I realize that if this column was made into a novel, it would probably be found in the fantasy section at your local bookstore. Kyle Boller sports a 20-17 record as a starting quarterback, including 2-1 this season as the backup for Steve McNair. While his numbers are no more than ordinary, they at least show a guy who has the ability to win, and the record shows it. Most of those 20 wins came with a much inferior offense than he has today. At the same time, the Ravens offense has been so anemic this season, it's the laughing stock of the league, with only the Chiefs, Rams, Falcons and 49ers worse than them (and the Rams figure to improve with the return of injured Marc Bulger and Steven Jackson!). However, the receiving corps have improved, as long as Todd Heap returns to action, and running back Willis McGahee is an upgrade over Jamal Lewis, especially with his pass catching ability.
Boller's youth, arm strength and scrambling ability has always been there. The knock on him continues to be what's under the helmet. His lack of pocket presence has led to "happy feet," leading to inaccurate throws and poor decision making. In order for him to succeed, the game needs to "slow down" for him, and even he has said it has lately. This will allow him the time to make the right decision in the pocket, as well as out of the pocket if needed. At least he has the ability to offer those weapons to this struggling offense, and due to his age and experience, he also has the ability to improve, while McNair is on the downward side of his career.
The year and a half that Boller has spent on the sidelines, wearing headphones, visor and carrying a clipboard have been a great opportunity to learn from a very good teacher. Watching Steve McNair's calmness in directing this offense last season was better experience for Boller than trying to learn it on the field by himself. While it is obvious that McNair's best days are not only behind him, but his future with this team is in serious doubt, now is the time to put Boller in there behind center, with McNair on the sideline as his tutor and mentor. McNair can be a priceless resource on the sideline for Boller and even rookie Troy Smith, who is now positioned as Boller's backup. Smith, though obviously not ready to lead this team, is one hard hit on Boller away from playing in the NFL. Standing beside the veteran McNair will be akin to having an walking playbook right next to you, dissecting the game and feeding you helpful information. Both Boller and Smith will benefit greatly from McNair's experience and commentary before, during and after the games.
However, they both better learn fast and cement themselves in these spots for next year during the next seven games. If these positions don't change over the course of this season, look for the Ravens to dump McNair and his salary before the 2008 season and perhaps look elsewhere, be it the draft or free agency for their 2008 quarterback. While I realize McNair will have a big salary cap hit, his $11 million salary would not sit well on the bench or in owner's Steve Bisciotti's wallet. If Boller wants to be in the team's future, the decision is now completely up to him.