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Redman was never in the starting gate for QB job

THE CHARADE of a quarterback competition is over. Regardless of how Ravens rookie Kyle Boller performs a week from tomorrow against the Steelers in Pittsburgh, his $20 million price tag ensures he will stay in the lineup for quite some time.

But what about Chris Redman? Can he be effective as the No. 2 guy, or has he lost his confidence? Or will he slip to No. 3 behind Anthony Wright because of coach Brian Billick's fascination with another strong arm and another set of quick feet?

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That's the risk Billick has taken with Boller as the starter so early in the season. There is a danger of having two traumatized quarterbacks early in the season, one from trying to learn the pro game, the other from having his lifelong dream shattered for the second straight year.

Shortly after the Ravens' 30-24 loss to the New York Giants on Thursday night in which Redman completed only one of six passes (three dropped) and got little playing time or support from his teammates, he was back at the team's training facility in Owings Mills.

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He was watching film and saying all the right things. Yes, he could bounce back. Yes, he could serve as the backup to Boller. No, he had not heard any trade rumors nor would he talk to his agent about initiating any.

"A lot of quarterbacks don't start until later in their careers," said Redman, in his fourth season. "If I'm the starter, I can deal with it. If they want me as the backup, I'll do that, too. I have the mind-set of contributing to this football team any way I can."

It's good that Redman says these things, but he had a different body language Thursday night. When he made a mistake, he slouched. He tried hard to complete passes, but forgot basic fundamentals that he learned in high school.

Redman didn't look like Redman. He was a shell, one that had lost confidence and composure.

"Maybe I was pressing," Redman said. "I tried not to think about it [competing for the starting job], but sometimes you can't help it. I tried not to show my frustration, but obviously I was disappointed with my performance.

"I wasn't frustrated with anybody but myself," Redman said. "There were some things that I did that I never do. The short pass that I threw to Chester [running back Chester Taylor] was short because I didn't set my feet. There were little things I should have done better."

There is doubt he may ever fully recover in a Ravens uniform. Sure, Redman is a nice guy and extremely professional, but the Ravens have played a lot of head games with this kid.

They asked him to be an understudy for two years. They made him a starter last year (3-3 record, won three of his last four games) until a back injury sidelined him after game No. 6. Redman never started another game after the injury, never got another endorsement or any compliments from Billick.

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The quarterback competition was as fixed as one of those old roller derby matches in Baltimore. This was Boller's job to lose, and a team official said recently Billick had already told several assistant coaches Boller was his starter soon after the Ravens drafted him in April.

It started to show in the first two preseason games when Boller got more repetitions than Redman even though Redman was the starter. Whenever Boller played, the Ravens opened up the offense more and threw longer passes. Redman became the king of dink passes.

Billick recently said Boller threw longer passes because he improvised more and wasn't afraid to go downfield. Redman, like a lot of other people, saw it differently.

"I don't know why that happened," Redman said. "They have a call sheet and the calls were for me to always throw shorter passes. I'm not saying it was by design, but it happened. The call sheet is based on different strategies and situations."

The final decision, though, wasn't strictly based on talent or a player's upside. According to a team source, two of the Ravens' most prominent front office personnel wanted Redman as the starter, but the coaching staff wanted Boller.

Money played a major part. That's what the NFL is all about. It's a business, and if you make a lot of money, you have to play. The Ravens gave up a No. 1 pick next year to get Boller at No. 19 in the draft. Boller will make $5 million over the next two seasons, and could earn as much as $20 million over the next five years. Redman will make $1.2 million this season and is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year.

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Now, let's go back to 1996.

The Ravens draft offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden in the first round despite having a star left tackle in veteran Tony Jones. Jones became irritated with the move, he knew he would be gone within a season because Ogden had just become one of the highest-paid linemen in the game.

Guess who was gone?

Now, let's flash back to 2001. Ravens quarterback Elvis Grbac is stinking up Heinz Field in the team's playoff game against the Steelers, but Billick won't replace him with backup Randall Cunningham.

About a month later, Cunningham implies it was a business decision. He was making the league minimum of $500,000. Grbac was making $5.5 million.

This is not to take away from Boller's ability, but Billick is a very intelligent man. He knows the deal. It isn't fair what the Ravens have done to Redman, but there is no right or wrong. It's about business and investments. It's about money.

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It's life in the NFL.

"The competition was fair in a sense that all I could do was go out and play," Redman said. "This was not in my control. When they told me to play, I played. When they told me to sit down, I sat down."

Well, it's over now, and it's time for everybody to move on. The inevitable has happened and we should have expected it this early because Billick admits to being impatient.

Barring injury, Boller will be in the lineup regardless of how many mistakes he makes this season because he is "The Guy." He might sit down once in a while, but never for more than two games in a row.

Money talks.

Boller, though, will be all right. The kid has the strong arm Redman lacks and charisma to lead a team that desperately needs an offensive leader. No one knows if he'll be great, but hopefully he'll do well enough to stop the quarterback carousel here in Baltimore.

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Redman should rebound, too. It might take awhile, but he has too much pride and is a competitor. If Boller gets injured, he'll be professional enough to have himself ready. Hopefully, he'll play well enough to earn a shot with some other team next year, one that has a system like the Jets where they rely on more short, timing patterns instead of just tossing it up.

Redman deserves it. And maybe next time, the competition for the starting job won't be so rigged.


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