are giving to us a little bit better. And we’re able to go out there and do everything that much quicker. It makes all the difference in the world to be a little bit faster when you’re doing things and to be more sure of yourself when you’re doing them.”