Redman & Co. pick a bad time to show how far they have to go
Mike Preston The Baltimore Sun, published 16 September 2002

There was hope that the mere mention of his name would bring one more miracle, or that maybe another successful two-minute drill was left in those black high-top cleats. But on a day when Baltimore fans saluted the career and contributions of the city's greatest sports hero, his protege had little success in the Ravens' 25-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers yesterday before 69,304 at what the Ravens should name John Unitas Stadium.

Unitas, who died Wednesday of a heart attack, had taken a special interest in Chris Redman, an alumni of his alma mater, the University of Louisville. Unitas never saw Redman start a home game, and a successful home debut yesterday would have been a fitting tribute to the former Baltimore Colts great. Instead, Redman was ineffective and unsuccessful.

His interception total could have easily been four or five instead of one. He frequently overthrew or underthrew wide receivers, and took some vicious shots from the Tampa Bay defensive line that is becoming a regular part of Sunday afternoons. This was not how Redman wanted to bid farewell to his mentor and friend.

"I want to win every week and obviously this week would have been especially great," said Redman, who wore black high tops in Unitas' honor while completing only 16 of 38 passes for 141 yards. "We obviously didn't play well enough to win this game," said the third-year quarterback. "I definitely wanted to win for him [Unitas]. We'll get things going. We just have to get more experience." When asked if he was pressing, Redman replied: "Maybe. But for the most part, I just missed a couple of reads."

It's still early in the season and in Redman's development, but he appears to be a serviceable quarterback who will succeed only if he is surrounded by a strong supporting cast. Redman throws short passes well. But on the longer routes, he seems unaware of where his receivers are. And, oh, does he lock onto receivers.

Bucs linebacker Derrick Brooks intercepted a Redman pass and returned it 97 yards for a touchdown with 1:06 left in the game because Redman stared at Todd Heap, the intended receiver, as soon as the ball was snapped. Brooks drifted with Redman's eyes and stepped in front of Heap, who was already tightly covered by strong safety John Lynch. "I was just trying to throw the ball, and it came out a little flat," Redman said.

Redman was off right from the beginning. Cornerback Ronde Barber nearly picked off Redman's first attempt on the Ravens' 37-yard line, and end Simeon Rice dropped a screen pass that was way short of fullback Alan Ricard on the next play. Redman had chances to make big plays, but he overthrew receivers - such as Brandon Stokley on third-and-six at the Ravens' 7 with 2:18 left in the first quarter. Or the pass behind receiver Travis Taylor on a slant route on second-and-seven from midfield with 44 seconds left in the half. Or the pass behind Stokley on an out-and-up on third-and six from the Bucs' 48 with 13:33 left in the game.

If Redman had put a little more loft on the ball, it would've been a touchdown. Instead, the Ravens settled for a 21-yard reception and no points. "You can teach all you want in practice, but the only real learning curve comes in a game," said Ravens coach Brian Billick. "He missed a lot. I'm very disheartened that we don't make those plays, and we'll have to come back and work hard to get those done. We need for that to happen to be in games."

Midway through the third quarter, fans were booing. But was it at Redman or the team's conservative play-calling? It's hard to evaluate Redman because the team's offense is so sorry. For the second straight week, the opponent got pressure up the middle of the offensive line, especially over second-year left guard Casey Rabach. Heap dropped a couple of passes and third-year receiver Taylor disappeared from the offense again. He is almost as nonexistent as the team's offensive philosophy.

Billick is now in his fourth year, and no one really knows if the Ravens are a running or a passing team. Two days after the humiliating loss to Carolina last week, Billick said the Ravens were going to take more scoring chances. Yet with first-and-10 at the Tampa Bay 41 early in the second quarter, they ran Jamal Lewis on a toss right for 1 yard, Lewis up the middle for 6 and Lewis on a draw for a 1-yard loss. Wow. Such creativity. "They were squatting on all of our routes," Redman said. "They were sitting on everything."

The Ravens have said they are looking for the development of players in 2002, but they should take a hard look at offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh. A year ago, a lot of people didn't want to give Marvin Lewis a lot of credit for the defense because he had a lot of No. 1 draft picks on the unit, including linebackers Ray Lewis and Peter Boulware, and cornerbacks Duane Starks and Chris McAlister. Well, let's look at the Ravens' offense. They have No. 1 draft picks in left tackle Jonathan Ogden, Taylor, Lewis and Heap. Either the Ravens can't draft, or this team needs to change the people who are running the offensive show. Are you listening, Mr. Billick and Mr. Cavanaugh?

But just like Redman, let's give them more time. Redman hardly played his first two seasons, and he is still shaking off some rust. Jeff Blake is easily the better quarterback, but that's not what this is about. It's about Redman, seeing if he is the man of the future who has taken the torch from the Golden Arm. "The young kid is going to be fine," said Bucs defensive tackle Warren Sapp. "It just wasn't his day today, and we weren't going to let it be."

Said Redman, who also botched a handoff with Lewis that led to a safety to open the third quarter: "We wanted to make progress this week, and they obviously played a lot better than us. We are going to have to keep on working. It was a tough setback. We are going to have to go back and correct things. There's obviously a lot that we didn't do right, and we're going to have to go forward. But I'm going to be tough."

That's good. Unitas would have wanted it that way.