Thursday, August 07, 2008

Starting Boller is the right move...for now!

Kyle Boller is tonight’s starter for the preseason opener. That’s big news here in Baltimore. But so what! What does it really matter? It doesn’t matter if he throws for 3 touchdowns and it doesn’t matter if he throws 3 picks.

None of it counts!

Now some might say that the preseason is a precursor for the season and it serves as a building block for when the games do count. That may be true for Troy Smith and it may be true for Joe Flacco but it isn’t true for Kyle Boller.

Boller is who he is and that’s a decent quarterback coming off the bench and a serviceable backup who desperately needs a new address. How much more evidence do we need?

Boller is an inconsistent starting quarterback with a propensity to commit unforced errors at the most inopportune time particularly when playing on the road. Boller hasn’t started and won a game away from M&T Bank Stadium since November of 2004. To put that in perspective Boller’s last road win took place during the same month as George Bush’ re-election.

Yet all this aside starting Boller tonight is the right choice.

So far through a couple of weeks of training camp, no quarterback has really stepped up and placed distance between the other two competitors for the job. Lately Smith has taken a slight edge but nothing that suggests that he’s definitely the guy. Not just yet but it’s beginning to go that way.

Looking back on the hundreds of reps each player has taken during camp, the most memorable throws belong to Joe Flacco and the throws that everyone would like to forget most belong to Smith and Boller. Smith opened training camp by throwing a pick to defensive backs coach Chuck Pagano. For the record, it was Pagano’s first pick in the NFL. (He was never a professional player.)

Earlier this week, Boller threw a ball that was so off target it hit a barn adjacent to the practice field. Never let anyone say that Boller can’t hit the broad side of a barn. He can…

But I digress…

So why is Boller the right choice tonight?

First, since none of the three has really jumped far out in front of the others, why not go with the guy with the most experience – a guy who might not have the pre-game jitters that the other two have given his 42 starts. Boller has also faced the Patriots twice before and might not be as in awe of Belichick’s Bunch as Smith or Flacco. Keep in mind that Boller played well for 80% of the game against New England last December.

Secondly, if none of the quarterbacks has created separation, why not let the least important of the three start? Let Boller be the sacrificial lamb while “protected” by a left tackle who is 9 days removed from pouring concrete and a right tackle who moves his feet like he has shoes made of concrete.

There is a confidence factor at work here as well. Boller’s confidence is shaky at best. Why not give it a boost by giving him the meaningless nod as the starter? During summer camp Boller has been booed by fans DURING PRACTICE. A confidence building road start makes sense.

Confidence is something that Troy Smith has an abundance of. In fact, Smith’s self-assuredness is so great that it borders the capital of cockiness. Maybe the move to go with Boller is a light slap in the face intended to fuel Smith’s burning competitiveness while dishing out a dose of humble pie.

Starting Flacco makes no sense for the time being so let’s not even go there.

And what if the Ravens win?

A win could help move John Harbaugh’s program in the right direction. For Boller a win likely does nothing for his job security. There’s little doubt that this will be his last season in Baltimore. But a win for Harbaugh could be a psychological boost, particularly for those players who might not be completely on board with the rookie coach’s program.

The choice to go with the veteran Boller (now that seems a bit like an oxymoron) makes both short-term and long-term sense.

And after he wins tonight Harbaugh will make another smart move by naming Smith the starter against the Vikings at home for the second preseason game.

That might help to keep the boo-birds off Boller’s back at M&T and help security guards maintain order in the stadium.

After all, we aren’t allowed to stand up too much in the stadium anymore, right?

Photo by Sabina Moran