Seeing should be believing in Boller at QB

Ravens Gameday

Ravens 30 Vikings 23

December 26, 2005|By JOHN EISENBERG

Now, the decision-making gets hard. Now, the Ravens have to decide if they can believe what they saw in these past two games.

Kyle Boller was superb again last night against the Vikings - suddenly, out of nowhere, he's another Joe Montana.

The passing game was prolific - receivers Mark Clayton, Derrick Mason and Todd Heap were open, dangerous, almost unstoppable.

The Ravens moved the ball all over the field, made huge plays and knocked the Vikings out of the playoffs six days after shattering the Packers.

So, do they dismiss it as a fluke? Or do they buy in?

Do they invest in this sudden, shocking turnaround when deciding what to do in 2006 and beyond? Or do they throw out this too-late rush of success and go with Boller's larger, more discouraging overall body of work?

Folks, the decision is easy.

It might sound crazy to say Boller has played his way into a job after seemingly having just played his way out of one, but that's the only rational conclusion. That's the right decision.

If you had brought in a knowledgeable football man and asked him to watch these past two games without knowing anything about the team, the players or their histories, the man wouldn't say the Ravens had a quarterback problem. To the contrary, he would say the Ravens had an above-average quarterback.

Boller looks like a completely different player. It's like the light switch suddenly has come on. He's looking off defenders, making quick decisions, getting rid of the ball, finding open men and hitting them - essentials that had previously eluded him.

Doing it in one game at home against a losing team barely trying (the Packers) could possibly be dismissed as a fluke, but doing it again last night against a winning team in the playoff hunt meant the transformation was for real to some degree.

You can't dismiss it. You can't throw it out. You can't invest three long, tough years in a young quarterback and then give up just when he's starting to figure things out. That would be the epitome of stupidity.

Why go through all the heartache to give up just when the dividends are starting to roll in?

Boller is still going to be erratic at times and make his share of mistakes, as young quarterbacks do. It will be interesting to see if he plays as well on the road Sunday in Cleveland. It will be interesting to see him on the road against winning teams in 2006.

But what he and his offense have shown in the past two games is - sit down - flat-out exciting. The receivers are terrific. Boller is in sync with them. The offensive line is giving him time. Entering an offseason in which they have numerous important decisions to make, it seems silly for the Ravens to tear apart the offense when it's finally coming together.

Forget starting over with another quarterback. The Ravens should focus on their many other issues. What should they do with Jamal Lewis? How can they improve the offensive line? What are they going to do with the defense?

It's important not to get carried away, as this team is wont to do. It's a mistake to suddenly start printing playoff tickets, as this team is wont to do. Remember, last night's victory was just the second of the season for the Ravens against a team with a winning record. They're now 2-7 against winners. Congratulations.

But if I'm running the Ravens, I give this offense a chance to keep growing. I bring in a proven veteran quarterback, an upgrade over Anthony Wright, for insurance if Boller stumbles. But I give Boller the ball.

Throughout this long, withering challenge to everything he stands for as an athlete, Boller has never blamed a teammate, ducked a tough question, packed it in or whined about the criticism. In fact, he has smiled about a lot of it, which speaks volumes.

"He has shown a lot of perseverance," Mason said last night.

That's the kind of player you want running your team. But of course, it was skill, not perseverance, that he needed to exhibit if he was going to keep his job - and he has shown it just in time.

I don't put much stock in the fact that the Ravens went 6-2 at home this season or the fact that they have won four of their past six games. They haven't been a good football team this season. They have been a disappointment.

But I do put stock in what I have seen from Boller in these past two games. Forget the numbers; you can just see him gaining confidence, figuring things out. He deserves the chance to keep playing. And here's betting he gets it.

john.eisenberg@baltsun.com

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