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  Cam's Return Brings Bad Memories
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by Chris Shashaty, Phins.com Columnist

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This week, the Baltimore Ravens will face the Miami Dolphins at Dolphin Stadium (1:00pm ET, CBS). Few will ever forget the last time the Ravens visited the friendly confines.


For those living in an alternate reality, the Ravens represented the Dolphins’ only victory in 2007. “Scat-Left-Ernie” has since gone down in team history as the play that saved the Dolphins from everlasting 0-16 infamy.


The man who called that play was former head coach Cam Cameron. As you know, Cameron was a casualty of Bill Parcells’ season-ending purge which was expected given Cam’s 1-15 record and little tangible evidence of progress towards a winning future.


I am dredging this up because Cameron is now the offensive coordinator of the aforementioned Ravens. His job this weekend is to bring more pain and aggravation to the faithful. Unfortunately, his return also brings back the bad memories from last season’s 1-15 debacle.


On a personal level, Cameron is a good guy and, as Dolphin coach, I believe his heart was in the right place. He inherited the smoldering pieces left in the wake of Nick Saban’s unsavory departure, and did what he thought was best to move the team forward. He professed his family’s happiness in being in South Florida. He was patient with the press and fans, despite withering criticism. And he defended his players from that criticism for the most part, even when they deserved to get the full broadside.


As an offensive guru in San Diego, he built a stellar reputation which caught the eye of NFL insiders and convinced Wayne Huizenga to offer him the Dolphin job. In hindsight, Huizenga’s failure was in failing to recognize that Cameron was simply not ready to be a head coach. Team president Bryan Wiedmeier and former general manager Randy Mueller misjudged him, too.


Cameron’s not being ready isn’t a sin. There are a lot of guys like that in the NFL, some of which are current head coaches. Some guys are just born to be coordinators. Cameron and last year’s defensive coordinator, Dom Capers, are perfect examples.


In Cameron’s case, his lack of readiness was evident from the beginning as he was overwhelmed with issues and under-responded to them. He was also overly stubborn on some things, which only served to alienate players and coaches. Not surprisingly, trouble was sown right away.


Offseason program: It was too soft, made worse by the fact that players were lax in taking ownership of their own proper conditioning. In general, the players weren’t worked hard enough. This extended into training camp, and the preseason. The consequences manifested immediately with an embarrassing season-opening loss in the heat to the Washington Redskins. Not surprisingly, a spate of devastating injuries to his best players soon followed as poorly conditioned athletes are more susceptible to injury.


Staff: The decision to eschew the hiring of a dedicated offensive coordinator to oversee the installation of a new system, and the decision to cede broad authority to Capers, who made inexplicable changes to the defensive system that Saban installed, was a leadership disaster.


Draft: Cameron and Mueller’s lone draft together was widely panned from start when the QB-starved team passed on Brady Quinn and instead drafted Ted Ginn, Jr. The final verdict on that decision is still pending, but the early returns don’t look good. That’s not to say that they should have drafted Quinn, who really doesn’t look any better than John Beck. Indeed, we’ve seen enough of Ginn to know that the guy can be explosive. Nevertheless, it does seem clear that Ginn was overvalued with the 9th overall pick.


The Quarterback Situation: On the heels of the draft, the QB situation was further exacerbated with the mishandling of the Daunte Culpepper/Trent Green transition. The issue was compounded early on with criticism from Jason Taylor, who foretold Green’s season-ending concussion with his now infamous “scrambled eggs” prediction that made perfect sense at the time, but only annoyed Cameron. An embarrassing training camp ban on Culpepper distracted the team further.


As the fallout from all of the above began to pop, Cameron lost his locker room leadership. Taylor strained to show a positive public face through it all, though no one doubted that he and Cameron just didn’t see eye-to-eye on things. Taylor, arguably the greatest defender in team history, lost faith in the Dolphins as a result and subsequently quit on them this year.


All of these facts are well known, and strike a sharp contrast with the current regime. No doubt Cameron feels that he did the best he could given the circumstances at the time, and probably would change some things had Parcells and GM Jeff Ireland given him the chance at a second season. Still, we can fully expect that Cameron would like nothing more than to stick it to Parcells and Ireland by having his Ravens post a strong offensive performance and getting the W.


That’s his prerogative, even though any objective observer would quickly conclude that Cam’s Dolphins were a mess, a reflection of poor leadership at the top.


Quite frankly, Cameron owes the Dolphins, and the fans, an apology for the pain of last season. Maybe one day he’ll give one. For now, a Dolphin win over his Ravens would be just fine.

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