Billick: 'It does get frustrating'

OWINGS MILLS -- Despite his path of self-destruction paved with horrific bumbles, an inexplicable fumble and perplexing decisions, Kyle Boller will quarterback the Baltimore Ravens for at least the final three games of the season.

Ravens coach Brian Billick reiterated Monday that he won't abandon Boller as his starter following his three-turnover outing in a 12-10 loss to the Denver Broncos. He was noncommittal, though, about committing to Boller for 2006 as he'll continue to evaluate the lowest-rated starter in the AFC.

Of course, making that decision hinges on whether Billick is retained after an underachieving season.

"It's easy to focus on the quarterback, and I know a lot of judgments have already been made and that's fair, but it's my job to look beyond that," Billick said. "I'm not making an excuse. It's very simple to say, ‘This is what went wrong and this is what cost you the game.'

"It's obviously more visible at the quarterback position. Kyle played well enough for us to win the game, but did a couple of things that put in jeopardy as well."

Boller threw two costly interceptions in the red zone and fumbled without being touched, simply dropping the football. He had a 31.4 passer rating after the third quarter.

Plus, Boller tripped, scrambled to his feet and short-armed an interception off his back foot to double-covered tight end Todd Heap. He admitted that he should have thrown it away and settled for a field goal.

"You put yourself at risk when you throw an interception when you're in field goal shape, but then it's compounded when you let them go the length of the field for a field goal when it ends up being a two-point game," Billick said. "There are a lot of things to critique in that sequence beyond, ‘Should the quarterback have thrown that ball? Should the guy that tripped Kyle not motioned as far?"

Boller has completed 57.7 percent of his passes for 1,106 yards, five touchdowns and nine interceptions. His 63.0 passer rating is only 2.1 points ahead of struggling Chicago Bears rookie Kyle Orton, the lowest-rated starter in the league.

Billick insisted that he's not going to weigh this latest meltdown more than Boller's other six starts.

"No, it's no different from, ‘Do you let the combine dictate whom you draft?'" Billick said. "That's a mistake. I am not going to weigh it any more or less than any other performance. I certainly am not going to make those judgments with three games left to see what else we can find out about Kyle, or any other player."

Boller's frenetic pace has been described as hyperactive. He often lapses in his fundamentals and mechanics with his rushed pace.

Boller's backpedaling wasn't sharp in Denver. He missed several open receivers while locking onto his primary read.

"He has to calm his mechanics down," Billick said. "When he does, he's pretty darn good. Maybe if we can play enough games, the league will beat it out of him to the point where he just, out of necessity, slows down a little bit in some of the key fundamentals."

Billick acknowledged that he will factor in whether teammates have confidence in Boller, referencing when he parted ways with Trent Dilfer in 2001 and signed Elvis Grbac.

"The last time I made a dramatic quarterback move was after the Super Bowl, I had a great deal of player input," Billick said. "I'll leave it at that. Confidence in your teammates is huge and it becomes more paramount with the quarterback."

Billick has talked about augmenting the quarterback spot with a veteran, but noted that he's uncertain what the quarterback market will offer in March.

Cincinnati's Jon Kitna and Oakland's Kerry Collins are likely to be available as free agents. Trade options may include Atlanta's Matt Schaub, Tennessee's Billy Volek and San Diego's Philip Rivers.

Despite a public outcry of dissatisfaction with Boller's work, Billick remains steadfast behind his hand-picked starter.

"I mean this respectfully, I really do, I'd be very careful about making generalizations about the fans of Baltimore," Billick said. "There's a vocal group that has that perspective. I'm sure there's a group that has a perspective about me.

"You're always respectful of what your fans' perspective is, but you have to be very careful, I am, about assuming this is what the fans in general want or think compared to a very vocal minority."

For Boller, the questions are: Will he ever get it? Or will he fulfill the prophecy of his biggest critic, Shannon Sharpe, who declared that Boller is only good enough to get himself cut and his coach fired?

Billick acknowledged that Boller's growing pains do wear on him.

"Sure it does," said Billick, who didn't dismiss a suggestion about consulting a sports psychologist. "Does it get frustrating with your kids? They hurry things too quickly or don't calm down and do the right thing. Yeah, it does get frustrating. So, what is the next step, how do you get them do to that?"


In addition to being a long time contributor to RavensInsider, Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times in Westminster Maryland.

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