I don’t post or write on here nearly as much as I used to. Maybe that can be my New Year’s resolution, to be more opinionated on the Barstool of WNST. Either way, I may not post as much, but I do listen. And read. And occasionally chime in during Drew and Glenn’s respective shows on WNST. And there has been something that has been bothering me recently. It’s been bothering me for a while to be honest, but it has gotten to the point where I feel like I needed to say something to my WNST bretheren. It’s actually more of a question really. And it’s a simple one…
Does anyone actually remember what the history of the Baltimore Ravens’ QB position was like prior to the arrival of Joe Flacco?
I ask that question in all seriousness. Because it seems to me that a lot of Ravens’ fans have forgotten how our QB position looked pre-2008. Need a reminder? Okay, here goes.
Heading into the 2008 season your Baltimore Ravens starting QB was Troy Smith. A talented college player and viable NFL backup, but certainly not a franchise quarterback no matter what he thought. You will see this is true based on his currently not being anyone else’s starting QB in a league with about 10-15 teams in dire need of a franchise QB.
2006-2007: Steve McNair and the great Kyle Boller: McNair was a God-send when the Ravens traded for him in June of 2006. A Pro Bowl QB and already the best quarterback in Ravens’ history up to that point and that was even before he took a snap. He led the Ravens to a 13-3 mark, a division title, and a first round bye in 2006. Before he laid an egg in the AFC Divisional Playoffs against the Colts in what we see now was a glimpse into the future. He was fat, slow, injured, and stunk in 2007, and was replaced by Boller and eventually Troy Smith at the end of the season. My Kyle Boller assessment is coming soon, and he is actually the focal point of this blog. So, just keep reading.
2003-2005: Kyle Boller, Chris Redman, and Anthony Wright: 2003, Jamal Lewis has the second best season any running back in the NFL has ever enjoyed with 2,066 rushing yards. The Ravens’ defense is as dominating as ever behind NFL Defensive Player of the Year, Ray Lewis. So they won the Super Bowl right??? Nope. That was the year, rookie quarterback and first round draft pick Kyle Boller started his reign of terror as Baltimore’s starting signal caller. Coming out of Cal with high hopes and a strong arm, Boller “beat out” incumbent Chris Redman for the starting QB position in training camp. I put beat out in air quotes because is there anyone around who thought Redman had a chance once Boller was drafted? Me either. I always felt bad for Redman because he was a really good guy and a pretty good QB before Billick’s training camp “competition” ruined his confidence in Baltimore. He eventually surfaced in Atlanta as a backup to Matt Ryan following a 10 touchdown 5 INT effort in 2007. And hell, anyone who gets the Johnny Unitas seal of approval is good in my book. But Brian went with Boller, even though the play involving throwing the ball through the goal post from your knees at the 50 yard line, isn’t a legal play. For what it’s worth, Boller had a very strong arm. The problem was, he lacked all the other tools necessary to turn that big arm into an actual NFL quarterback. He had no pocket presence, couldn’t read Dr. Suess let alone NFL defense’s (thank you Sports Night), and lacked the command of the game that would have even made him a game managing NFL QB, which was all the Ravens really needed at the time. Boller would display flashes of quarterbacking competency, but he was never able to develop into the franchise QB Brian Billick had envisioned. He was hurt midway though the 2003 campaign, replaced by Redman. After a disasterous showing in a game down in St. Louis, Anthony Wright took over and showed some spark. I liked the attitude Wright brought to the offense, and he seemed to play with a chip on his shoulder. Problem was, he wasn’t very good. A Pittsburgh Steelers and Dallas Cowboys cast off, Wright played the last 7 games in 2003, finishing with 9 TD’s and 8 picks, and ultimately losing in the first round of the AFC playoffs to Steve McNair and the Tennessee Titans, wasting a dominant season by the Ravens’ defense. He didn’t play again for the Ravens until 2005, again due to a Boller injury, and was less then mediocre. He had a cup of coffee in Cincinnati and New York before leaving the NFL for good following the 2007 season. I consider those three seasons, the absolute low point of quarterbacking in Baltimore Ravens history.
