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Raven's Leaf?

Written by: Peter Coolbaugh

Let us rewind back to 2003. It was in the NFL Draft that April in which the Baltimore Ravens used their first round draft pick on Ryan Leaf. Our offensive "genius" head coach had finally found his quarterback, or so we were lead to believe.

Kyle Boller represented stability at the QB position, which had seen constant turnover since the days of Vinnie Testaverde in 1996-97. He was the anointed one and started nine games prior to an injury that sidelined him the rest of the year. Anthony Wright took the team to the playoffs and an AFC North crown, though we lost in the Wild Card round to Tennessee.

In 2004, Boller had his only full season without injury and the Ravens finished 9-7 but missed the playoffs. In 2005, he suffered from turf toe that limited him over the season, and the Ravens finished 6-10 and out of the playoffs. Boller showed flashes of brilliance in games against Green Bay and Minnesota, but the season was already lost. And in 2006, he was replaced by Steve McNair who brought leadership and experience to a team that lacked offensive presence.

In the 3 seasons that the Ravens have made the playoffs during the Boller era, none was really his doing. 2003 (Wright), 2006 (McNair), 2008 (Flacco). An although his numbers are not that bad (20-22 record as a starter; 71.9 QB rating), he is the franchise leader in TD passes, yards, and other offensive categories.

My question to everyone out there is, can this player be our Ryan Leaf? I mean the franchise intended to build an offense around this guy, but instead he never became the player we thought we had and it was the defense that carried the team during those seasons. Ryan Leaf is the poster child for NFL busts, having set back a franchise for many years. Boller is certainly not on that level of a complete disaster, but it can be argued that the gamble the Ravens took (and lost) on Boller did negatively impact the team for several years.

It is almost certain that part of the reason for Billick's demise is that he was forever linked with the Boller blunder. And it is fair to say that Boller will no longer be a Raven in 2009 and beyond, which most fans will welcome. After 6 seasons it is sure time for him to go.

The real question to ponder is not about whether the Ravens gave him enough chances, but rather if he is Charm City's Ryan Leaf? A hot topic that certainly will be debated now and into the future, I am sure.

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