Baltimore Ravens Coach Brian Billick wasted no time squashing his brewing quarterback controversy. Billick named former third-string quarterback Stoney Case as his starter for Sunday's game against the Browns.
"He has earned it," Billick said. "He brings an element with his athleticism."
Case, who was signed as a free agent by the Ravens on Aug. 17, replaced Scott Mitchell in the third quarter of last Sunday's 23-20 home loss to Pittsburgh. This is the second year in a row Mitchell has lost his starting job after the second game of the season. Last year, rookie Charlie Batch took away Mitchell's starting job in Detroit.
"I really don't have anything to say right now," said Mitchell, who completed 7 of 16 passes for 48 yards and threw two interceptions against the Steelers.
Billick said the move was not a temporary measure or an emotional response to the Ravens' offensive struggles. To illustrate the difficulty he had making the decision, Billick quoted a Clint Eastwood line from the movie "Unforgiven."
"You know when you kill a man, it's a [heck] of a thing because you take away everything he's got. Everything he's ever going to have. And you don't do that lightly," Billick said. "I don't know what the future holds for Scott Mitchell here or anyplace else. But Scott was clearly at a crossroads. That's a tough thing. You don't do that lightly. You don't do that arbitrarily. . . . It was not an emotional knee-jerk reaction."
After a slow start against the Steelers, Case engineered two scoring drives that brought the Ravens back into the game. His 19-yard touchdown pass to Qadry Ismail tied the score at 20 with 1 minute 22 seconds remaining. Case completed 7 of 15 passes for 130 yards and a touchdown.
Case learned just prior to practice he had the starting job and had not had the opportunity to speak to Mitchell.
"I do feel for Scott," he said. "I've been in that situation. I know what he's going through."
Billick was pleased with the way the defense played against the Steelers. The Ravens held running back Jerome Bettis to 46 yards on 16 carries and limited quarterback Kordell Stewart to 138 passing yards. He also liked that defensive end Michael McCrary has begun to return to form. McCrary had a sack and four tackles.
But Billick was frustrated that blunders by the special teams and the offense put the defense in a tough position.
"It's frustrating for the defensive guys," Billick said. "It's frustrating for me, the head coach, for them to have that kind of effort, that kind of play and not be rewarded with a win because of a mishap on offense."
Two Baltimore turnovers led to Steelers touchdowns. Mitchell's first interception set up Pittsburgh's first touchdown. Case's fumble led to a field goal by Kris Brown that gave the Steelers a 17-10 lead.
Billick declined to comment on who his starting running back would be. Back-up Errict Rhett rushed for 101 yards on 22 carries. Starter Priest Holmes, who is nursing a sore knee, carried the ball only once for two yards. Billick also refused to name his second- and third-string quarterbacks. Tony Banks had been third string, behind Case.
Baltimore failed on three occasions against the Steelers to put 11 players on the field. The most egregious instance came on the first play of Pittsburgh's final scoring drive.
The Steelers' 37-yard kickoff return to midfield following the Ravens' touchdown "changed the dynamic of what defense was on the field," Billick said. "There was some confusion [about] who needed to be out there. We'll take steps to correct that so it doesn't happen again. It does get very confusing. That's no excuse for it. The individuals involved have to stay more attuned to what's going on in the game."