At a recent team news conference, Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome seemed more concerned about where his team was going instead of where it had come from in the 2006 season. And he addressed an area that few talk about since veteran Steve McNair became the starter and Kyle Boller the backup.
Who is going to be the Ravens' quarterback of the future?
"I have come to the realization that Steve could play two years, three years, I don't know," Newsome said. "But I'm already starting to think about who could be the next trigger-puller, and whether it's going to be Kyle, someone in the draft, someone in next year's draft, or someone on someone else's [team] like Steve came from someone else's team."
It's the perfect scenario for the Ravens to bring in a young quarterback. He could learn from McNair and also push Boller. He could gain a year or two of experience before he has to step on the field.
It can't get any better, right? But here's the problem: There aren't many good quarterbacks coming out in the draft. Notre Dame's Brady Quinn and LSU's JaMarcus Russell are the top two, but they figure to be gone before the Ravens choose with the No. 27 overall pick in the first round. There are some other possible first-day projections, such as Hawaii's Colt Brennan and Houston's Kevin Kolb, but they're nothing to get excited about.
The Ravens, though, need to find someone, and hopefully soon.
McNair, who turns 34 on Feb. 14, will make $3 million in 2007 and $4 million in 2008 before his salary jumps to $6 million for each of the 2009 and 2010 seasons. Because of his age and history of injuries, it's highly unlikely he'll finish the last two years of his contract.
If the Ravens had a young quarterback for 2007, they wouldn't have to do to him what they did to Boller as a rookie. They threw him on the field with a defense that was primed to make another Super Bowl run, but an offense that was ragged, had sorry receivers and an offensive line that couldn't pass-block.
And Boller still had his own issues like learning the offense, new coaches and adjusting to the speed of the pro game. Combined with poor mechanics, the kid didn't have a chance.
The makeup of this team is totally different now. The No. 1 and No. 2 guys are set at quarterback. The Ravens have good receivers who can actually make plays, and they've got a nice nucleus of young players, such as Jason Brown, Chris Chester and Adam Terry to build around on the offensive line. The defense is set, coming off a No. 1 ranking, and a young quarterback can learn from the work ethics of Ray Lewis, Bart Scott, Derrick Mason and Todd Heap.
In the ideal world, the Ravens need a quality, young quarterback to build around.
What about Boller?
Well, what about him?
"We've got Kyle Boller under contract for one more year," Newsome said. "Are the chips going to fall that he is going to get a chance to play enough for us to extend the contract? I don't know."
That's not exactly a ringing endorsement. Newsome, though, has never been a Boller cheerleader. That has always been coach Brian Billick's job.
"Obviously, it's a tough experience for a guy that has been a starter to then sit in the role that he did, and I think he was magnificent at it," Billick said when asked what Boller learned from this season. "He understood and accepted the role and did what he could for this team, and I'm very pleased with the way that he did it."
But the Ravens aren't going to turn the keys of this franchise over to Boller again, not unless McNair gets hurt and Boller turns into Superman next season. They've seen enough. A critical point of the 2006 season was how this team performed under the direction of McNair, compared with Boller. There was a new confidence level.
Despite the 13-3 record, the Ravens have some immediate holes to fill. They need to find a running back to upgrade their running game. They're going to need a cornerback to replace Samari Rolle, or at least the Ravens need to make safety Ed Reed more accountable when he is out of position because he wants to make a big play.
A quarterback would help, too. Maybe the Ravens can strike luck with Ohio State's Troy Smith, Michigan State's Drew Stanton or Stanford's Trent Edwards. They've had success at other positions. It's the ideal time to find some at quarterback.