Interchangeable Quarterback?

Boller Vs. Mcnair

`Doesn't matter who the quarterback is'

October 16, 2007|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,Sun reporter

In allowing injured Steve McNair to rest for another week, the Ravens are adamant about avoiding an unwanted pain - a quarterback controversy.

Even if backup Kyle Boller, who is 2-0 as a starter this season, has a solid outing Sunday at the Buffalo Bills, coach Brian Billick said he would not be tempted to keep him as the starter.

At yesterday's news conference, Billick emphasized that McNair will return as the starting quarterback for the Ravens (4-2) after the bye if he has recovered from groin and back injuries.

"There is no circumstance that I can think of that would not have [McNair] as our starter," Billick said. "We're lucky to have Kyle. But Steve McNair will be the quarterback - if healthy - for the Pittsburgh Steelers [on Nov. 5]."

Billick said the decision to rest McNair for the next two weeks was mutual.

"Steve McNair doesn't have to prove to anybody his courage. His whole career has been that," Billick said. "But in talking to Steve, the idea of getting a chance to be healthy as we approach midseason is intriguing to him. That competitor does come out, but he recognizes the value of doing this. So he very much signed off on it."

Billick has dealt with the status of his injured starting quarterbacks in different ways over the years.

In 2001, he went back to Elvis Grbac even though backup Randall Cunningham went 2-0 when Grbac was hurt.

In 2002, Billick stuck with Jeff Blake for the rest of the season though Chris Redman said he was healthy enough to come back and start.

And, in 2003, Billick decided to keep Anthony Wright as the starter - even when Boller had recovered - because he didn't want to disrupt his team's playoff run.

Based on the Ravens' locker room, it seems the players want McNair to remain the starter but have increased confidence in Boller after his recent performances.

"It doesn't matter who the quarterback is in this offense," wide receiver Derrick Mason said. "I think we have two very good quarterbacks who can come in and get the job done. Of course, we want Steve to play ... but as an organization you don't hesitate to put Kyle in because you know he has the experience and you know he's going to go out there and do what he needs to do to win."

Whether it's McNair or Boller, the Ravens have to find a way to score.

They have produced two touchdowns in their past 14 quarters. And they have scored 110 points, the same total after six games when Billick fired Jim Fassel as offensive coordinator.

"Not coming away with touchdowns at some point will cost us," Billick said. "It hasn't the last two games."

A comparison of the Ravens' quarterbacks:

Accuracy

McNair surprisingly has a 65.6 percent completion rate - which is better than his team record from last season - but it doesn't seem he has put the ball in the right spots as he did a season ago.

Because of his injured groin, he has not followed through on his passes, which have tended to sail high or behind his receivers on the intermediate routes. Still, McNair has the best touch of any quarterback under Billick.

Boller is becoming more consistent with his throws and has completed 63 percent of his passes this season. Yet he goes through stretches when he doesn't know when to put zip or touch on the pass.

Edge: Even, until McNair fully recovers.

Making big plays

The Ravens' coaches and players have repeatedly said they use the same playbook whether it's McNair or Boller at quarterback.

But it's apparent that Boller is looking downfield more often than McNair, whose bombs were weekly highlights on SportsCenter years ago. Boller has completed more passes of 20 yards or more (five) than McNair (three) on 76 fewer pass attempts.

Of Boller's 51 completions, five have gone for more than 20 yards (9.8 percent). Of McNair's 103 completions, he has connected on just three such throws (2.9 percent).

Combining a stronger arm with a riskier attitude, Boller is more of a threat to stretch defenses than McNair.

Edge: Boller

Decision-making

Boller might be the better playmaker at this point, but McNair is still the best caretaker.

After the error-filled season opener, McNair has two turnovers in three games and hasn't put the team in position to lose with a crucial mistake. Last season, he had the second-longest streak in team history without an interception (162 straight pass attempts).

Boller has improved his ball security significantly since his three years as the starter, but he continues to make errors at the worst times. His two interceptions this season have come in the red zone.

Edge: McNair

Mobility

One reason the Ravens will be keeping Boller as the starter is his ability to escape the constant pressure behind a young offensive line.

Putting a banged-up McNair behind this line would only get him hurt worse.

Even when healthy, McNair won't break many 10-yard scrambles, but he does have the pocket awareness to take a couple of steps away from the pressure and make the throw.

Boller is one of the more athletic quarterbacks in the league and can gain yardage when protection breaks down.

Edge: Boller

Leadership

The personalities of McNair and Boller are opposite.

McNair is one of the most laid-back players on the team, but Boller is full of energy. The calming presence of McNair was the biggest reason the Ravens won games late in the fourth quarter last season and turned around their troublesome road play.

Boller has yet to prove he can consistently lead the Ravens on the road. He has hasn't won on the road since Nov. 14, 2004.

He will try to end his seven-game road losing streak Sunday in Buffalo.

Edge: McNair

jamison.hensley@baltsun.com

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.