Despite Boller's struggles, Fassel says he will be outstanding QB

Ravens consultant stresses patience with 2nd-year starter


October 20, 2004|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

Ravens senior consultant Jim Fassel went to dinner with Kyle Boller on Monday, and he didn't leave with any leftover questions about the struggling young quarterback.

Boller is the NFL's 29th-rated quarterback and is in charge of the league's worst passing attack for the second straight season. He has received increasing criticism because he has yet to show the same productivity of recent first-round quarterbacks such as the Pittsburgh Steelers' Ben Roethlisberger and Jacksonville Jaguars' Byron Leftwich.

Fassel, who tutored Boller throughout the offseason and training camp, said he used his sit-down with Boller to talk about his game preparation, but also gauged his mind-set.

"I think the biggest thing he's going to have to fight through is to not press right now," Fassel said. "It's going to make him mentally tougher as we move through this, because I think he's going to be an outstanding quarterback."

Fassel is known for being one of the top quarterback coaches of this era and is credited with turning John Elway's career around in his first season with him in 1993.

In assessing Boller, Fassel warned against rushing to judgment after 14 starts, which includes a handful of games without starting tight end Todd Heap and receiver Travis Taylor.

"You have to have patience with young quarterbacks," Fassel said. "I'm not offering excuses for him. I want him to play well. He's made some mistakes that he can improve on. He just has to play within the framework of what he's being asked to do."

Fassel said he has been most impressed by Boller's presence in the pocket as compared with his nervous feet a season ago.

The next step is to keep him on an even keel throughout the game. Boller has had a tendency to rush when receivers aren't open early in games and blocking protection breaks down in the first quarter.

"There was a period of time in the preseason where he was smooth and fluid and other times he felt rushed and reverted to a year ago. I've seen that in him a little bit [in the regular season]," Fassel said. "He'll be in sync, and he'll get out of sync. He has to keep his tempo."

As a consultant, Fassel works twice a week with the Ravens.

He'll help break down game film on Mondays and offer suggestions on the game plan on Tuesdays, pointing out what matchups to exploit or weigh in on whether certain runs will be effective. Fassel rarely goes up to the board and designs plays.

Fassel and coach Brian Billick chose this schedule at the beginning of the year to keep Fassel involved in the game but allow him some free time after seven seasons as New York Giants head coach.

Fassel said he would be open to adding a day or two with the Ravens.

"If I need to be on the field with Kyle a little more or spend a little more time with him, I will do that," Fassel said.

Fassel's goal is to be an NFL head coach again next season. His contract with the Ravens ends Dec. 31 to allow him to interview for any opening at the end of the season.

He is working on an "operations manual" that will detail his ideas about running an NFL franchise (from hiring assistants to scheduling minicamps to drafting) that he can show to interested teams.

Next for Ravens

Matchup: Ravens (3-2) vs. Buffalo Bills (1-4)

Site: M&T Bank Stadium

When: Sunday, 1 p.m.

TV/Radio: Ch. 13/WJFK (1300 AM), WQSR (102.7 FM)

Line: Ravens by 6

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