Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

19 Sep 2005

Now We Know Blame is not All Yours, Kyle

The Ravens aren't very good and nobody can blame Kyle Boller. In fact, if you want to point fingers, use all five for the offensive line, because they might be the worst unit in football. Is it too early to start talking about who should replace Brian Billick? (bugmenot/free registration required)

Posted by: P. Ryan Wilson on 19 Sep 2005

53 comments, Last at 22 Sep 2005, 11:12am by mactbone


by andrew (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2005 - 8:51am

Worst offensive line in football? The AFC maybe.

by the ghost of pfp present (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2005 - 9:26am

The ravens don't have nfl type conditioning standards for their offensive lineman. I live in the d.c./maryland area and keydrick vincent who came from pittsburgh to baltimore was talking about how he enjoyed the training camp experience much more with the ravens because he didn't have to pass the conditioning drills that the steelers and other teams have for their lineman. The o-line for the ravens is grossly out of shape. Jamal Lewis is grossly out of shape. They are trying to get in shape during the season. They are not the only team in the nfl trying to do this they are just a little farther behind the pack and it's killing their offense.

by a-dam (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2005 - 9:43am

ryan, i don't think it'll ever be too early to discuss who's replacing brian billick.

watching the ravens line get absolutely destroyed by the titans' front seven, though, was fantastically painful. that same unit looked awful against pittsburgh last week, yet yesterday it seemed jamal lewis got hit in the backfield on just about every carry. i know keith bullock is an all-pro, but when kyle vanden bosch and randy starks are blowing up your running plays there might be a problem. i'm sure the offensive genius will fix it though by midweek...

by B (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2005 - 10:12am

"Worst offensive line in football? The AFC maybe."
Have you seen the Dolphins O-Line? The Ravens might be the worst O-line in the AFC North (Cleveland?). Remember when everybody picked the Steelers to decline and the Ravens to win the AFC North? Good times.

by Nate (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2005 - 10:53am

After living in Chicago for so long, I just assume any team with an all-pro LT has at worst a passable o-line.

by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2005 - 11:06am

Have you seen the Dolphins O-Line?

No way. The Dolphins O-line is clearly better than Baltimore's. Baltimore's had 77 & 14 yards rushing, and has given up 9 sacks. Miami's had 151 & 66 yards rushing, and has given up 2 sacks.

Miami so far is consistent with being a mediocre O-line. Baltimore, however, looks like a complete joke of an offensive line.

We'll see as the season progresses, but if things continue like this, by the end of the season, the Ravens will be trying to find their 5th quarterback down at Home Depot.

by Adam (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2005 - 11:30am

The value of Russ Grimm to the Steelers can best be argued by pointing to Oliver Ross and Keydrick Vincent in their new digs.......


by princeton73 (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2005 - 11:37am

is it possible to rank 33rd in offensive DVOA?

by B (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2005 - 11:38am

Miami running plays: 55
Balt running plays: 34

One reason Baltimore has more sacks and less rushing yardage.

by Fiver (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2005 - 11:52am

I don't think the Ravens OLine struggles should surprise anyone. They are old, they have two new starters, and they are trying to institute a new blocking scheme. That's a bad combination. Add on top that the new OLine coach who is instituting that new blocking scheme was brought in from the Miami Dolphins, who have had one of the worst OLines in the NFL for the past couple years, and you have predictable results.

by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2005 - 12:14pm

One reason Baltimore has more sacks and less rushing yardage.

True. So it might be fair to rank the O-lines the same, but then you have to say that Fassel is an idiot as well. When you're pass-protecting that poorly, you've gotta run the ball more.

by B (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2005 - 12:35pm

No argument there, although at least some of the blame has to go to Billick. After all he was the guy who saw his team demolish the Giants offense in superbowl 35 and though "I gotta get me some of that" and eventually hired thier head coach to first be an "offensive consultant" and finally the offensive coordinator.

by Johonny (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2005 - 12:50pm

"Miami’s had 151 & 66 yards rushing"

Well 69 of those yards are from Chris Chambers so I'm not sure thats a big positive. So far Miami clearly has gotten the worst of the Auburn RB's and I have to wonder why the Dolphins are not starting Sammy Morris.

by Countertorque (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2005 - 1:52pm

Bal: (77+14)/34 = 2.7
Mia: (151+66)/55 = 3.9

But you knew that.

by Tim (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2005 - 1:54pm

Just to mournfully throw another name into the offensive line debate, the Texans have 95 and 113 rushing yards (which is not really so bad) and 13 sacks. Most of last week's sacks, at least, were Domanick Davis's fault (compounded I would say by the design of the blocking schemes exposing Davis unnecessarily).

by mawbrew (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2005 - 1:55pm

Slightly off-topic Ravens observation and question.

