Blog & Tackle: Notes on the Ravens’ QB battle

July 22, 2008 | Chris Pika

Seeing Drew’s blog about the “quarterback triangle” jogged my memory about something I had talked about on the Rob Long Show back in May just after the NFL Draft about how the QBs would be judged during the offseason and how a change in head coach can impact personnel decisions, especially when the starting QB was “tied at the waist” with the previous coach.

While working for the Saints, I saw Aaron Brooks, who was former head coach Jim Haslett’s “guy” at QB, cut almost immediately before the start of free agency by new head coach Sean Payton in favor of seasoned veteran Drew Brees in 2006.

Everyone else who was on the roster from the year before had the opportunity to show if they wanted to work in a tough-love system of a first-time NFL head coach, rather than the player-friendly setup of the previous regime. Sound familiar? The Saints went from 3-13 in the Hurricane Katrina season of ’05 to 10-6 and a berth in the NFC title game in ’06.

With that in mind, here were the quarterback notes I sent to Rob off the air on May 2:

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Key points:
New staff and head coach.
New offensive scheme.
New way of conducting the business on and off-field.
Coaches look at tape of last season’s games (mostly), maybe some of practices and some of training camp (light look) to see how practices were conducted and how QBs looked then.

QBs judged on:
How previous staff used them … how did they handle success and adversity … attitude in locker room and classroom.
How do they “take” to the new scheme and way of doing things (are they resistant to change and struggle with “non-important” issues, or do they roll with it and perform?).
Tape of OTAs (non-contact – very important to note), QB School … talk to (not take advice of) vet leaders to get sense of how it is going.
Does a QBs style fit the system to be installed? … installation starts at first mincamp, goes through entire summer (lot of on-field work with no pads) … who has best grasp of playbook and best skills to run the new offense when training camp starts?

Other factors:
How Ozzie Newsome and personnel staff rates the QBs going in … his vote counts a lot.
No pressure on new staff to stick with previous regime’s “guy” out of loyalty … listen to, but NOT hear fans … make their own determination.
Personnel around QB could be markedly different than 2007 … how does that affect QBs comfort level and performance?

Quarterbacks:
Troy Smith — last two games, there was no postseason “pressure” … could play loose and perform with “nothing to lose” – is that the real Troy? … has to concentrate on on-field work and off-field leadership … no letup allowed during the workouts, or Boller becomes best option at start of the season.

Kyle Boller — does his skills and attitude fit the new scheme better than the old one under Brian Billick? (that is something we won’t see publically for the most part) … has to personally believe that he is the starter and work himself accordingly on the field and in the classroom by picking up the new playbook.

Joe Flacco — has to pick up the playbook quickly and compete in all parts of on and off-field work … be a humble teammate, but battle for every snap. He is the QB of the Ravens’ future, but he can’t act like it in the locker room. Learn the business and compete.

Finally:
Someone will take the majority of reps when training camp begins … the decision is made over all of the above from first minicamp to last OTA, so it would be impossible to say right now and I think no coach would hazard a guess at the moment. The QBs will settle it themselves as someone will separate from the pack as the summer drags on by their work ethic and success.

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Now we get to find out which of the quarterbacks made the biggest impression away from the eyes of the public and media during on-field and classroom work during the past three months. And most important, the pads come on starting today, and practices become game-speed — not just pitch-and-catch with no contact, like minicamp. Let the fun begin.

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