2001-2002: Elvis Grbac, Randall Cunningham, Chris Redman, and Jeff Blake: Following the Baltimore Ravens’ Super Bowl championship in January of 2001, the front office elected to part ways with Trent Dilfer, feeling they needed to upgrade at the quarterback position if they were to repeat as league champions. They brought in Pro Bowler Elvis Grbac who was coming off a big year in Kansas City. Right or wrong, I don’t think it’s fair to assess Grbac because I will always consider him the unluckiest quarterback in Ravens’ history. He was coming into a no win situation, replacing the uber-popular Dilfer, both in the fan base and Ravens’ locker room, and lost his Pro Bowl running back and right tackle the first week of training camp. With a patchwork backfield and his locker room mostly against him, Elvis muddled his way to a mediocre 15 TD/18 INT 2001 campaign. Spelled briefly by, in my opinion, the best backup QB in Ravens’ history, Randall Cunningham, due to injuries, Grbac never gained the full confidence of anyone in Purple Nation, and slinked out of the NFL for good following a 27-10 loss to Pittsburgh in the second round of the playoffs. Cunningham, on the other hand, proved very capable at running the purple offense and after a win in Pittsburgh, became the instant fan favorite. In my opinion, once Cunningham proved he had the support of the offense, he should have been the starter, not just in the post season, but also prior to that. Billick’s stubborness to stick with a fledgling Grbac would prove to be a sign of things to come. With Grbac and Cunningham gone in 2002, the reigns were turned over to Chris Redman. A third round pick in 2000, Redman came to the Ravens after winning the Johnny U Golden Arm award in Louisville, and had developed a strong relationship with the Baltimore Colts’ great. He performed admirably at the beginning of the 2002 season, despite a salary cap purge that left the Ravens a shell of their champioship self. He and Todd Heap developed immediate chemistry and before he got hurt, Redman posted a respectable 7 TD/3 INT season. The reigns were then handed to Jeff Blake, who I personally liked, and thought should have been kept around for 2003. Even after blowing the 2002 season finale in Pittsburgh, and his transgressions in Heinz Field thereafter, I would have like to see Blake compete against Boller and Redman in the following pre season. In finishing out the last 10 games in 2002, Blake threw for over 2,000 yards and 13 TD’s against 10 INT’s. A respectable number considering what the next three years of Ravens’ quarterbacking held.
2000: Tony Banks and Trent Dilfer: The Tony Banks Era started with a 16-0 opening week win in Pittsburgh, followed by one of the most exciting games in Ravens’ history, a 39-36 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars. It appeared as though the decision to start Banks, who had a strong showing in the second half of 1999, was a genius move by Brian Billick. The wheels eventually grinded to a halt, and Banks was replaced by Trent Dilfer during a Week 8 loss to the Titans. All Dilfer did from there on in was win. He lost his first start against Pittsburgh, but never tasted defeat again, eventually winning Super Bowl 35 over the New York Giants. It’s well documented what Dilfer was able to do, and even though history says the Ravens won in spite of him, Dilfer brought a calming, veteran presence to the Ravens’ QB position as well as the offense. The ultimate game manager, Trent would put his team in precarious situations with poor judgement and poor decision making, only to pull them out with the guts and grit that it takes to be a QB in the NFL. Something Kyle Boller never could grasp. What Dilfer did do was gain the confidence of his offense, and defense for that matter, something no other Ravens’ quarterback leading up to Steve McNair was able to do. He wasn’t going to light up scoreboards or produce record breaking stats, but Dilfer knew how to win. He was a winner here in Baltimore, and in my opinion, should have had the chance to defend the title that he was partly responsible for. I don’t know if he would have fared much better then Grbac did, given the circumstances that would become the 2001 season, but he earned the right to have that opportunity. And the problem that Grbac and Billick ran into in 2001, is so did his offense.