It seems the Ravens have avoided adding a decent back-up QB because they are concerned with avoiding a QB controversy and/or hurting Boller's confidence. The question I've got is who in Baltimore made this decision, former genius Billick or current genius Newsome?

by Colin (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2005 - 2:17pm

being a baltimore fan, i've gotten to watch the destruction of this offensive line for the past few years. It may be the players, and it may be partly the scheme. Personally, I put much of the blame on RT orlando brown. The man simply cannot pass block at all, and in his old age he's starting to lose his famed run blocking ability. Watching the last two years of raven football, it's shocking the number of times the pass rush comes from the right side, with boller/wright ducking and weaving between rushers. The left side of the line is fine, if a little graybearded. That doesn't seem to have stopped Kansas City though. Offensive line is definitely one of those positions where people can play for a long time without seriously diminishing skills. Ogden is an excellent LT, and he is getting old. Still, let's point out that he didn't begin to slide last year until that colts game where he had the injured hamstring and could barely move. It was obvious that dwight freeney was just going to run around him because he was just a big rock from that point on. Let's not forget that freeney is also the most dominant pass rusher we've seen in many years. It's clearly the running game that is hurting the ravines, and that probably can be attributed both to jamal lewis and the line, and a fair bit less to the lack of a passing game since the ravens have been a rather decent passing team the last two weeks, they've just had absolutely no running game.

by David (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2005 - 2:23pm

After Sunday, I think the Lions O-line also deserves some mention in this category. They reminded me of the first year Texans.

by David Carr (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2005 - 2:39pm

The 5th year Texans Offensive Line isn't very good either.......

by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2005 - 2:44pm

OK, my new updated worst offensive lines in football:

1: Houston Texans
2: Baltimore Ravens
3: Miami Dolphins
4: Minnesota Vikings

I think that's pretty fair.

by Basilicus (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2005 - 3:03pm

Yep, fire the guy who only has one losing season in the six he's been coaching.

by Richie (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2005 - 3:26pm

My pre-season Super Bowl prediction is looking good: Minnesota vs. Baltimore

by SamB (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2005 - 3:30pm

The Ravens might be the worst O-line in the AFC North (Cleveland?)

Cleveland's O-line has given up 0 sacks so far this season, and is decent at rushing (stats not so good, but it's opened up the pass).

by TMK (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2005 - 3:41pm

That's par for the Billick-haters, Basilicus.

Now if he had as bad a record as say, Jeff Fisher, then they might have a point. Let's see how the season plays out before we start firing people -- although why they hired the Dolphins' o-line coach is a mystery to me.

by mawbrew (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2005 - 3:49pm

Re: 21

You can certainly make a case for Billick based on the record. However, there seems to be some sentiment that the guy is a mediocore coach that got lucky enough (thanks to good personell people) to be surrounded by some very good talent, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Further, there's some feeling that the offensive genius tag he received in Minnesota was largely due to Randy Moss. With the Ravens, his offensive genius hasn't yielded much (other than making Trent Delfer look mighty good by comparison).

by TMK (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2005 - 4:42pm

I wonder how come all the Billick haters seem to forget the 2002 season. Interestingly enough, it was the only losing season he has had in Baltimore, but it was probably his best coaching job.

That was the year that the cap purge and the expansion draft removed a number of the great players from the SB champs, and Ray Lewis was injured for most of the year. Kibbles remembers; it was the year that unbeaten Denver came into Baltimore to face an 0-2 Ravens team coming off a bye week on a Monday night. In respect to Denver, we won't mention what happened in that game, but suffice to say that the youngest team in the NFL that year (less experienced than even the expansion Texans), wound up at 7-9, missing the playoffs only by blowing their last two games. In short, the guy took an expansion roster and fashioned a playoff contender out of it.

If Fisher can do the same thing in the same situation at Tennessee this year, he'll get Coach of the Year, and he'll campaign for it with all his press corps buddies. They'll also make excuses for him when it doesn't happen. But Billick? Two wretched performances, and all the haters are already saying that he's overrated, that he won only because of his players, blah, blah, blah. And let's speculate on who will replace him, because his very presence is an affront to us.

And will someone please post wherever he ever called himself a genius? You can't, because it never happened. The whole thing is a media creation, and the dittoheads keep barking it out. This isn't politics, though; on this site, you have to back it up with facts. So go get some.

by mawbrew (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2005 - 5:11pm

TMK, you seem a bit sensitive regarding Billick, is he a relative of yours?

