In what came as a shock to many last Thursday, the Baltimore Ravens announced they were relieving Jim Zorn of his duties as quarterbacks coach, and rewarding offensive coordinator Cam Cameron with larger oversight of Zorn’s old post. Owner Steve Bisciotti also alluded to head coach John Harbaugh playing more of a part in the Ravens offense in 2011, something Harbaugh hasn’t done during his tenure in Baltimore.
This latest coaching shakeup by the Ravens front office is controversial on many levels, and isn’t sitting well with most Ravens fans around the world. However, it’s one thing to upset your fan base, but it’s a whole other story when your franchise quarterback, Joe Flacco, feels as if the move to fire Zorn was a direct attack on his progress as an NFL quarterback.
“I’m kind of taking it personal,” Flacco said. “You’re saying that you’re not happy with the position. I’m not sure if there is any truth to that, but that’s the vibe you’re sending to your quarterback. I feel like I’m being attacked.”
Flacco made it apparent to Bisciotti in an earlier meeting that he wasn’t happy with the move, and that he wasn’t going to be happy about it “for a long time.”
One thing is clear: Flacco and Zorn shared a special bond, and all of the time Zorn spent coaching Flacco was finally starting to pay off.
Flacco had his best year as a pro in 2010, throwing for 3,622 yards and 25 touchdowns, leading the team to 13 wins and another playoff berth—his third in as many years as the Ravens signal-caller.
Coaching moves like this hurt teams, and it’s the responsibility of owners like Bisciotti to recognize special bonds between coaches and players, because that’s what helps build successful franchises.
It would be one thing if Flacco was regressing under Zorn’s leadership, but this wasn’t the case at all.
So why would the higher powers in Baltimore make a move like this?
In the NFL, assistant coaches are usually the first casualties when ownership doesn’t like the direction a certain position on a team is headed. In other words, it’s possible Bisciotti really didn’t think the progress Flacco made during the 2010 season was good enough, or for that matter, Flacco’s entire career.
If you’re an owner, it’s much easier to make a coaching change than it is to pull your franchise quarterback from his starting position. A move like this has much less of a direct impact on the team itself. However, it can still be viewed as a move in the wrong direction, and that’s exactly what Flacco believes it to be.
At this point, Flacco feels as if he’s virtually been pulled from his starting role, and that in itself is not good for the long-term chemistry of a team, especially one that must get their offense firing on all cylinders in order to overtake the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC North next season.
With growing opposition to Cameron for the job he did as offensive coordinator in 2010, along with coaching decisions made by owners that end up infuriating franchise players, one must believe Harbaugh has a tremendous challenge on his hands as soon as the team enters training camp.
Not only will Harbaugh have more responsibility as a head coach, he must first succeed at putting out the fire that is starting to envelop the structure of the Ravens as a team.
The 2011 season might be Harbaugh’s last chance to prove he has a firm grasp on this tough group of players who have the talent to make it to the Super Bowl every single year.
We all know the process in which owners of teams take when rebuilding a franchise. It starts with firing assistants, and then head coaches depart. Finally, players are usually put on the chopping block.
Bisciotti understands how much talent he has working for him on the football field, and there isn’t a doubt in his mind that Baltimore shouldn’t be a Super Bowl contender every year.
Maybe Bisciotti knows more than the fans do, and for that matter, Joe Flacco. Maybe Bisciotti sees something inherently wrong with the team, and as a quality owner felt the need to fix the problem.
It’s hard to estimate what impact this latest coaching change will have on the Ravens as a team until next season is underway.
However, when your star quarterback is this visibly upset over Zorn’s firing, you have to think things might be headed, at least temporarily, in the wrong direction for the Baltimore Ravens.
Todd McGregor is a Baltimore Ravens Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report.
Follow Todd's work on Twitter! Twitter.com/ravens023