I have never seen a team that I was cheering for play a worse football game than the Ravens played last night. The Redskins' 38-9 loss to the Raiders in the Super Bowl has now officially been displaced. Considering that Pittsburgh was up 35-0 in the first half, this was beyond futility. The Ravens were so bad that Notre Dame is trying to get them on their schedule in Navy's slot.
The whole team was awful, but Steve McNair deserves special attention for his horrendous performance. As bad as his stats were (13-22, 63 yards, 0 TDs, 1 INT, 2 fumbles), they don't tell the whole horrific story. He threw more balls in the dirt than a pitcher with two strikes on Barry Bonds. The one ball I remember him throwing downfield was a beautiful spiral into the chest of Pittsburgh defender James Harrison. Harrison also recovered McNair's fumble in the Raven's opening drive. Maybe Baltimore should trade for Harrison and convert him to wideout since he and McNair seem to have pretty effective chemistry. McNair was sacked six times, so obviously his protection was pretty bad, but he held the ball too long, threw way too many short passes, and got called for intentional grounding. He should have gotten called twice, but the officials must have been embarrassed for him. At one point, he completed passes on first and second down and the Ravens still faced third and two. When Brian Billick finally went to Kyle Boller, Boller's first pass sailed 10 yards past his intended receiver, who apparently forgot that pass plays over 15 yards were still in the gameplan.
So, it seems pretty clear that it's time to close the book on the McNair era in Baltimore. Yes, he was once a great QB, and last year, he was exactly what the Ravens needed. But he had three weeks of rest to heal and prepare for last night's game, and yet halfway through the first half he didn't look a deer in the headlights so much as a deer tied to the hood. Keeping him behind such a young offensive line is not just poor judgment, it borders on criminal negligence. Just ask Redskins fans how quicky Marc Brunell deteriorated.
And yet, Kyle Boller is not the answer either, which makes Boller's contract extension a few weeks ago completely mystifying. Maybe Baltimore is planning on putting together another defense like they had last year or during the Super Bowl season. That's really the only way this "plan" makes any sense.
Now, I am an optimist; I had the Ravens winning it all halfway through last season and stuck to that right up to their loss to the Colts in the playoffs. So let's put on the seriously purple-tinted shades for a minute. Let's say you win your next two at home against Cincinnati and Cleveland and manage to knock off San Diego (which really could happen unless they get smart and fire Norv Turner first). Forget about New England and Indianapolis, but then you are left with Miami, who stinks worse than the jack-o-lanterns still sitting on my front stoop, Seattle, who really never recovered from losing the Super Bowl, and finish with Pittsburgh, and don't tell me the Ravens won't be fired up for that one! See how easy this is? Now, you're 10-6 and marching into the playoffs when Peyton Manning and Tom Brady suffer a horrible accident while filming a Miller Lite All-Stars reunion commercial and suddenly it's all there for the taking.
Do I believe this will happen? Not a chance. I'm just waiting for college basketball to start.