The Ravens loss to the Titans was a big upset (the loss to the Colts wasn't unexpected). When this stuff happens, the head coach is probably going to receive some scrutiny.

For the record, I'm no Billick hater (the idea is really sorta silly) and never suggested he called himself a genius (heck, even Bill Walsh never went that far). But he certainly had the reputation when he left Minnesota.

Billick supporters (and family members) can certainly point to his record and SB win as evidence of his skill. And maybe they're right. I'm not convinced. I look at the offensive performance since he arrived and the succession of QB's they've tried since Dilfer and wonder if he's above average (at least as an offensive strategist).

by TMK (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2005 - 5:32pm


Nope, he's not a relative; he's just a very good coach who has gotten a bad rap over the years. Reputation, after all, is "oft got without merit and lost without deserving," yet far too many people parrot the "genius" and "egotistical" crap, without examining the actual records. And, as I have noted in several posts over the past couple of years, I defy anyone to come up with a worse collection of QB's than the Ravens' list since he took over. A lot of it is his own fault; Kyle Boller isn't atrocious, but he certainly isn't good. And Elvis Grbac was never meant to carry the offense, but that is exactly what he had to when Jamal Lewis went down. And Trent Dilfer, God love him, would not have been any better in those situations.

I think you can make an argument even that the Raven QB's have done better under Billick than they have in other places, with the possible exception of Jeff Blake. Certainly none of them have surpassed their performance in Baltimore since they left. Dilfer in Cleveland might be the determinant on that one.

What you can hang on him is that he did not have the team ready to play in the first two games this season. This isn't a young team anymore, and his training camp approach may have been too easy -- but that's correctable. Talking about who will replace him is as stupid now as it was when Bud Adams did it a couple of years back in Tennessee. Especially with the record Billick has compiled. And no, you didn't say that, but that's part of the tone of this thread. And that's ridiculous.

by Jamie T. (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2005 - 5:33pm


You're out of your mind if you think Fisher could get coach of the year just by going 7-9 and "barely" misssing out on the playoffs.

If, however, he goes 9-7 and makes a wildcard spot (unlikely in the AFC), he should get COTY. Only if he makes the playoffs though. (The above is conditional on whether Crennel or Nolan are able to do the same thing or not)

Furthermore, I have no idea what these "press budies" you refer to are. I'll let you in on a little secret. OK, it's not such a secret, but here it is anyway. The Titans get far less press than they have deserved over the years. Small market team that hasn't won a SB = not much to talk about. Add a little dash of quiet unasuming players and that's what you get, despite playing in three AFC championship games in six years and winning one.

by B (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2005 - 5:51pm

The Ravens have in Billick's tenure been a team with a great defense and a lousy offense (who won the Superbowl!) For some reason, Billick gets all the blame for the lousy offense and very little credit for the good defense. I've always thought that Billick's understanding of offensive strategy and tactics has helped their defense get into position to stop opposing offenses. However, he's had five years to turn around the offense and make them good enough to complement the defense and he hasn't succeeded. Compare and contrast with Dungy and the Colts defense.

by raven ron (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2005 - 5:53pm

The O-line was bad last year, and is worse now. I don;t think it is only age, but the scheme is horrific. They seem to have not adjusted since JL went for 2000, and everyone else has figured it out.

Why they got the Fins o-line coach is a mystery, but they have lost a score of coaches and front office folks as well.

I had little hope for them going into the season, and less now.

BTW, the defense will continue to get burned by good QBs. High risk/high reward/big plays both ways..

And to think I'm a booster of the club....

by TMK (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2005 - 6:54pm

Fisher gets more than he deserves -- remember all the columnists calling out Bud Adams when Adams publicly criticized Fisher's coaching two years back.

All those quiet Titans players? OK, can I get a show of hands from our NE and Oakland contingents? How many of them heard the Titans complaining that the better team lost those two AFC championship games? Not to mention that it took Fisher 4 years to finally find those 2x4's. But Fisher regularly makes the "top coach in the league" list, not to mention the Competition Committee.

