It's time to look beyond Boller

On the Ravens

Commentary

December 13, 2005|By MIKE PRESTON

The Ravens have to complete the schedule, so Kyle Boller has three more games as a starter, but we've all seen enough. It's a formality now, but it's clear that Boller is not the answer, and it's time to look elsewhere.

The Ravens should have been making phone calls around the NFL and college football this morning looking for a starting quarterback. The San Diego Chargers should have gotten a call about the availability of Philip Rivers or Drew Brees. The Ravens should be talking to Atlanta about prying loose Matt Schaub.

On the college level, there's USC's Matt Leinart and Vanderbilt's Jay Cutler who are worthy of first-round selections, and Texas junior Vince Young if he decides to leave early. This is the area of the unknown, where the Ravens have to rely on opinions of scouts, but at this point, it's better to gamble on the unknown than the known (Boller).

No one can defend him anymore. Ravens coach Brian Billick can paint an optimistic picture and pontificate about his character and toughness, but the faces of Billick on the sidelines in the Ravens' 12-10 loss to Denver told the story of a coach who has reached a point of resignation. He knows Boller will not be the man in Baltimore.

Billick's face Sunday showed torment, frustration and desperation. He wants Boller to be successful because so much is at stake. So much, in fact, that he hinted yesterday that a sports psychologist might help Boller.

"We'll find a number of different ways to assess that," said Billick. "Ozzie [general manager Ozzie Newsome] and I have talked about that a little bit. Anything you can do, any amount of money we spend to focus these players on whatever can help them is astounding. There might be a couple of things that I have in mind that I think could help put Kyle or any of our quarterbacks in a more productive mental state as they prepare for the game, whether it's mental exercises that they go through or physical ones."

Isn't anything private anymore?

This is going to go over great in the locker room where Boller is already struggling to maintain the confidence of his teammates. The team leader needs to sit on a couch with Dr. Phil. Where was this guy when Elvis Grbac was crying on the field? Wasn't Billick supposed to be the master motivator and Jim Fassel the guru of all quarterback gurus?

It's not going to work.

Either you're instinctive about the game or not. You're either accurate or you're not. You can't teach those things. When you watch Boller play, nothing is smooth. Everything is clumsy and awkward from handoffs to ball fakes to dropbacks. He's not a natural.

His three years have been filled with more notable blunders than successes. The three-meltdown performance Sunday, including the slowest moonwalk in the history of mankind, was an all-time low. He can be put in the closet with other former Ravens quarterbacks.

Now it's time for the Ravens to huddle and start game-planning for the future.

Both Schaub and Rivers are unproven, and maybe their respective teams aren't willing to bargain. But the Ravens have to at least look into the possibilities. Both lack playing time, but the word on Schaub is that he is smart and accurate, two major ingredients of a good quarterback.

Unless the Ravens collapse in the final three games and other teams below them win, they won't have a chance at Leinart, who'll probably go at No. 2 behind Trojans running back Reggie Bush. The Ravens are with New Orleans, Arizona, Miami and the New York Jets as teams in need of a quarterback.

Cutler's stock rose during his last three college games. At 6 feet 3 and 230 pounds, he is a leader with a good arm and accuracy. He had to have something going on to win at Vanderbilt. The main criticism is that he needs to improve on his mechanics.

"Cutler is hot," said ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper. "He has played well despite a mediocre supporting cast, and an average offensive line. He is consistent and moves around. He can get a lot more momentum if he has a good Senior Bowl."

And then there is Young.

The word is Newsome likes the guy. If he comes out early, he might be there for the Ravens in the first round. He's 6-5 and 230 pounds and has great athleticism. He made some bad decisions last year, but a lot fewer in 2005. Some scouts don't like his delivery, but who cares? The big pluses are that he is accurate and a winner.

"He has said there is a 50/50 chance that he'll stay at Texas," Kiper said. "If he comes out, he could impact the Ravens in that five to 10 range in the first round. He can be an intriguing quarterback like Michael Vick because he is a great runner, or he could easily become a great quarterback."

It's December, and it seems so premature to talk about the draft in April. It's hard to predict who will be available, but it's better to make plans than to be left wanting. It's a painful lesson the Ravens learned this year.

It really hurt Sunday.

mike.preston@baltsun.com

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