Ravens: more yardage from hype than offense

September 14, 2004|By LAURA VECSEY

ANOTHER RUSE has been perpetrated on the city of Baltimore: Kyle Boller will lead the Ravens to the Super Bowl.

Kind of like Miguel Tejada, Javy Lopez and Rafael Palmeiro were going to lead the Orioles to wild-card contention -- if Boston collapsed and the American League West beat itself silly.

I recall a hopeful spring moment when an Orioles official said it was possible that trade-deadline deals could be made to improve the Orioles for the second half.

Welcome, Jason Grimsley, who is old enough to wear Deion Sanders' No. 37 jersey.

Instead of competing, the Orioles had an emergency.

See, in March, the Orioles were thinking they were going to be a lot better than they quickly proved to be.

And we believed it!

That is either a sign of fandom at its earnest best, or mental disability.

Same goes in Ravenstown.

"We should go 11-5, if everyone remains healthy" was the credo in Owings Mills last week.

Jonathan Ogden wasn't healthy Sunday in Cleveland, and he was sorely missed. That isn't the sole reason why the Browns made Jeff Garcia feel higher than Jerry Garcia.

Did you see the vertical leap on the former 49ers quarterback when he jumped into the Dawg Pound? Garcia celebrated his touchdown pass like it was the ultimate "nuts-to-you" gesture toward San Francisco and Terrell Owens.

Ten dollars to any Ravens fan who did not think, at least once, "Why don't we have Garcia?"

The book on NFL quarterbacks is that it takes five years to get it right. Look at Matt Hasselbeck in Seattle. He's being called one of the best in the league now.

But Hasselbeck was so raw, so jittery, so incapable of slowing it down his first three seasons that his interceptions and turnovers nearly cost Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren his job.

As it is, Holmgren, who also served as vice president and general manager, got every hat except head coach swiped off his head by owner Paul Allen.

What do you do with Brian Billick, the quarterback guru who once led Minnesota to offensive heights never before witnessed? Let him motivate and speak for the team six days a week, then sit him on the sideline come Sundays?

Maybe Jeff Garcia turns out to be the Browns' Trent Dilfer: just enough offensive execution to back up a pretty decent defense.

Oops, another snide shot at a Ravens franchise that has wasted too many seasons trying to handpick, groom and install a quarterback.

We'll let my colleague Mike Preston recite the litany of QBs who have come and gone. Too many to mention in the column inches allowed in this space.

But the point is: The QB/offensive geniuses in charge of this aspect of the team have continually mishandled and overestimated their ability to coach up a green quarterback, especially with an offense so vanilla, it's translucent.

In Sunday's "Mistake By The Lake," Boller was asked to do nothing except throw underneath and hand off to Jamal Lewis -- until the Ravens either decided to get cute or they panicked.

Both happened, no matter how many times the Ravens say they stuck with their game plan.

Last week, Billick chastised everyone on Earth and West Virginia who did not buy into the team's "positive" mind-set.

People confuse arrogance with conviction, he said with a sneer.

Well, there's no confusing the arrogance of a franchise that puts a second-year (barely) quarterback in charge of a team whose entire building process pointed to a Super Bowl run this season.

We're starting to smell a trend around these parts.

First the Orioles.

Now the Ravens.

Grand marketing scams that look good on paper, not to mention billboards, but where's the beef?

Or, in the case of the Ravens: Where's the offense?

We'll tell you where it is: It's in that third-and-one call in the second quarter.

Anyone watching that incomplete pass develop had to be shocked.

Third-and-one and you ask your nonexistent passing game to move the chain.

Even if it had worked, it was the wrong call, considering that the play required a jittery, over-coached, under-experienced quarterback to lay the ball into the outstretched hands of a Ravens receiver -- who shall remain nameless because, well, none of these receivers is named Terrell Owens.

There's a very good reason why the Ravens were willing to try to sucker Owens into accepting his trade here.

Owens had three touchdown catches Sunday, giving the Eagles reason to believe all those NFC title game debacles are a thing of the past.

As for the AFC title game -- which, when we last checked, was the only way the Ravens can get to the Super Bowl -- that doesn't exactly seem like a date we should be circling on the calendar.

Steelers coming to town Sunday; one of the toughest schedules in the NFL; expectations sky high, thanks to unabashed proclamations from a franchise with strong convictions.

If the trouble continues, the Ravens could always try trading for Grimsley.

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