And you know what? If he gets this team to 7-9 with the gutted roster he has to deal with, I'LL say he should be Coach of the Year. But don't tell me he doesn't get slack for being a good manipulator of the media. He's good at it, and that's part of his job. It just isn't the major part.

by dedkrikit (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2005 - 7:14pm

Billick catches so much flack because he's a dick. Short and simple. So many cheer when the Ravens lose because not only is their coach an arrogant cod, but their most famous/prized players have shady off-the-field records to go with some on-the-field thug antics.

by thad (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2005 - 7:27pm

boller truly sucks
last year he completed a mighty 121 passes to wr's, for a mighty 11.7 yards/catch. that was 30th and 31st in the nfl respectively. i just do not understand the decion to play him.

by mawbrew (not verified) :: Tue, 09/20/2005 - 9:49am


Billick's background is as offensive coach, so I think it's reasonable to expect he will have more direct influence on the offense than the D. It's certainly possible that your hypothesis regarding the help he provides the defense is correct. None of us are close enough to the situation to really make a sound judgement one way or the other. But it's difficult to understand why his understanding of offensive strategy and tactics has helped their defense but failed to help their offense.

Re: 28

Who (among Raven QB's) other than Blake, Banks or Grbac have even played enough anywhere else to make any sort of meaningful comparison? Grbac's career #s are much better than his season with the Ravens. Banks' Raven #s were about the same as his career (one year better, one year worse). Blake's #s are also similar. BTW, my critique of Ravens QBs had more to do with poor choices of who to sign/draft/play than with guys playing poorly because of the 'system'.

by TMK (not verified) :: Tue, 09/20/2005 - 11:54am

Scott Mitchell also comes to mind; but he doesn't help your case, does he? Mitchell was even worse in Cincinnati (after) and Detroit (before) than he was in Baltimore.

Since your critique was of Billick, I think it is perfectly correct to point out that with the exception of Boller, he has been given, not picked, the QB he dealt with. And all the Grbac info has to be looked at through the lens that his running back was Terry Allen, not Jamal Lewis. They don't dump Priest Holmes and Trent Dilfer for Grbac and Terry Allen. They do it for Grbac and Lewis. That's the kind of gamble a good coach makes.

by Fiver (not verified) :: Tue, 09/20/2005 - 12:06pm

About Boller, am I the only one who thought he looked halfway decent in the Colts game? He had one receiver clank 3 balls, one of which turned into an INT. Take away those drops and he was 15 for 20 for 140 yards in 3 quarters of work. That's not anything to jump up and down about, but it's 10 yards a catch and 75% completions. Compare with the performance of (higher pick in the same draft class) Byron Leftwich one week later against the same defense: 16 of 29 for 198, 0 TDs.

Considering that was only his 25th start in the NFL and he's only 24 years old, I think it's still quite possible that Boller will turn out to be a decent QB. Not worth 2 first round picks, but not the Tim Couch-sized bust the national media wants to label him. Too bad about an injury ruining his 3rd season.

by B (not verified) :: Tue, 09/20/2005 - 12:13pm

TMK: Since Baltimore already had Lewis under contract, they swapped Dilfer and Holmes for Grbac.

by TMK (not verified) :: Tue, 09/20/2005 - 12:36pm

That is correct, B; they would have never made the moves if they didn't think they were going to have Lewis. but since they didn't, the whole question of Grbac's preformance has to be examined as a reflection of the situation as much as coaching.

Priest Holmes was thought of as a luxury that could be used to improve another position if he wasn't taking cap room. That turned out to be the wrong move, but an understandable one.

by B (not verified) :: Tue, 09/20/2005 - 12:46pm

I'm of the opinion that a good backup RB, espicially one as skilled as Holmes (On a per-play basis, he was better than Jamal Lewis for the Ravens in 2000), whose play-style is different enough from the starting RB that he'll give opposing defenses trouble is an undervalued commodity in the NFL. However, it should be noted that Grbrac, according to this site's DPAR rankings, was the 7th rated QB in 2000 (With KC) which is much better than Dilfer's 37th place ranking. Of course, in retrospect, the rest of KC's offense was pretty good.

by TMK (not verified) :: Tue, 09/20/2005 - 1:03pm

And Billick has said that letting Holmes go was the one move he regrets, because he undervalued Holmes' abilities.

