On March 4th, fresh off a Super Bowl MVP award, Joe Flacco signed a six-year, $120.6 million deal (or three years... depending on whom you ask), not only the richest contract in Ravens', but NFL, history.
It marked a high point in what has been an often, unfulfilled journey in Baltimore's search for a franchise quarterback.
From the likes of Vinny Testaverde and Eric Zeier to the Heisman Trophy-winning Troy Smith, there have been vastly more low lights (See: Stoney Case) than highlights (See: The one, healthy Steve McNair season in 2006). The lowest period began on draft night in 2003.
That fateful evening wasn't all bad.
The first pick brought, arguably, the fourth best player in the organization's history. Terrell Suggs, the All-American, sack machine from Arizona State, was taken with the 10th pick and has been named to five Pro Bowls, an All-Pro team, and won the NFL Defensive Rookie of the year along with the 2011 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, more than living up to his first-round status.
However, the Ravens had a second first-round pick, courtesy of a trade with the New England Patriots, which cost Baltimore it's pick in the 2004 draft.
Ironically, it would be the 2004 Draft, where four, future NFL Pro Bowler signal callers (Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger, Matt Schaub) were selected, that would have been better suited for finding a franchise quarterback.
Unfortunately, the Ravens took the plunge in 2003 and that meant, with the 19th overall selection, Baltimore selected Kyle Bryan Boller.
its worth mentioning that had he been available, this pick would've been Byron Leftwich. While Leftwich has failed to live up his high draft status (7th overall), he has still outperformed Boller in virtually every statistic metric available. Also worth noting, is that the Ravens passed on Tony Romo, who has gone on to have a much better career.
Yet, Boller is whom the Ravens selected and, for five, miserable seasons, its whom they chose as their quarterback. In the 53 games, he played in purple and black, he threw 45 touchdowns while rushing for two more.
Conversely, in the same amount of time, he had 44 interceptions and 36 fumbles. It also goes worth mentioning about injuries... you can't forget the injuries. Only once in his five Baltimore seasons did he start all 16 games. He never started more than nine in any other Ravens' campaign.
But what made the Boller era so insufferable can't be encapsulated in sheer numbers. It has to be the agonizing moments where Boller did just enough to provide an opportunity for victory before some late collapse that ensured defeat.
No game was a better microcosm of his Ravens' career than the December 3, 2007 game against the New England Patriots. I won't rehash it as I covered it in my Ray Lewis' piece, but the Ravens' should have won that game.
Boller, having played a precise game, had the offense on the Patriots' 26 deep in the 4th quarter with a 24-17 lead. Instead of playing ball control offense and working clock and settling for another three points to make it a two score game, Boller forces a pass into double coverage, resulting in an interception.
After a Patriots' field goal, two subsequent Ravens' drives resulted in a total of six plays and 10 yards, when a pair of first downs would've iced the game.
In the 2008 Draft, the Ravens selected Joe Flacco, who has started every game since then. Boller, who spent the 2008 season on the injured reserve, was released after the year. It was only fitting that the key to the Ravens' resurgence came as the reason for it's decline was on his way out of town.
Other memorable, awful picks:
- Travis Taylor (WR) - The 10th overall pick in the 2000 Draft was the Orange Bowl MVP and former Gator. Taylor started fast (two touchdowns in his second game) and finished slower (2004 stats: 34 catches, 421 yards, 0 TD). However, his solid 2002 campaign (61 catches, 869 yards, 6 TDs) provides some saving grace.s
- Mark Clayton (WR) - Clayton was taken with the 22nd overall selection in the 2005 Draft. Besides his very good, sophomore campaign (67 catches, 939 yards, 5 TDs), he provided a mostly forgettable five seasons in Baltimore.
- Yamon Figurs (WR... starting to notice a trend?) - Figurs was a speedy, 2007 third-rounder out of Kansas State. In his two seasons with the Ravens, he produced as many tackles as touchdowns (three). However, since he was a third rounder, its not like there were high hopes for him in the first place.
- Dan Cody (DE/OLB) - A 2005 second-rounder, hybrid defender out of Oklahoma had a bit of an injury problem. He was a member of the Ravens for more seasons (3) than games played (2). Even more disappointing, Figurs has more career tackles than him (3 to 0.5). Brought in for depth, his failure was not as glaring as the other guys on this list and especially not as great as the main focus of this article.