Ravens fans run a reverse on allegiance to QB Boller

The Kickoff

November 08, 2007|By PETER SCHMUCK

It's probably just a coincidence that astronomers announced the discovery of an important new planet located outside our solar system this week, but I already was feeling as if I had been transported to some parallel world.

How else do you explain the amazing groundswell of public support for Ravens backup quarterback Kyle Boller, who was considered the poster boy for all that was wrong with the team a couple of years ago?

Let's take a look at the latest polling data and see whether we can put this situation into proper perspective:

Recent political opinion surveys show President Bush with a 34 percent approval rating and Congress even lower at 22 percent, while Boller was the choice of 88 percent of respondents to a baltimoresun.com instant poll that asked who should start at quarterback for the Ravens on Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Now, everyone knows that Internet polls are not scientific, but if they're good enough to help pick Major League Baseball's All-Star teams, they're good enough to be the basis for this insightful examination of the rapidly changing nature of public opinion.

No one is suggesting Boller should run for public office, but Ravens fans - by an overwhelming margin - would like to see him run the Ravens offense opposite Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer in a game that could effectively end the Ravens' quest for a second straight NFL playoff berth.

We're talking about a must-win situation, and the fans want to put it in the hands of the guy they used to deride for his happy feet and his suspect decision-making ability.

And it's not just the fans. There also has been a media clamor for a quarterback change after Monday night's embarrassing 38-7 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field.

Everybody seems to agree that Steve McNair looked old and overmatched in that game - except, of course, McNair and coach Brian Billick. Boller might not be the second coming of Joe Montana, but he's younger and quicker and he can launch the ball down the field, even if he isn't always sure where it's going to end up.

Throw in the fact that Boller has made a couple of big plays and done a much better job of taking care of the ball during his fill-in performances, and it's not difficult to see why fans have fallen into an anyone-but-McNair mentality.

It's hard to argue with that after the erstwhile Air McNair averaged less than 5 yards per completion Monday, setting an all-time NFL low for average yardage by a quarterback who completed at least 13 passes in a game.

Still, if you had predicted two years ago that Ravens fans would ever choose Boller over a highly respected former Super Bowl quarterback to start a pivotal game, you would have gotten some pretty sweet odds.

Chalk it up to the fickle nature of fandom or maybe just the frustration that has welled up over the past few weeks as the high expectations that followed the Ravens into 2007 have been replaced by high anxiety ... and not the funny Mel Brooks kind.

That mass frustration crystallized during Monday night's game and - fairly or not - became focused almost entirely on McNair, though there was plenty of blame to spread around.

He had a dismal night, to be sure, but Willis McGahee and Ed Reed also committed costly turnovers, and the banged-up secondary got scorched for five touchdowns by Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

It's amazing how quickly the fans have forgotten how McNair led the Ravens to a 13-3 regular-season record last season. It's just as amazing how quickly the fans have forgotten that they once wanted Boller exiled to the Arena Football League.

"It's amusing," said Billick, who clearly is not amused.

That said, if McNair struggles again Sunday, it should come as no surprise to anyone if Billick makes a midcourse correction. He doesn't need an Internet poll to tell him he can't afford to lose to the Bengals again.

peter.schmuck@baltsun.com

Listen to Peter Schmuck on WBAL (1090 AM) at noon most Saturdays and Sundays.

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