The American Football Conference's (AFC) North division-leading Baltimore Ravens fired offensive coordinator Cam Cameron following two consecutive defeats, the National Football League team said on Monday.
In an unusual move for a 9-4 team poised to clinch their division title, Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said he elevated quarterbacks coach Jim Caldwell to offensive coordinator and relieved Cameron of his duties.
"It's not about fair or unfair, right or wrong," Harbaugh said in a statement. "My responsibility is to the whole team and what's best for them right now. We need a change. Our plan and our goals are to win games, win our division and get to the playoffs."
Despite losing their last two games, a 31-28 overtime loss to the Washington Redskins on Sunday that followed a 23-20 defeat by the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Ravens hold a two-game lead in the AFC North with three games left to play.
The Ravens rank 18th out of 32 teams in overall offense and ninth in points scored.
Caldwell, who formerly was head coach of the Indianapolis Colts, has never served as an offensive coordinator or called the plays, tasks he will now take over, according to Harbaugh.
"My charge - our responsibility as a coaching staff - is to maximize the opportunities for our team to win, and we can still reach all of our goals for this season," Harbaugh said.
"What's important now is to find ways to get better, win the AFC North and advance to the playoffs."
Baltimore, holding a two-game lead over the Steelers and Bengals, host the Denver Broncos (10-3) next week, followed by the New York Giants (8-5) before closing the regular season at Cincinnati (7-6) on December 30.
Cameron, who was in his fifth season with the Ravens, has often come under criticism for the lack of consistency of the offense and for play-calling that seemed to frustrate quarterback Joe Flacco and all-purpose running back Ray Rice.
Harbaugh said making the late-season move was difficult for him to do on personal terms.
"There is a very human side to this," he said. "Cam is my friend, he taught me a lot about coaching, and he is an outstanding coach. Personally, this is the hardest thing I've ever had to do as a coach."
(Reporting by Larry Fine; Editing by Frank Pingue)