It's time: Roll dice by rolling in Boller

The Baltimore Sun

The Ravens need to gamble and replace Steve McNair as the starting quarterback with Kyle Boller for Sunday's game against the Cincinnati Bengals.

No, I haven't lost my mind.

And I don't think Boller is the answer, either. But because coach Brian Billick won't fire himself and it's too late to hire another offensive coordinator, there doesn't seem to be any other choice.

The Ravens are desperate, and a change is needed. After the humiliating 38-7 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday night, this is a team in need of a spark.

It would be foolish, downright ridiculous to blame McNair for the failure of this team. He is just the latest of many quarterbacks who have had to play in this simplistic, incompetent offense through the years.

But his struggles are undeniable, and he reached all-time lows Monday night. McNair completed 13 of 22 passes for only 63 yards. He fumbled twice, losing one, and threw one interception. The turnovers led to two Pittsburgh touchdowns.

In the past, Billick always has asked his quarterbacks simply to manage games and not lose them. McNair is at the point where he is causing the Ravens to lose. His decision-making has been poor, and his failure to secure the football while scrambling is a violation of one of the game's basic rules.

It seems since the end of last season, McNair has aged faster than any man in America. Because of the beatings he took in Tennessee, he is quick to throw dump-off passes to his running backs and afraid to run downfield after bailing from the pocket.

It's understandable, just not acceptable, even from a player of McNair's stature. Once the Ravens trailed 21-0 in the second quarter, the game was over. We knew McNair couldn't bring the Ravens back, not in this offense, not with an arm that can't throw long passes consistently anymore.

Some of us changed the channel. A lot of us went to bed. Those who didn't saw McNair throw the interception late in the first half that helped put Pittsburgh ahead 35-0.

At that point, Billick should have made McNair wear a baseball cap and hold a clipboard while Boller trotted onto the field. Instead, Billick waited until early in the fourth quarter to pull McNair.

Why did he wait so long? It's hard to understand the wisdom of a genius.

Billick shouldn't wait so long this week, certainly not until the game. The change should be made now, enough time to give Boller the allotted repetitions with the first team. We all know the modus operandi on Boller: live arm, dead head.

But at least he can stretch defenses with long passes. At least he can run around and try to make plays. It's a long shot that he would succeed, especially with his previous failures, but at least it would be an attempt by the Ravens to breathe some life into a near-dead offense.

Cosmetic changes work wonders sometimes.

It's probably not going to make a difference because the Ravens have so many problems. Three offensive linemen returned to the starting lineup against Pittsburgh after weeks of being injured, but it could take two or three more games for them to get into playing shape. Clearly, the Steelers out-coached the Ravens, because the offensive line had no clue where the blitzes were coming from.

Regardless of the quarterback, the Ravens have stayed with the short-passing style of the West Coast offense. It didn't change with Scott Mitchell or Chris Redman. And it won't change with Boller. This offense has killed many quarterbacks' careers. Just ask Elvis Grbac, who went from the Pro Bowl the year before he came to Baltimore to retirement after one season in this offense.

But the Ravens can't win gaining only 104 yards of total offense as they did Monday night. They can't beat the Indianapolis Colts or the New England Patriots averaging 2.7 yards per pass play.

The Ravens should bring in Boller and let him do his usual stumbling and fumbling around. He'll misfire on those short passes in the flat and give us those high-arcing passes with that long, long windup.

But if he hits a couple, with the Ravens' defense, they're good enough to be competitive with most teams in the NFL. In the past, Billick has said you can't make change just for the sake of making change. Yes, you can.

The Ravens have nothing else to lose.

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