Yes, Christmas is coming a little early to most Ravens fans, who have been clammoring for this change since the Indianapolis game. While Smith has only played a few series, he doesn't look as lost as he was expected to be, since all we heard from the Ravens braintrust was that he was just not ready. However, after Kyle Boller suffered a concussion late in the fourth quarter of last week's loss in Miami, the possibility of making his first start existed. Brian Billick squashed those thoughts earlier this week, when he stated that the Ravens best chance to win rested with Boller starting the final two games of this season. Despite proving over the past five years that he is at best a decent backup, Boller has failed to prove the consistency that is needed to be a starting NFL quarterback.
Since the Ravens are long gone from the playoff hunt and will obviously have a top ten draft pick, they need to determine the direction for this team's future. Do they go for that franchise QB or look at other positions to fill their key needs? In order to make that critical decision, they will need to see who on this roster will remain and where on the depth chart will they be. While Boller is signed through next season, he does not necessarily deserve to be handed the starting reins right now. The rookie from The Ohio State University certainly deserves to prove whether or not he should be in the mix for a starting, or even the backup role. The only way to determine this is to give him a legitimate opportunity to prove he either is or isn't an NFL level starting-caliber QB. This does not mean finishing out lopsided victories or losses. It does mean allowing him to take the snaps in practice all week with the first team offense in preparation of the weekend's games. This will give him the same opportunity to succeed as Boller has had, yet without any significant success. Having Smith take those reps and start for the next two games may not give us a true indication of his future, but it certainly would be a decent glimpse.
If Smith has a decent game or two, he definitely would merit consideration for 2008. This could absolutely help GM Ozzie Newsome plan for the draft, and quite possibly overlook the Matt Ryans, Brian Brohms and other first round options at QB and go for other glaring needs such as one of the shutdown corners (my pick would be either Malcom Jenkins-Ohio State, or Antoine Cason-Arizona) with their first pick.
Unfortunately for Billick, Boller (or more specifically, Boller's head) made the decision for him. He is still feeling the effects from his concussion, forcing Billick to make the call to start Smith in Sunday's game at Seattle. Smith will be facing a tough defense in a stadium with a huge home field advantage. At the same time, if he has a respectable game, win or lose, he could return to Baltimore as a possible savior in their season ending home game against the hated Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers may still be playing for the AFC North title and playoff seeding and should be playing to win, as opposed to just sending out their reserves to keep their starters healthy and rested. If the rookie Smith can lead the Ravens to an upset victory and spoil Pittsburgh's playoff seeding, he'd be crowned the savior in Baltimore and the fans would scream for him to start the 2008 season under center.
While all that remains to be seen, it certainly has given some resemblance of hope for Ravens fans in this horribly disappointing and embarrassing season. Anything that can rescue us from this hell will be welcomed with open arms and Troy Smith is in the right place at the right time. Now it's up to him to prove he belongs. It's a tad early to give out presents, but here you go, Troy - Merry Christmas!