However, all indications are that linebackers coach Dean Pees remains the clear front-runner to succeed Pagano as the Ravens' defensive coordinator, and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron will stay in his current position. Coach John Harbaugh called a news conference for 11 a.m. Friday to discuss his coaching staff, ahead of owner Steve Bisciotti and the organization's top decision-makers' annual State of the Ravens address next week.
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According to a league source, Cameron called the offensive assistants Wednesday morning and gave them instructions for the coming weeks, yet another sign that he will return next season.
In his four seasons as offensive coordinator, Cameron's offensive philosophy and play-calling, along with his relationship with quarterback Joe Flacco, have been highly scrutinized, and the long-time coach has also been a lightning rod for fan discontent.
It was at its loudest this season as Flacco had the lowest completion percentage and the second lowest quarterback rating and passing yards in his four-year career. However, Harbaugh has long stood by Cameron and the Ravens' offense became more balanced down the stretch as the team won six of its final seven regular season games to win the AFC North and secure the AFC's No. 2 seed with a 12-4 record.
The Ravens also played a strong final three quarters in the season-ending 23-20 loss to the New England Patriots last Sunday, a game that featured one of the better performances of Flacco's career under the circumstances.
Team officials recognized that Cameron worked with an extremely young receiving core, two second-year tight ends, and a revamped offensive line that was without stalwart left guard Ben Grubbs for the early part of the season.
Pees, a 62-year-old who has coached Ray Lewis and the Ravens' linebackers the past two seasons, was a finalist for the team's defensive coordinator job last season that eventually went to Pagano after Greg Mattison left for the same position at the University of Michigan.
He has a long-time relationship with Harbaugh having coached him at Miami of Ohio back in 1983. While defensive line coach Clarence Brooks is also highly thought of, Pees has defensive coordinator experience, having performed those duties under New England Patriots' coach Bill Belichick for four seasons, from 2006 to 2009.
During Pees' tenure as New England's defensive coordinator, the Patriots were the only team in the NFL to finish in the top 10 in scoring defense each season, allowing less than 20 points per game every year during that span.
If Pees gets the job, he'll inherit a defense that finished the regular season ranked third overall in total defense, second in rush defense, fourth in pass defense, third in points allowed per game and first in red-zone defense. They also ranked first in the AFC with 48 sacks, 21 more than they had the previous season, while flourishing in Pagano's aggressive style.
Pees also would be the Ravens' fourth defensive coordinator in five season after Pagano became the fourth coach to lead the team's defense to land a head coaching job elsewhere, following in the footsteps of Marvin Lewis, Mike Nolan and Rex Ryan.
"Wow. It has been a whirlwind," Pagano said at his introductory news conference in Indianapolis on Thursday, four days after the Ravens' season ended. "Words can't describe the emotions that I'm going through right now and the feelings. Coming off probably the most devastating loss that I've ever been a part of in the AFC championship game and to go in that locker room and see those faces and we all know how hard it is to get to that stage and to see the tears. It's an all-time low, and the last thing I ever expected came across my table and now I sit here at an all-time high."
Pagano acknowledged that if Lee Evans hadn't dropped that pass from Flacco in the end zone Sunday, he might not have been standing at the podium, and at the pinnacle of coaching. But he said he would have taken coaching the Ravens defense in the Super Bowl over arriving in Indianapolis for this reason.
"I thought for sure that I was going to be coming to Indy to play for a world championship," Pagano said.
Instead, he was standing behind the podium in the suit, while the Ravens moved closer to finding his replacement, and solidifying Cameron's status.
Baltimore Sun reporters Mike Preston and Matt Vensel contributed to this article.
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