But that would require reading more than just Lupica's latest column, or tagging along after Mike Preston, the Ron Borges of the mid-Atlantic. Sorry, Ryan; even if the team does tank out to 6-10 or even a Fisheresque 5-11, it's not time to talk about replacing Billick.

by MDS (not verified) :: Tue, 09/20/2005 - 1:05pm

I don't know if people realize how much money the Ravens gave Grbac. Giving an $11 million bonus to a guy like that is absurd. They easily could have kept Dilfer and Holmes with that money and had plenty to spare. I firmly believe the Ravens would have won another Super Bowl had they not squandered so much cap space on Grbac.

by B (not verified) :: Tue, 09/20/2005 - 1:10pm

Just for fun, compare Grbac's performance in 2000 to Culpepper in 2004. Now take away Grbac's favorite receiver (Gonzalez) and his offenseive line, and see how his numbers plummet. Maybe we should have seen the Culpepper collapse coming.

by mawbrew (not verified) :: Tue, 09/20/2005 - 1:43pm

Re: 36

Scott Mitchell didn't come to mind and a review of his career suggests why not - his entire Raven's career consisted of two lousy games (1999). And they were indeed lousy games (43% comp. 1 TD 4 Int). Much worse than his career numbers. But despite the fact that his performance would have, in fact, supported my point, I wouldn't have mentioned it due to the few games.

Who was responsible for acquiring Grbac? And to my question much earlier in the thread who's responsible for not acquiring a decent vet QB to compete with Boller?

by mactbone (not verified) :: Tue, 09/20/2005 - 4:07pm

I can find worse QBs. The Bears with the exception of Grossman and Orton have been uniformly horrible since Jim Miller amazingly looked like a competent QB. The Lions with Batch, McMahon and Harrington never really lit the place up. The Browns have had a revolving door of awful to mediocre QBs. The Ravens are by no means alone when it comes to bad QBs and in many respects much better off.

by King Kaufman (not verified) :: Tue, 09/20/2005 - 4:18pm

I'm a little baffled by the logic:

1. We'd been blaming our lousy offense on our lousy QB.

2. We put in a different lousy QB, and the offense didn't get any better.

3. The first QB must not have been so lousy.


I mean, I get what you all are saying about the O-line, but how does anything that happened Sunday vindicate Kyle Boller, except to prove that he's no worse than Anthony Wright.

And I say that even though Boller's my homeboy.

by B (not verified) :: Wed, 09/21/2005 - 12:09pm

Boller, he's no worse than Anthony Wright!
Talk about damning a guy with faint praise.

by Carl (not verified) :: Wed, 09/21/2005 - 7:32pm

"The Browns have had a revolving door of awful to mediocre QBs."

Hey! You've got to consider the injuries!

Couch could have been a fine pocket QB, but concussions first took him out of the season in Cleveland, then off the team, then out of the league.

His some-time fill-in, Holcomb, wasn't all that bad either. He could barely walk because of a splintered leg, but he had a rifle arm and made pretty good decisions.

What's always dogged Cleveland (an expansion team, don't forget) has been bad O-line play. I was at camp last year (talk about a crappy assignment) and those in the know were confiding about how the spry sprinter, Garcia, would make up for the spotty line play by darting and weaving.

Holcomb is now one bad Losman streak away from starting in Buffalo. It's Garcia's turn to have the broken leg (or ankle, the Cleveland injury report can't make up its mind).

You gotta love the Buffalo stat line on Holcomb last week. Two for three. Minus 1 from scrimmage.

But he'll make it up yardage through his volume of attempts!

For all the Detroit Lions fans in the house, just remember the depth chart now has your 2005 fifth round draft pick out of UConn poised to start instead of Harrington.

Oh, yeah, and the GM just brought in Shaun King and Jeff George for try outs on Wednesday.

Celebrate good times, come on.

by Carl (not verified) :: Wed, 09/21/2005 - 7:34pm

"Garcia’s turn to have the broken leg (...0)" oooops.

Force of habit. DETROIT's injury report.

by Carl (not verified) :: Wed, 09/21/2005 - 7:35pm

"Boller, he’s no worse than Anthony Wright!
Talk about damning a guy with faint praise."

Taped up in the Ravens' locker room: "Our line isn't as bad as Houston's!"

by Ryan (not verified) :: Thu, 09/22/2005 - 1:33am

Can we just take a second to realize that whether it is the line, or Jamal Lewis, or the coaches that are causing the ravens to be worse than they have been...that Kyle Boller still sucks? thank you, that is all

by Ryan Carney (not verified) :: Thu, 09/22/2005 - 1:41am

mactbone (45) "I can find worse qbs" maybe in the West Turkish pro football league. Just because you can find them doesn't make Boller good, and you've gotta dig pretty deep even to find anyone to put him up against, because Trent Dilfer is off to a sweltering hot start (that's sarcasm)

by mactbone (not verified) :: Thu, 09/22/2005 - 11:12am

The comment was a response to the "Billick isn't so bad - he's just had bad QBs"

Boller doesn't seem very good but I haven't seen or paid enough attention to him to know if he's really bad, put into bad situations or does better than the general consensus thinks.