If I had told you at the start of the season that the Ravens would have their first quarterback controversy since the Joe Flacco/Troy Smith debacle back in 2008, you would have laughed me out of a job. Yet, entering week 15, the Baltimore Ravens are sitting here with exactly that on their hands.
After the loss of franchise quarterback Joe Flacco to a season ending knee injury, the Ravens turned to veteran quarterback Matt Schaub. The 34-year old quarterback would get beaten to a pulp against the Miami Dolphins to find himself on the injury report heading into the week 14 game against the Seattle Seahawks. After leading the Ravens to a 1-1 record during his time as the leader, the Ravens would hand the keys to former Chicago Bearsquarterback Jimmy Clausen for a game. As unexpected as possible, Clausen wasn't that bad. Now it has the Ravens wondering what they should do moving forward for the final three games of the 2015 NFL season.
The Ravens don't really need to worry about winning any more games as they are out of the playoffs, but they do need to worry about the progression and scouting of players they have on their roster. Guys like Kamar Aiken,Jeremy Butler, Chris Givens, Javorius Allen, Terrance West, and others all need a competent quarterback in order to judge them fairly as prospects for the 2016 season. That is the real thing the Ravens need to pay attention to here.
Let's look at the options:
Keep Matt Schaub at QB if healthy
Schaub is the more veteran out of the quarterbacks currently on the Ravens roster. Yet, with that veteran leadership, he also brings a fair amount of baggage with him, namely pick-sixes. In two games, he has averaged 270 yards on 80 attempts, but has thrown 3 touchdowns to 4 interceptions, 2 of those going for a touchdown the opposite way. His 65% completion percentage is about standard for his career and is actually an upgrade over both Clausen and Joe Flacco. However, the reason he is able to complete so many of his passes is because he just doesn't have the arm strength to whip the ball around, so the passing game quickly devolves into dump offs and check downs.
Keep Jimmy Clausen at QB
Clausen has only played a single game, but he did well in it. Throwing for 274 yards on 40 attempts, he mirrors Schaub in production. The issue here is that he wasn't able to put the ball in the endzone against the Seahawks, a tough task given that Seattle has one of the best defenses in the league. The 28-year old quarterback did throw an interception, but it looked like a miscommunication more than an errant pass as would be expected from a guy that has been on the team for only two weeks. The knock against Clausen is his past, which is poor to say the least.
With the production being about the same, I have to lean towards keeping Jimmy Clausen as the guy under center. He might not be the answer for this season, but the year is already lost so that shouldn't factor into it. The thing that I believe gives Clausen the edge is that he could come back next season and beyond as the backup to franchise quarterback Joe Flacco.
Clausen is younger than Schaub by 6 years and have familiarity with offensive coordinator Marc Trestman from their days in Chicago. We've also seen Matt Schaub fail to make sideline throws due to his arm strength deteriorating. When looking to judge your offensive weapons, it is best to have a quarterback capable of making throws at all different levels and spots on the field, again giving Clausen the nod.
So when you look at it simply, Clausen is the clear cut winner here. The Ravens can get off easy by saying that Matt Schaub just isn't healthy enough to return, allowing Schaub to walk away with dignity. But make no mistake, I can't see the former Houston Texan being in this league another season.