Helping Billick learn the quarterback shuffle


"I'm telling you, as the head coach of the Baltimore Ravens, there is never, will never be, a quarterback controversy. If I change quarterbacks every week, there won't be a controversy. It will be a calculated, analytical approach on my part ... but there won't be a controversy."

- Brian Billick, August 1999

So, OK, no quarterback controversy. Never. Scratch quarterback controversy. Don't mention it this season.

In the brief life of the Baltimore Ravens, their quarterback roster has included Vinny Testaverde, Jim Harbaugh, Eric Zeier, Scott Mitchell, Stoney Case, Tony Banks, Randall Cunningham, Trent Dilfer, Elvis Grbac, Chris Redman and Jeff Blake. In his fourth season with the Ravens, Billick in on his seventh quarterback. But there's never been a quarterback controversy. Never will be.

The Ravens open their season tomorrow against Carolina, with Chris Redman the starting quarterback. Billick has gone on record that Redman is their guy, their man, their quarterback. Listen, who doesn't want Chris Redman to be the next Johnny Unitas or anything remotely close?

Yet, with the win-fast-then-faster nature of football, the quarterback position seems more untenable than ever (See: Steve Spurrier's offense). If Redman consistently fails to be productive, Billick might well make a calculated and analytical decision to bring in Jeff Blake. But it won't be like one of those quarterback controversies.

But what fun is that? I say the Ravens haven't had enough quarterbacks or nearly enough controversy. A new quarterback every week could be delightful. Think of the new story lines if Billick would simply pencil in a different quarterback for each week of the regular season:

Sept. 8, at Carolina: Pivotal season opener for Ravens, as first-year starter Chris Redman debuts.

Sept. 15, Tampa Bay: Pivotal home opener for Ravens, as first-game back-up Jeff Blake becomes starter in second game.

Sept. 30, Denver: Pivotal seventh-season first meeting against Broncos, with second-game starter Jeff Blake to be replaced by third-string quarterback Dave Zastudil, the starting punter.

Oct. 6, at Cleveland: Pivotal televised Sunday night game, as the Ravens start Troy Aikman, former Dallas Cowboy quarterback and broadcaster, who replaces a struggling Zastudil. "Aikman is our quarterback," Billick announces.

Oct. 13, at Indianapolis: Pivotal non-televised Sunday night game, as the Ravens bench Aikman for former Cowboy quarterback Steve Pelluer.

Oct. 20, Jacksonville: Disappointed in Pelluer's productivity at the quarterback position, Ravens start former Cowboy Danny White. Press inaccurately reports a "quarterback controversy."

Oct. 27, Pittsburgh: With Steelers having won five in a row here, Ravens hope to reverse losing streak by starting Gary Hogeboom, former back-up to White. "There is no quarterback controversy," a testy Billick announces.

Nov. 3, at Atlanta: Without apparent cause, Hogeboom is replaced by Hall of Fame Cowboy quarterback, Roger Staubach.

Nov. 10, Cincinnati: Citing his age (60), Staubach is benched. His former back-up, Craig Morton, will start against the improved Bengals. Sports talk-radio hosts blast Billick's new choice for quarterback.

Nov. 17, at Miami: Having beaten the Dolphins in last year's playoffs, Ravens start "Dandy" Don Meredith after team makes "painful" decision to release the ineffective Morton.

Nov. 24, Tennessee: Looking to continue to shut out the Titans, Ravens tap 1960 Cowboy starter Eddie LeBaron as their new quarterback in Week 11.

Dec. 1, at Cincinnati: LeBaron placed on injured reserve. Ravens have used all available Cowboy former quarterbacks. Former San Francisco quarterback Joe Montana is signed mid-week. "Montana is our quarterback," Billick says.

Dec. 8, New Orleans: In a pivotal meaningless game against the Saints, Ravens decide to go with former Montana back-up Steve Young.

Dec. 15, at Houston: Citing a complete absence of a quarterback controversy, Billick benches former Montana back-up quarterback Steve Young in favor of former Steve Young back-up, Elvis Grbac. Fans skeptical. Billick analytical.

Dec. 22, Cleveland: Despite a slick first name, Grbac is replaced by former Ravens back-up quarterback Randall Cunningham.

Dec. 29, at Pittsburgh: In the final game of the regular season, the Ravens silence rumors of a quarterback controversy by renaming a startled but well-rested Chris Redman as their starter. Steelers start Terry Bradshaw.

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