"With the 18th pick of the 2008 NFL Draft, the Baltimore Ravens select Joe Flacco, quarterback, University of Delaware."
These words undeniably ushered in a new era of football in Baltimore, for better or worse.
Two weeks before this year's draft, the Ravens had a decent situation at quarterback, though assuredly not a great one.
Troy Smith, a fifth round pick in the 2007 draft and former Heisman winner, was the enigma whom nobody was sure about.
Kyle Boller, a first round pick in the 2003 draft, was the career backup quarterback and Steve McNair, former league MVP, appeared to be the incumbent starter, despite a disappointing 2007.
Some, including me, were hoping the Ravens wouldn't draft a quarterback. With so many other holes in the team, it made more sense to fill a different position of need.
But suddenly McNair announced his retirement.
In doing so, he told the organization that the great Baltimore QB carousel would continue to revolve.
Rather than trade for a veteran quarterback, the Ravens entered a new era of Ravens football: the Joe Flacco era.
While Head Coach John Harbaugh and other Ravens coaches have consistently told the media that there will be an open competition at QB, everyone knows that in the near future, Flacco will be the full time starter.
It is true that the "near future" might not be this season — since the Kyle Boller debacle, teams have taken to sitting their first round quarterbacks for a season, rather than putting them through a trial by fire.
If Steve McNair were still in Baltimore, logic says he'd still be the starter.
Now the question is "Who is going to start at QB for the Ravens in 2008?"
Kyle Boller, while he will probably never be a franchise QB, is a good backup player and very valuable to the team because of his extensive starting experience.
Boller, though, already had several chances to seize the reins and become Baltimore's QB in seasons past. He has yet to do so, though few dispute that he has the physical tools- athleticism, arm strength, and mobility.
He generally does poorly in terms of his accuracy — he's yet to complete 60 percent of his passes in a season and sometimes struggles with his decision-making. At times, though, he has shown flashes of brilliance — only to be followed by a crucial mistake.
Joe Flacco is the new face of the franchise. Like Boller, he has the physical tools to be a great quarterback.
His arm may be even stronger than Boller’s, he ran a solid 40 at the combine (4.8), and was the unquestioned leader of his football team in college. However, he was unable to beat out Tyler Palko for the starting QB job at Pittsburgh, and in order to play transferred to the University of Delaware.
He led his team to the Division I-AA championship game this past season before losing to Appalachian State.
Unlike Boller, who faced questions regarding his accuracy coming out of college, Flacco was an accurate passer and is the newest first round pick, so he'll probably start within the next two seasons.
Troy Smith, the former Heisman Trophy winner, is still a mystery.
In limited playing time last season, he performed well. On the last drive of regulation, he led the Ravens' offense to a game-tying FG attempt, and Matt Stover sent the game into overtime. (The Ravens eventually lost that game to the Miami Dolphins.)
The next week he quarterbacked the entire game against the Steelers and led the Ravens to victory.
In both cases, Smith faced the equivalent of the NFL's junior varsity — the Dolphins and Pittsburgh, who rested its starters in the last game of the regular season.
However, he showed great potential, and more importantly, great poise — players in the huddle with Smith immediately noted that he didn't act like a rookie.
However, he lacks the measurables expected of a quarterback, most notably height as he's only 5'10".
My projection is that the Ravens will start Kyle Boller in the first game of the season.
The Ravens remember what happened when Brian Billick started Boller in his first game as a pro.
Ironically, the "Kyle Boller debacle," with which most football fans are familiar, will spur none other than Kyle Boller into the starting lineup because Smith is unproven and Flacco won't have time to properly learn the system.
Who is starting in Week 8 or 9 is anyone's guess, though.
Flacco would appear to be the clear backup for opening day because the Ravens invested a great deal in him, but don't rule out Smith.
Smith is scrappy and passionate, and I'm pretty sure he's tired of hearing about how his height will prevent him from being a good NFL player.
As always, I would welcome any feedback.
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