GRAPEVINE: Boller should happily accept back-up role

Lombardi's Way GRAPEVINE: Boller should happily accept back-up role

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The NFL draft is just 12 days away and the excitement is building here in B’more and throughout America’s NFL cities.  Give the league credit for remaining relevant 365/24/7 for as we wait with baited breath for ESPN’s Mel Kiper and NFL Network’s Mike Mayock to share their opinions on the NFL Draft selections. Mayock’s network will serve up another treat tomorrow night at 7PM when NFL Network presents its 2009 NFL Schedule Show.


If this year’s show is remotely as entertaining as past NFL Schedule shows, stay at home, pull up the easy chair, load up on refreshments and have the remote nearby at 7PM tomorrow night.  You can bounce back and forth from the NFL schedule show to the O’s.


It’s been said time and again that Kyle Boller was very much a lightning rod here in the local sports scene. Mention his name in a crowded sports pub and you might trigger an earthquake-like crack in the foundation – one side consisting of the Boller bashers and the other the Boller huggers.


For what it’s worth I don’t think Kyle Boller will ever be anything more than a decent back-up quarterback.  That’s my head talking.


The heart hopes that Boller finds his way to those lofty projections established by his long-time coach Brian Billick.


But I’m not holding my breath…


If nothing else, Boller was a class act.  He willingly accepted blame even in the somewhat rare instances when he was not at fault and he spread the praise in those even rarer instances when he was responsible for a Ravens’ win.


As he departed Baltimore, he remained consistently classy.


"I had a great time there. I still think it’s a great city," Boller told The Sun in his first comments to the Baltimore media this offseason. "I’m going to miss [owner] Steve Bisciotti a lot, and I’m going to miss my teammates. It’s definitely different to be gone. But at the same time, it’s very exciting for me to have a fresh start. I think it’s going to be a great opportunity for me here."


Some might say that Kyle Boller never got a chance to be Baltimore’s franchise quarterback. They would be wrong.  Forty-two NFL starts while supported by the league’s best defense during his term as a Raven suggests that Boller had more than ample time to develop and prove himself.


He never markedly improved. I would challenge anyone to watch tape of Boller and point to the noticeable differences between his rookie season and any season since.  He’s made the same mistakes over and over and over.


The huggers will say that Boller had a poor offensive line. Why then was Jamal Lewis able to gain over 2,000 yards during Boller’s rookie season in a very one-dimensional offense?


Why is it that in 2006 Steve McNair behind the same offensive line that protected  Boller in 2005 was sacked just 14 times during 468 pass attempts in 2006 (once every 33.4 attempts) while Boller went down 42 times in 2005?  Subbing for McNair in ’06 Boller went down 3 times in 55 pass attempts (once every 18.3 attempts).


The answer of course is fairly obvious – he lacks pocket presence and his hyperkinetic personality isn’t a natural fit for the position quarterback in the NFL.


Recently departed Jason Brown, prior to Boller becoming his teammate again in St. Louis and during his introductory press conference with the Rams had this to say about the beleaguered signal caller.


"Kyle Boller with the Ravens, I love him to death.  But you see what getting hit one too many times early in your career can do to you. He became gun shy.

“Instead of getting the ball and standing back there with poise and then being able to step up, if there was a flash of anything, something, it might have been far on the edge, he was like … and he started to scramble."


Of course Brown did some back peddling when he learned that Boller was about to meet him in St. Louie.


Good luck in the “Show Me” State Kyle. If you are smart, you’ll happily carry the clipboard and remain the outstanding teammate that you are.  If so, you stand to make a lot of money and have a long career hovering beneath the radar screen as a back-up.


Speaking of back-up quarterbacks, the Steelers former relief pitcher has headed south and will now compete for the first string job in Tampa.  Byron Leftwich is a Buccaneer. The former Marshall QB you may recall was drafted 9 picks prior to Kyle Boller in 2003. You may also recall the mass confusion prior to Leftwich being selected by the Jacksonville Jaguars at No. 10 in the ’03 draft. The Ravens tried to get Leftwich but thankfully ended up with Terrell Suggs.


After the Ravens missed on the opportunity to trade for the rights to draft Leftwich, Brian Billick served up this nugget:


"We legitimately couldn’t get the phone call through. The comparison [between Leftwich and Boller] is going to be drawn for a number of years, and it’s going to be fun to watch these two young guys develop into elite Qbs."


No one has ever accused Billick of recognizing or developing quarterbacking skills and they probably never will.


No one ever accused the Cincinnati Bengals of recruiting choir boys either…


The Bengals players have for quite some time had trouble with the long arm of the law. At one point during a 14 month stretch the team had 10 arrests.  Yet as of late, the league’s bad boys seemed to settle down a bit.


But that has all changed now thanks to cornerback Leon Hall.

Hall was stopped just after 3 a.m. on April 5 in Clermont County, west of Cincinnati. Hall was said to be cooperative despite registering a 0.149 on the breathalyzer. 

As if that wasn’t enough, the team has signed Tank Johnson who served an eight game suspension back in 2007 for violating the league’s conduct policy.  You may recall that Johnson was found with a large number of unregistered firearms in his home, triggering (pun intended) the action on the part of the commissioner’s office.

Maybe Johnson takes his nickname a little too seriously.

While we’re on the subject of taking things too seriously, look for league GM’s to stray from the point system established by Jimmy Johnson’s Trade Value Chart.  The chart was set up to try and quantify draft picks and promote fair trade value between clubs looking to swap picks.  Yet as time goes by, the numbers established by Johnson grow increasingly obsolete.

The picks in Johnson’s chart are very top heavy and those picks are overvalued, particularly in this age of football when early picks in the first round are paid disproportionate amounts of money relative to their unproven skills. Teams today seem to prefer the late first round picks and the second round picks, all of which are coveted for value which is measured in large part by the ratio between performance and pay.

If Roger Goodell accomplishes his goal of bringing rookie salaries in line with other professional sports, Johnson’s chart may again become relevant.  For now it is not.
Photo by Sabina Moran

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Tony Lombardi

About Tony Lombardi

Tony is 24x7 Networks, LLC's founder (the parent of and His work has been featured on various sports websites and he is a regular guest on 105.7 The Fan and he hosts "The Fanimal" also heard on 105.7 The Fan, Saturdays from 8-9AM. 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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