1999: Scott Mitchell, Stoney Case, and Tony Banks: Ohhhh, Scott Mitchell. You know what’s funny, is I actually thought when Scott Mitchell came to the Ravens, it would be a good thing. He had a very good 1995 campaign in Detroit, and seemed to be in need of a fresh start after losing his starting job to Charlie Batch in 1998. His Ravens’ career lasted 6 quarters and ultimately earned him the nickname “Water Buffalo.” In those six quarters, he was sacked 6 times, threw 1 TD and 4 INTs. Part of the issue, in my opinion, was Mitchell wearing the number 19. In Baltimore, there is room for only one #19, and that is Johnny Unitas. Stoney Case, the great Stoney Case, replaced him and well, he stunk too. It wasn’t until Tony Banks replaced him that the Ravens actually showed signs of becoming a decent team in the NFL. Banks played in the last 12 games (starting 10 of them) and passed for over 2,100 yards and threw for a very good 17 TD’s against 8 INTs. Banks brought a certain level of respect to the 1999 Ravens’ offense as the defense seemed to get better with each passing week. The Ravens finished 1999 with their first non losing mark, 8-8, and made first year head coach Brian Billick a hero in Baltimore. His finish in 1999 earned Banks the starting job heading into 2000. Makes me wonder what would have been had he been the starter all along in 1999, and not the Water Buffalo.
1998: Jim Harbaugh and Eric Zeier: Jim Harbaugh arrived in Baltimore with fanfare. He was re-uniting with his former Indianapolis head coach, Ted Marchibroda, and it was thought that they could rekindle the magic that led the Colts to within a catch of the 1995 AFC Championship. It lasted 12 games. Jimbo threw for just over 1,800 yards, 12 TDs and 11 INTs, ultimately giving way to Eric Zeier once the season was lost. Nicknamed “Captain Comeback” in his career, he did orchestrate a come from behind victory against the hated Colts in the first ever matchup between Baltimore’s current and previous NFL teams. It came against then rookie QB, Peyton Manning. Aside from that, there wasn’t much to say about Jim Harbaugh’s stint with the Ravens, other then that Eric Zeier wasn’t much better. Following a 6-10 season, Marchibroda was canned and Brian Billick was named the second head coach in Ravens’ history.
1996-1997: Vinny Testaverde and Eric Zeier: Football returned to Baltimore in Spetember of 1996. The Ravens began their inaugural season with NFL veteran Vinny Testaverde at the helm. I have family in the the Tampa, Florida area, so I kind of grew up with Vinny, watching him break into the NFL in the late 80’s, and lead the Bucs to a promising 3-1 start, before the season unraveled for them. I was excited, and Vinny turned in the best season of any Ravens’ quarterback in their history. He threw for over 4,100 yards and 33 TDs, while recievers Michael Jackson and Derrick Alexander each posted 1,000 yard seasons. If the Ravens’ defense had been even close to what they were to become, that year would have been a magical one here. The Ravens had the NFL’s number 1 offense, but worst defense. Vinny became Vinny again in 1997, throwing for just under 3,000 yards and 18 TDS against 15 INTs, before being replaced by Eric Zeier after the 13th game of the season. Baltimore sputtered to a 6-9-1 record, and Zeier showed signs that he wasn’t the QB of the future here, despite some modest late season success. Vinny left following the 1997 season, yet would remain the Ravens’ statistical leader at QB, for the better part of the next decade. A sign of just how bad things would get around here at the QB position.
So, did you digest all that? Wondering what my point to all this is? It’s very simple.
In his five years as the Ravens’ starting quarterback, Joe Flacco has not only become the longest tenured in Ravens’ history, but also the winningest. He has started every game for them since 2008 and led them to 5 straight trips to the postseason, winning a game in each of them. Prior to Flacco’s arrival, the last Ravens’ postseason victory, was a 20-3 win over the Miami Dolphins following the 2001 season. The QB for that game…..Elvis Grbac. Consider that for a moment. The last Raven QB to win a postseason game and not be named Joe Flacco was Elvis Grbac. All this guy has done in this league is win. Week after week, we watch Joe and for the most part, he has delivered. So the next time you want to beat up Joe, or claim that he isn’t the answer at quarterback for the Ravens, I want you to picture Kyle Boller bumbling his way through his career here.
Maybe then you will appreciate Joe, just a little but more.