If Ravens quit vs. Texans, it could be a firable offense

On the Ravens

December 03, 2005|By MIKE PRESTON

There can be no excuses if the Ravens lose to the Houston Texans tomorrow at M&T Bank Stadium. No one wants to hear about injuries, inexperienced quarterbacks or lack of motivation. Nothing.

As far as the Ravens' coaching staff is concerned, their Super Bowl is being played against the Texans, or coach Brian Billick will have absolutely no ammunition when he meets with owner Steve Bisciotti at the end of the season. Well, if the Ravens lose, Billick might be meeting with Bisciotti on Monday morning.

What can he say if they lose?

Maybe he can mumble and stutter about "schematics, profiles, or parameters," but there can be no defense for losing to Houston.

The Texans (1-10) are the NFL's worst. They have the league's No. 31-ranked offense and No. 30 defense. They have allowed young quarterback David Carr to be punished with 50 sacks. He certainly won't be buying his offensive line any Rolex watches for Christmas.

The Texans are an NFL expansion franchise that hasn't grown up, and the Ravens (3-8) are a team that has grown old, but they still have 13 Pro Bowl players on the roster.

It will come down to which team has quit the most. Let's call it "The Shut It Down Bowl." Because neither team can make the postseason, some players become more concerned about injuries than playing hard. Some agents ask their players, or some players volunteer to "shut it down."

The Ravens are an eight-point favorite, and they should win at home. But if not, Texans coach Dom Capers might not be the only coach walking the plank at the end of the season.

Nominations for Ravens scapegoats of the year are quarterback coach Rick Neuheisel, and secondary coaches Johnnie Lynn and Dennis Thurman.

Somebody has to take the fall for this team drastically underachieving if Billick doesn't. It's easy to point a finger at Neuheisel because Kyle Boller and Anthony Wright performed so badly.

In the preseason, the Ravens were expected to have one of the best secondary units in the league with five Pro Bowl players on the back end of the defense. But at times, the group has looked clueless with busted coverages, and it has lacked communication.

Neuheisel is innocent. Neither Billick, Matt Cavanaugh, Jim Fassel nor David Shaw has been able to develop Boller during the past three seasons. And The Sporting News didn't rank either Boller or Wright in its top 50 quarterbacks in a preseason poll.

As for Lynn and Thurman, there's something wrong. Either the players or the coaches are having problems with the scheme. It's time for a full-fledged, Watergate-type investigation, similar to the one the Ravens are conducting in trying to find "The Source" that leaks information around the complex.

Safety Will Demps is out for the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament, and it will have significant impact on the Ravens.

Demps, along with fellow safety Ed Reed, are nearly the only players in the secondary who understand the schemes. When Reed missed the past five games because of a high ankle sprain, Demps was largely responsible for setting the alignment. The Ravens should get Reed back tomorrow, but now Demps is gone.

Also, Demps is a diehard player, a throwback. He beat the odds as a rookie free agent out of San Diego State to make the Ravens' roster four years ago and is the consummate professional. There's not a lot of flash, just great substance. You need a certain number of Demps-type players on a roster, especially since they will go hard every play regardless of whether the team is in postseason contention.

Speaking of which, cornerbacks Deion Sanders and Dale Carter aren't as good as they used to be, but at least they're out there playing full time and hard. At this point, that's all you can ask. It says something about their character, as opposed to some players who have given up.

It has become a weekly occurrence. Jamal Lewis talks, the media listens and he shoots subtle messages to the powers that be. Regardless of how he has performed on the field this season, there's an admiration for Lewis because he speaks his mind, unlike some of his teammates who often repeat the "Billick speak."

It was amusing this week when Lewis was asked about his "coming-out" game against the Bengals when he rushed for 113 yards on 23 carries, the first time he went over the 100-yard mark this season. He wasn't going to give anyone credit and hinted that he has been asking for more than 20 carries a game most of the season.

"I'm saying we didn't have any other tailbacks," Lewis said. "So you can take what you want to take, but we didn't have any other tailbacks. Who are you going to give the ball to?"

He was right. There was no stroke of genius, no great strategy. Everyone else was injured. Here's a toast to Lewis in hoping that he stays on the roster for another year or two, just to add some truth and sanity to this team during the course of the year.

Billick has taken his usual stance of defending Boller.

"If anybody had any doubt about Kyle Boller's physical toughness, they had to put that aside after the Pittsburgh game," Billick said. "The way he came back and responded under those circumstances [against Cincinnati on Sunday], I don't know if anyone can question his mental toughness. Whether that adds up to being a good quarterback, that's what we'll work through."

That's all great, but aren't we missing something here: Whatever happened to a quarterback having accuracy?

mike.preston@baltsun.com

Texans@Ravens Tomorrow, 1 p.m., Ch. 13, 1300 AM, 102.7 FM Line: Ravens by 8 1/2

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