Lombardi's Way THE HOT SEAT

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According to ESPN’s John Clayton, “Brian Billick is on the hot seat, but his Ravens won’t fail this year. They should make the playoffs. The addition of Steve McNair gives Billick the quarterback credibility he’s needed for years. The Ravens have talent. McNair can throw to Todd Heap, Derrick Mason and Mark Clayton. Jamal Lewis is perhaps the league’s most talented big back, and he’s had a healthy, calm offseason. The defense is one of the best in the conference. The only question facing the Ravens is the play of the offensive line, and that’s where Billick will step up. He’ll introduce better offensive plays to protect the line and to protect.”

If Billick could put on another75 pounds, he might be ready to step up.

Ok, cynical tongue aside if the OTA’s were an indication of things to come, the Ravens offense will have more of Jim Fassel’s fingerprints on it than Billick’s.  Billick has spent a far greater amount of time with the defense than in past years.  It will be interesting to see if this development continues during camp this summer.

While Mark Clayton prepares himself for the start of training camp, he took some time recently to talk with OUInsider.com.  One of the questions asked of Clayton focused on the arrival of Steve McNair in Baltimore and what he thought of his new starting QB…

“Steve is going to be a tremendous asset to our team. He brings so much to the table not only as a great player, but he has been doing it for years at such a high level. He is a great guy. The first time I met him the first thing he said to me was that we were going to get Kyle (Boller) comfortable here and figure this thing out. That says a lot because he knows Kyle (Boller) is young and that he is definitely capable of being a starting quarterback in this league. He knows that having that kind of a 1-2 combination on our team just in case something happens to him is a great plus for us. He knows that Kyle needs to be ready to come in and make plays so we won’t drop off. I am excited about this year.”

One thing that really irks Baltimoreans about Clevelanders is their collective sense of entitlement when it comes to the NFL.  That town hardly suffered the way Baltimore did when Irsay packed up the Mayflower and took off into the dark of the night.  Not that two wrongs make a right, but please Cleveland, spare us the cry me a river blues. You waited a fraction of the time that Baltimoreans did to restore the NFL to your city and you received a new stadium to boot and kept your lame team colors and lame team name.

Now the thought of losing LaBron James is keeping sports fans by Lake Erie up at night.  Despite the $80 million contract extension offer that sits atop James’ table, Cleveland fans worry that their shiny star might leave when his contract is up after next season.

If LeBron James leaves, where would it rank among Cleveland’s worst moments in history? 

Worst moment ever


Somewherein middle


It’s not that bad


Total Votes: 6,154 

Not that the $80 million isn’t enticing for James, but these negotiations might be outside of Cleveland’s control.  James if not already, will become the poster boy for the NBA.  Poster boys like James are better served in media markets like Chicago, LA or New York.  Don’t be surprised if he ends up as the Knicks so-called savior where endorsement opportunities could dwarf the $80 million extension. 

The horror for Cleveland…

When asked to look back at other horrible sporting moments, the Browns move to Baltimore and subsequent Super Bowl win by the Ravens ranks among the leading vote getters.  But Clevelanders were more horrified by “The Fumble”, courtesy of that guy who doesn’t belong in the Ravens Ring of Honor.

Which was the worst moment for Cleveland? 

The Fumble


The Drive


Ravens win title


1997 World Series




Total Votes: 1,455 

Some folks think that the Ravens may still be in the market for a veteran cornerback.  Wishful thinking on the part of some Ravens’ fans has led to speculation about Ty Law in purple.  Scouts, Inc.’s Gary Horton warns that teams should be a bit cautious if they are considering opening their checkbook for Law.  “I don’t think their secondary is very good with or without Ty Law. Maybe I’m in the minority, but I think Law was a great player and at this stage is overrated. I don’t think he’s any longer a shut down corner. He really looks to me like a guy that has an agent or someone telling him that he’s worth more than he really is, otherwise, he would have been signed a long time ago. I think his version of what he’s worth compared to what the teams’ version is is dramatically different. I still think he can contribute.”

This in from KC Joyner, aka The Football Scientist and a regular contributor to ESPN Insider: “[Kyle] Boller’s teammates seem to suggest that he performs better when he has to compete for his job, and [the Minnesota and Green Bay] games offer convincing proof. If McNair’s presence can get Boller to take the same kind of turn that Brees did [when pushed by the presence of Philip Rivers], Billick might get more out of this trade than just a one-year fix.”

I’ll second that emotion.  See Why Boller should welcome McNair.

Kyle Boller is now viewed by many as one of the better backup QB’s in the league.  Formerly one of the better backups and now starter for the Minnesota Vikings is Brad Johnson.  While starting agrees with Johnson, his relatively paltry $1.2 million salary does not and some in Minnesota are wondering if a camp holdout is something that Johnson is contemplating.

As the Minnesota Star Tribune’s Kevin Seifert pointed out, 36 quarterbacks are scheduled to earn more than Johnson in 2006 including veteran backups such as Chicago’s Brian Griese ($6 million), Detroit’s Josh McCown ($4 million), Miami’s Joey Harrington ($3 million), St. Louis’ Gus Frerotte ($3 million) and Buffalo’s Craig Nall ($2 million).

Seifert states that the benchmark for veteran starters this offseason was the three-year, $15 million contract that Kurt Warner signed with Arizona, a deal that will pay him about $7 million in 2006.

Johnson certainly has some leverage and at this point in his QB life cycle, one might expect him to get all that he can now.  What are the Vikings to say, “No?”  Then who do they turn to?  Mike McMahon?  Rookie Tarvaris Jackson?

And while we’re on the subject of quarterbacks, Ben Roethlisberger appears to be recovering quickly from his facial injuries that included an upper jaw and lower jaw broken in four places, a broken nose and a broken orbital bone.

Fortunately for Roethlisberger, surgeons were able to use five titanium plates to hold his jaw in place, rather than wiring the jaw shut, thus allowing him to eat soft foods and maintain his weight during his recovery.  Word is that Roethlisberger is very close to his playing weight of 242 pounds give or take a few ounces.

Speaking of ounces, authorities spotted newly acquired New England Patriot Jonathan Sullivan with slightly less than an ounce of his own when Sullivan was pulled over for running two stop signs at 4 in the morning.  The officer on the scene notice a baggie containing what was described as "a green leafy substance."  There was no pizza in the car so policed ruled out oregano. 

Sullivan was charged with a seatbelt violation, running the stop signs, playing loud music and possession of less than an ounce of marijuana.  Sullivan was a 2003 first-round draft pick by the Saints and has been an underachieving disappointment.  To get Sullivan the Patriots gave up former second round pick WR Bethel Johnson.

No doubt that Bill Belichick is hoping that Sullivan’s former college teammate Richard Seymour can reef, I mean reel in Sullivan a bit.  Time will tell…

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Tony Lombardi

About Tony Lombardi

Tony is the founder EutawStreetReport.com and RussellStreetReport.com. His work has been featured on various sports websites and he hosts The Russell Street Report and Armchair Quarterback both seen and heard on Fanimal Radio. Among his favorite things in life are his wife, kids, family, friends, The Beatles, Breaking Bad, Gladiator, The Godfather, Guinness, orange crushes, meatballs and Key West, not necessarily in that order. Follow Tony on Twitter @RSRLombardi. More from Tony Lombardi

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