When I decided to start to write this semi-weekly segment I thought about the opportunity to not only bring up some of the more classic players or moments in Ravens history but also explore and present some that are a bit more obscure.
Today is not that day.
It seems only fitting with the NFL Draft almost upon us and with the news over this past week of this man’s arrival in Baltimore that he be the subject of this week’s Retro Ravens segment – Kyle Bryan Boller.
Kyle Boller may be the most controversial and polarizing Raven ever to wear the purple and black. He certainly has his detractors who would label him as one of the biggest busts in Ravens draft history, (I did) yet there are many others who defend his time here and praise his toughness and accountability. I’m hoping for the debate to continue in the comments section below. (That is at least one reason why I’m writing this segment)
Let’s go back nine years. The Ravens had finished the 2002 season 7-9 which put them in third place in the AFC North behind the Steelers (10-5-1) and the Browns (9-7). As a result there were unable to make the playoffs for a third consecutive season.
Since the Super Bowl championship season in 2000 the Ravens had come to be defined around the league by their aggressive, opportunistic defense. While the offense was built on the power running of Jamal Lewis, the quarterback position always seemed to be in a state of flux. Most recently journeyman Jeff Blake had finished a rather mediocre season starting 10 games in 2002, while former third-round draft pick Chris Redman didn’t fare much better and had a lingering back injury derail his season.
For a franchise that has used the draft to build a stellar defense and potential All-Pro running back it was time to acquire the Quarterback of the future and put an end to the carousel.
There were three Quarterbacks that were expected to go in the First Round in 2003 draft – Carson Palmer from USC, Bryon Leftwich out of Marshall, and Boller from the California Golden Bears.
The Ravens held the #10 pick in the First Round and while Heisman winner Carson Palmer went with the first pick in the draft to the Cincinnati Bengals, nabbing Leftwich at number ten seemed to be a real possibility. This is where things get interesting as the Minnesota Vikings who held the seventh pick didn’t turn their draft card in time allowing both the Jacksonville Jaguars and Carolina Panthers to jump ahead of them before they put in their pick.
Vikings Head coach Mike Tice insisted that they had a trade in place with another team – the Baltimore Ravens. However, it was never reported to the league and the Vikings missed out and didn’t recover until two picks later. Most suspect that Baltimore hoped to trade up to grab Leftwich who they had rated ahead of Boller. The Ravens, while acknowledging the trade was agreed upon, contended it was not made official because they didn’t speak with league official Joel Bussert.
(Note: This may sound similar to the 2011 draft snafu between the Ravens and Bears. Here is why it’s not.)
Leftwich was taken by the Jaguars at No. 7 and then the Panthers took Offensive Tackle Jordan Gross with the 8th pick. This left the Ravens, still with the 10th waiting to pounce on the Vikings snafu as well. Minnesota did recover in time to get their pick in, defensive tackle Kevin Williams. However instead of getting their quarterback they instead chose pass rusher supreme Terrell Suggs from Arizona State.
Baltimore was not finished dealing as they then swapped their second round pick in the 2003 draft (#41 overall) plus their first round pick in 2004 to obtain one of the New England Patriots First Round picks at #19. The Ravens selected Kyle Boller with this pick.
It was a bit of a risk to trade a future number one pick to get Boller but considering that Brian Billick had started eight quarterbacks in his time as head coach he and the front office felt it was a risk worth taking. It should be noted that the Patriots traded that second round pick to the Houston Texans but they used that first rounder to select huge Defensive Tackle Vince Wilfork in 2004.
Boller was named the starter as a rookie just prior to the start of the season and was asked to manage the game, not make mistakes, and hand the ball off to Jamal Lewis. The Ravens were 5-4 when Boller was injured in a Week Ten loss to the St. Louis Rams. The team rallied under backup Anthony Wright and won five of their last six games and won their 1st AFC North division title.
In 2004, Boller started every game as the Ravens went 9-7 but narrowly missed the playoffs. It would be the only time in his career where he would start every game. Statistically it was Boller’s best season with 13 touchdowns and 2,559 yards passing however he threw 11 interceptions, only completed 55% of his passes for a QB rating of 70.9.
That stat line summarizes Boller’s career in Baltimore fairly well. He had a few highpoints such as in 2005, when he led the Ravens to back to back prime-time wins over the Packers and Vikings. The 48-3 Monday night beat-down of the Brett Favre led Packers remains a vivid memory for me. But Boller is also known for injuries, inconsistency and never truly halting the revolving door at quarterback. Baltimore drafted Joe Flacco in the First Round in 2008.
So I put the question to you out there.
What are your memories of Kyle Boller?
Should he be reviled as a draft day bust or praised for giving his best at all times?