OWINGS MILLS, Md. - Don't expect Jim Caldwell to incorporate the triple-option or a variety of trick plays in his first NFL game as an offensive co-ordinator.
Caldwell grabbed the reins of the Baltimore Ravens' offence on Monday after head coach John Harbaugh fired Cam Cameron. Caldwell was in his first year as Baltimore's quarterbacks coach, a job he will retain moving forward.
For his first assignment as an offensive co-ordinator, the 57-year-old Caldwell will be asked to oversee and direct an attack that must outdo Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, whom Caldwell coached in Indianapolis.
"It may seem like a bit of a novelty, but it isn't.," Caldwell said Thursday. "We both have a job to do."
Caldwell takes over a unit that has is ranked 18th in total yardage and has been inconsistent throughout the season. With only three weeks to go, he intends to tweak the offence rather than overhaul it.
"Obviously there's not going to be a system change of any sort," he said. "I'll add a few wrinkles here and there. For the most part, I think the guys are comfortable with what we do. I've got to find what best suits our personnel and utilize that. Do the things that we do best."
Cameron was criticized for not using running back Ray Rice enough, and others questioned whether quarterback Joe Flacco showed improvement from a year ago. Caldwell wouldn't tip his hand on how he intends to utilize either player, but it appears as if he can't wait to put his stamp on a unit with plenty of weapons.
"The reason why I coach is that I have a great passion for the game," he said. "I love a challenge. There is nothing about professional football that's easy. So it's going to require everything you have and just a little bit more. That's what makes me excited about what we're doing."
His only wish was that this opportunity came under different circumstances.
"The situation is tough. I hate to see a colleague lose his job," Caldwell said. "I've been fired a few times as well. That's the tough part of it. But nevertheless I certainly am excited about having the opportunity to work with some outstanding men in a great organization with outstanding people surrounding me. Let's see what we can do."
Flacco, like many players on the team, was stunned to see Cameron dismissed — especially at a time when the Ravens needed only one more win to clinch a fifth consecutive playoff berth. But Baltimore (9-4) has lost two in a row, and with a defence depleted by injury, it was time for the offence to take charge and make things happen.
"I think as an offence, we have to look at ourselves and see what we can do to be better," Flacco said. "Obviously, we weren't good enough."
With Caldwell at the helm, things won't be much different — although he intends to work in the booth rather than on the sideline, as Cameron did.
"Anytime you've been coaching quarterbacks, the offence runs through you," Caldwell said. "That's what I've always been excited about."
Quite a change for a guy who was a four-year starter at defensive back for Iowa from 1973-76 and began his coaching career working with the defence.
"I went to the offensive side of the ball to get a good sense of balance and things of that nature," Caldwell said. "I wanted to really know offensive football. So the great majority of the latter part of my career has been on offence. There's not anything that you should not know if you're coaching the quarterbacks because you're involved in every situation."
Now, though, he will be responsible for calling the plays. Whether he maintains the job after this season remains to be seen.
"You know what? I don't look any further than the next day," he said. "Nothing's promised to you. In the Bible it tells you that. What I do is do my job. We'll worry about the other things down the road."
Caldwell was head coach at Indianapolis from 2009-11. He was fired after the team went 2-14 in 2011, but still harbours hopes of getting another chance.
"I think if you're in this business that should always be your goal. Right?" he said. "I don't think I'll ever lose that particular desire until the point in time when they run me out of this business."
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