Pull Boller? When push comes to shove, no chance

August 28, 2005|By DAVID STEELE

IT'S NOT AS bad as you think, having Kyle Boller starting at quarterback for the Ravens. Really. If everything comes together, if everybody comes back healthy, if the offensive scheme gets a tweak here and a tweak there, it'll be just fine.

As long as the offensive line never lets a pass rusher near Boller ... and Todd Heap returns at full health and in Pro Bowl form ... and the new wide receivers pick up the system instituted by the new offensive coordinator and run it perfectly ...

And Jamal Lewis looks like the 2,000-yard rusher he once was ... and Chester Taylor runs the way he has in the preseason while filling in for Lewis ... and Lewis and Taylor each get about 300 carries, and the line blocks for them the way it has the past three weeks ...

And the offense has short fields provided by the Super Bowl-caliber defense, and gets a touchdown a game off of turnovers, and another one from the special teams, and has Matt Stover to do what he has always done ... and if the sky is clear and the field is dry and the wind is blowing right and the stars are aligned ...

Well, if you get all of that going in Boller's favor, you might as well book your flight to Detroit in February now. This will be an offensive juggernaut.

Yes, it's a little hard to show faith in what's going on with the Ravens' offense, and very hard to believe that at some point this season Boller is going to show us all why he's the right man to run it. No matter how much of the preseason game in New Orleans on Friday night (aka Offensive Abomination No. 3) wasn't even remotely his fault, and no matter how tough he had to be to withstand the beating he endured, he still didn't give observers much reason to share the confidence in him that Brian Billick has.

At some point, a team has to count on its quarterback to shore things up when everything else is slipping - not vice versa. Who knows how much longer it will be before these Ravens can do that with Boller?

Yet calling for Boller's head is pointless, because he is staying where he is for the foreseeable future. Scream all you want for Anthony Wright to start, but it's going to fall on deaf ears. Too much is invested in Boller for the franchise to create even the faintest image that the job is up for grabs.

After all the offseason shuffling, what worked in the preseason, especially against the Saints, was what has always worked: turning and handing off. But that success - now with Taylor, all but certainly later with Lewis - hasn't translated into better times for the passing game.

The two sides of the offense look as if they're populated by two different groups of players, the difference is so severe. Heck, Boller's highlight Friday might have been the downfield block he threw on Taylor's second long first-quarter run. People have lost jobs for putting the quarterback in danger as often as the Ravens put Boller in danger in New Orleans. Yet every instance in which that happens can't end in disaster, and that's what runs through the minds of everyone who watches these games and sees Boller making a snap decision as an assignment is blown or as a coverage switched or as a pass rusher storms his way.

To create the impression that circumstances have to be perfect for the quarterback to be effective is asking for trouble - and that's what the Ravens have. There are enough quarterbacks in the NFL below the Manning-McNabb-Brady level proving that they can make things happen when called upon.

Just this weekend, none other than the Jaguars' Byron Leftwich (taken 12 spots ahead of Boller in the same draft) and the Redskins' Patrick Ramsey (also awful for two preseason games until Friday night against the Pittsburgh Steelers) showed what can come simply from making the right decisions under duress.

Whether Wright could succeed, or at least negate trouble, in similar situations is something we probably won't know unless this continues well into the regular season. You can definitely make a case that he deserves a look as much as Boller does. But to give in now - even for one preseason game, to see how he does with the offensive starters and against a first-string defense - would reek of desperation.

It also would make one wonder why Wright didn't get a chance in the beginning of camp to compete for the job, and whether the big offseason offensive shake-up was a waste of time and money. Those are questions no one really wants to ask, much less answer now.

The status quo isn't enticing, though. There are many ways to interpret Boller and the Ravens' offense so far, but he's flunking the eyeball test. And he's running out of time to raise his grade.

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