McNair won't be surprised if he's benched

BALTIMORE -- Steve McNair looked and sounded like a man resigned to his impending fate. After being replaced by Kyle Boller during the fourth quarter of a 21-7 loss Sunday to the Cincinnati Bengals where he fumbled twice and was intercepted once, McNair admitted that he wouldn't be surprised if he was no longer the Baltimore Ravens' starting quarterback following this latest debacle.

"This is probably the lowest point in my career that I've had over my last two games," said McNair, a four-time Pro Bowl selection who has committed six turnovers over the past two weeks since returning to the lineup from back and groin injuries. "What do I need to do about it? I don't know. I'm trying to play hard, but it's just not there.

"My turnovers have been killing this team. I don't know what the coaches are going to decide. If they decide to go with Kyle, that's fine. I'll probably agree with them."

Ravens coach Brian Billick was noncommittal on McNair's status. Normally, Billick has declared that McNair is still his quarterback no matter what.

"As of right now, yes," Billick said when asked if McNair remains his quarterback. "Obviously, we'll make all our adjustments going forward."

McNair threw a critical interception at the end of the first half on a red-zone pass intended for tight end Todd Heap, fumbling twice in the second half before Boller was inserted midway through the fourth quarter.

The former NFL Co-Most Valuable Player's first giveaway began a string of six turnovers out of seven Baltimore drives.

Wide receiver Derrick Mason, who played with McNair, 34, for several years when they were with the Tennessee Titans, acknowledged that he has never seen his old friend play this badly. McNair has 11 turnovers this season, including four interceptions and seven lost fumbles.

"There needs to be no pointing of fingers at this point," tight end Todd Heap said. "I mean, it's not like there's one guy out there making all the mistakes. That's not the case."

Added offensive guard Jason Brown on McNair: "He's still a great quarterback. He will continue to be a moving force in this league. You can jump up our butts all you want to, but guess what? That guy's a great quarterback." Still, McNair is definitely culpable for a lot of the problems.

He looks like he's playing in slow motion. His instincts and ability to serve as a caretaker for a conservative offense seem to have eroded nearly completely.

His arm strength is extremely questionable. Completing 17 out of 26 passes for 128 yards, his longest completion was 17 yards and he finished with a putrid 61.1 quarterback rating. For the season, McNair, who has thrown only two touchdown passes dating back to Dec. 31, 2006, including the playoffs, has passed for just 1,113 yards with four interceptions and a 73.9 quarterback rating.

One year removed from leading Baltimore to a franchise-record 13-3 campaign, McNair has lost four of his past six starts. A year ago, McNair passed for 3,050 yards, 15 touchdowns and six interceptions.

Now, he's one of the league's statistically-worst quarterbacks.

"I'm going to continue to work hard and somehow get out of this funk," said McNair, chalking up at least a portion of his struggles to bad luck. "The guys are always coming up to me. They've still got my back, and they support me. If another position goings into a funk, you don't notice it.

"As a quarterback, it's going to be noticed and it's going to be magnified 10 times. Unfortunately, bad things happen. Personally, I've just got to take this on the chin, take responsibility and come out fighting next week."

In relief, Boller completed 6 of 8 passes for 89 yards and an interception. He led Baltimore to one meaningless late touchdown to avoid a shutout when he set up running back Willis McGahee's 1-yard touchdown run with a 47-yard pass to wide receiver Mark Clayton.

Boller wasn't openly campaigning for McNair's job, but he might not have to. Not with McNair's disturbing body of recent work.

"I feel for Steve," Boller said. "He's a heck of a football player. It hurts, man. It's a tough loss.

"The defense played unbelievable. We've got to hold up our end of the bargain. I don't have all the answers."

Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital

Ravens Insider Top Stories