Bye-bye Kyle Boller: One of Baltimore’s best is gone

April 05, 2009 | Drew Forrester

He won’t be remembered for his play on the field.  Well, actually, he might be remembered for SOME of it.  Unfortunately, most of the memories won’t be good ones.  Mostly, the bad outweighed the good during his six years in Baltimore.

One of Baltimore’s best is gone.  He wasn’t one of the best players to ever earn a check in the “410″, but he was one of the best men to play here.

The Kyle Boller era is officially over in Charm City after the former #1 pick signed with the St. Louis Rams on Saturday.

He’ll always be regarded as a guy who didn’t live up to the bill of the “franchise quarterback” labels that were stitched to his uniform from day one back in 2003.

He might not have done enough here to justify being a first-round quarterback, but he did more than enough to justify being a first-class human being.

On the field…not that good.

In every other area, though, he was worthy of any accolade you could pin on him.

When the team lost — sometimes, because HE played poorly — he was always front and center following the game, facing the lights, the microphones and the pen and paper.  When the team won — even if, on that rare occasion, when he was responsible for the triumph — he never stood up and said, “Hey, look at me!!  Where are all you haters now?”

In the the last six years, no player on the roster — NO PLAYER, PERIOD — has been more of a stand-up guy than Kyle Boller.

That doesn’t mean the Ravens made a mistake in not keeping him around for 2009.  Not at all.

It was time for the Kyle Boller experiment to run out of funding here in Baltimore.  They have their future QB here and it’s not Kyle.

This is not a “Ravens made a mistake letting Boller go” blog.

This is an ode to a guy who was always willing to man-up, always willing to take the grief, always willing to smile and say, “I’m going to do my best to get better…”

And, more than anything else, he was always willing to face the media in the wake of yet another disappointing performance or loss and say, “Yeah, I could have made that throw…”

I can think of – *ahem* – a few noteworthy stars on the team who were always bouncing around the locker room in their $2,500 suits chasing down the media after a win or a big play — but pulling a David Copperfield disappearing act after a loss or a penalty that hurt the team’s chances.

Kyle Boller never ducked anyone.

In the 2005 season opener, Boller was injured in a home game against the Indianapolis Colts and a large throng of obviously drunk and obviously heartless fans actually CHEERED – loudly – when Boller was on the field writhing in pain.

That, according to one player who was on the team in ’05, hurt Boller more than anything else during his tenure.

“I remember after the game, he was at his locker and I was a couple of seats away getting dressed and he said, ‘Were the fans cheering when I got hurt?  It sounded like they were cheering.’ and I said, “I don’t know, man.”  I looked up at him and he had this weird smile on his face and he said, “They cheered when I got injured out there.  I can’t believe it.”

Boller should know he was playing in the same city that ran off Eddie Murray in the 1980′s because he didn’t dive after enough ground balls.  It doesn’t matter if you’re a first-round pick with unfulfilled promise or a champion first-baseman who helped deliver a world title to the faithful — when Baltimore turns on you, you’re d-o-n-e.

Forgive and forget doesn’t happen much in Charm City.

In Boller’s case, though, I’ll forgive his mostly-subpar play based mainly on the fact he was thrust into a starting role in 2003 when it’s reasonable to assume he just wasn’t ready for it.  I don’t think he’ll go to St. Louis and become Kurt Warner 2, but I do believe he’ll be invigorated by a new start with a new team and I’m sure, at some point down the road, he’ll win a game or two for the Rams.

And, in Boller’s case, I won’t forget the stand-up qualities he possessed over the last six years.

Last year, when he was injured early in the season and put on IR, it would haver been very easy for Boller to head to California and do the relax-and-rehab thing in the sunny warmth of the west coast.  Given that Joe Flacco was blooming, it was obvious that Kyle’s career as a starter in Baltimore was over.  No need to hang around Charm City and freeze all winter, right?

Wrong.

Boller shuttled back and forth from California to Maryland, attending EVERY home game and participating in numerous charitable and promotional endeavors for the club.  He would often be seen in the locker room after home games, congratulating Joe Flacco and heaping praise on the rookie signal caller.  I don’t recall seeing the “other” draft pick QB doing that with Flacco after a game, if you know what (who) I mean.

In the post-season, Boller traveled with the team to Miami for the playoff game and then paid for his own flight in and out of Nashville for the win over the Titans because he had returned to California earlier in the week to get clearance from the doctors to resume training.  In the Nashville airport on Sunday morning, Boller’s flight to the west coast left from the same general gate-location as the Southwest flight I was taking back to Baltimore.  Fans rushed to him and he spent the better part of 60 minutes chatting, smiling, signing autographs and thanking them for coming to Nashville to watch the team play.

I went over to talk about golf and Caves Valley with him…asked how he was feeling…and briefly previewed the AFC title game (the Ravens still weren’t sure who they were playing).  ”Joe’s playing great,” Kyle said.  ”He’s not going to back down from anyone next week.”

Nothing but praise for the guy who, basically, took his job from him.  For good.

That’s the way it always was with Boller.  He said the right thing.  He took the criticism.  He didn’t blame anyone else.  He didn’t dodge the media or the fans.

He was a stand-up guy.  He was, perhaps, the team’s biggest stand-up guy over the last six years.  In fact, he could teach the Baltimore baseball team a thing or two about the concept of personal integrity.

We won’t miss the ineffective play…but the Ravens will have to work long and hard to find a guy with Boller’s heart.

Forgive and forget?   Nope.

Forgive, yes.

Forget, no.

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