For a fleeting evening, Boller gives glimpse of what could have been

Ravens Gameday

Ravens 48 Packers 3

December 20, 2005|By RICK MAESE

The Ravens took the field wearing all black and it sure seemed like we were all in store for a funeral. Instead, for four quarters, everyone at M&T Bank Stadium was left wistfully thinking about what could have been.

I'm not talking about the 2005 season. We paid our respects to the '05 season more than a month ago. The Ravens would need a 26-game schedule and be capable of replicating last night's performance every single week to get a whiff of the playoffs.

By what could have been, I'm referring to Kyle Boller, who sure looked like an NFL player in last night's 48-3 gnashing of the Green Bay Packers. In what could have been one of his final games as Ravens quarterback, we have finally found the missing piece that might have salvaged the past three seasons.

I'm not referring to the black uniforms or an offense that suddenly realizes that life exists more than 5 yards downfield. I'm talking about the missing ingredient: Brett Favre.

Bear with me, as we take a couple of steps backward.

Last night was Point Z, Boller's best game as a starting quarterback. Point A is three years ago, before the 2003 Draft: The Packers had the 29th pick and many experts speculated that they'd take Boller. The idea was that Boller would learn under Favre for at least one season and maybe take over the starting job in 2004.

"[I]f you have to learn behind a guy like Brett Favre, I think it would help me tenfold," Boller told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram at the time. "It would be awesome to learn from such a great player like [Favre]."

Last night we finally saw what kind of quarterback Boller can be if he and Favre are on the same field. Boller is hereby advised to never throw another football unless Favre is nearby.

His numbers were very unBollerlike: 19-for-27 for 253 yards. He had three touchdowns and more importantly, zero interceptions. His touchdown pass to Todd Heap in the third was as good as any throw he's made all year.

As much as Favre might have rubbed off on the Ravens' young signal-caller, it sure looked like Favre was bit by the Boller bug - zero touchdowns, two interceptions.

The stats, plays and execution were all impressive last night. But here's what I thought was important: Favre was in the game for the Packers, and on the sidelines was Aaron Rodgers, the Packers' rookie quarterback who is being fitted for Favre's crown.

The similarities between Boller and Rodgers are obvious: young pocket passes, both products of the University of California and coach Jeff Tedford.

I don't know if Boller spent much time reflecting on his career path as he prepared for the Packers' game, but he could've been Rodgers. If he didn't wow scouts at the Senior Bowl, he might've slipped in the draft and wound up in Green Bay. Boller would've sat and watched and learned. Like Rodgers is doing.

With last night's game out of hand, Rodgers replaced Favre in the closing seconds of the third quarter (losing a fumble on his second snap and throwing an interception on the next possession). He's easing his way into an NFL career.

Not Boller. He was tossed in the fire three years ago. And he's struggled. It's a mistake a lot of professional teams make these days. They use a high draft pick, whip out a huge signing bonus and expect a quarterback to perform before he's ready.

That's not to suggest that Boller will ever be ready, but the Ravens didn't develop him properly. Boller would be a much different quarterback had he spent a couple of seasons studying under a player like Favre.

"[Boller's] not a natural at seeing the field," one scout told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel three years ago. "You're going to have to groove him and make a system guy out of him. You cannot expect him to play the first year."

Said another scout at the time: "When I talked to Boller, it was like talking to Brett Favre. Boller has a Brett Favre mentality."

If only he had a Brett Favre arm.

But now we all know that he's only Kyle Boller. And games like last night's will be remembered as quick flickers in an otherwise dark period of football.

rick.maese@baltsun.com

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