Ravens coach Brian Billick tied up a couple of high-profile loose ends yesterday, naming Jeff Blake as his starting quarterback for the rest of the season and placing defensive end Michael McCrary on injured reserve.
With the Ravens surprisingly still in the playoff hunt, Billick said Blake provides the best chance at winning now and will stick with the 11-year veteran for the final four games of the regular season. Going back to former starter Chris Redman was considered too risky since he has not played in six weeks and has yet to take a hit on his injured back.
"Right now, given our situation - 6-6 and battling for playoff spot - Jeff Blake is our starting quarterback and will remain that way," Billick said. "I don't know that Jeff has done anything to deserve being replaced.
"The other factor I have to keep in mind is when Chris comes in, there's going to be some rust in there. I don't think that's fair to put this team in that situation. As long as this team is clearly part of the playoff picture, I can't imagine that situation changing."
There is a concern that changing quarterbacks can change a team's chemistry.
The league's third-lowest-rated passer this season, Blake hasn't looked sharp the past two weeks - completing 49 percent of his throws for a total of 224 yards - but he has led the Ravens to back-to-back wins, keeping them 1 1/2 games behind the AFC North-leading Pittsburgh Steelers.
Although Blake and Redman have different styles, their numbers over six starts almost mirror each other.
Blake is 3-3 and has connected on 54 percent of his passes for 1,061 yards, six touchdowns and six interceptions. Likewise, Redman is 3-3 and has completed 53 percent of his throws for 1,034 yards, seven touchdowns and three interceptions.
Redman, who injured his back on Oct. 26, has made substantial improvement the past two weeks and was listed as the Ravens' backup quarterback in Cincinnati. He estimated that he is at least 90 percent healthy and could return as the starter if given the chance.
"Obviously, I'm disappointed," Redman said. "I think I can go out there and compete. But I'll do what's best for the team. If that's going out there and being the backup, I'll be the backup. There's nothing I can do about it. I'm disappointed because I thought we were headed in the right direction."
When asked what Blake would have to do to lose the job, Billick said, "It would have to be something dramatic. It wouldn't be fair to Jeff, it wouldn't be fair to the team and it probably wouldn't be fair to Chris to throw him into that situation and put that kind of pressure on as long as we are a viable part of the playoff hunt."
In his first year as starter, Redman steadily progressed in the Ravens' ball-control system. But the Ravens don't plan to play Redman except in an emergency or in the fourth quarter of a rout.
"We've gotten most of the questions answered coming into this season, but the one that has left unknown is the development of Chris Redman because of the injury," Billick said. "Having said that, Jeff has come in and played well enough to put us in a position to be in the playoff chase. His situation does not preclude him coming back with us in that capacity. So yeah, I am walking a fine line between Jeff's presence in what he's able to do yet still would like to see Chris develop."
The Ravens are leaning toward bringing both Blake and Redman back for next season. Blake, who signed for the one-year league minimum this offseason, is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. Redman is a restricted free agent, meaning the Ravens need only to extend a contract offer to keep him.
But Billick refused to speculate whether Blake would be given the starting job next season or if Redman will have a chance to compete for the spot.
"We'll address that in the offseason and see how this year actually finishes," Billick said. "We'll go through that evaluation process as we always do and we'll lay it out to both individuals as to what our intentions are. Those choices could be multiple. Right now is not the time to define those. We have too much football left."
The Ravens are not as high on the future of McCrary, whose nagging knee injury forced him to go on injured reserve. After being the second-leading tackler on the Ravens' Super Bowl team, he has played in only 15 games the past two seasons, leading Billick to believe McCrary's career is over.
"Michael is a tremendous warrior and he is basically at the end of it," Billick said. "I'm pleased he gets to go out as a Baltimore Raven. I think that's important to him, and that he can leave with a Super Bowl ring in tow."
McCrary, 32, was not available to comment but a team spokesman said, "Michael is assessing his future." It is believed that McCrary is seeking additional doctors' opinions and wouldn't consider retiring until next year at the earliest. If McCrary retires before June 1, the Ravens would receive more salary-cap relief instead of cutting him.
The Ravens are expected to fill McCrary's roster spot today by signing rookie offensive tackle Lawrence Smith off their practice squad.
Next for Ravens
Matchup:Ravens (6-6) vs. New Orleans Saints (8-4)
When:Sunday, 4:05 p.m.
TV/Radio:Ch. 45/WJFK (1300 AM), WQSR (102.7 FM)
Line:Off the board
SunSpot:For more coverage, visit sunspot.net/ravens
A comparison of the Ravens quarterbacks Jeff Blake and Chris Redman after six starts each:
QB...Cmp-Att...Yds...Pct. ...YPA...TD...Int...Sack...Fmb...Rat. ...W-L