Late for Work 4/21: The ‘Wild Events’ Leading to Suggs, Boller

Plus Harbaughs’ parents passing on Thanksgiving game; arguments on Ravens’ biggest needs.

Posted by Sarah Ellison on Thursday, April 21st, 2011 at 9:01 am | Categories: Late For Work, Sarah Ellison

The ‘Wild Events’ Leading to Suggs, Boller

Former Ravens Head Coach Brian Billick called it one of the “wildest” drafts he can ever remember.

Trade posturing. Yelling. A little greed. Busy league phone numbers. And a draft time allotment that had expired.

These were the wild behind-the-scenes events in 2003 that led to Baltimore drafting outside linebacker Terrell Suggs and quarterback Kyle Boller.

All the craziness began when Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome, who held the 10th-overall pick, wanted to make a run at moving up to select quarterback Byron Leftwich, who Ozzie knew was being targeted by the Jacksonville Jaguars at No. 8.

According to Billick, the Ravens “needed” a quarterback that year and Leftwich was rated higher on the Ravens’ draft board than Boller.

So Newsome started working the phones with Minnesota, which had the seventh-overall pick.

 ”It looked like we had a deal, until Jacksonville — knowing we were trying to move up, engaged Minnesota with the same talks, offering to move up one pick to ensure Leftwich,” recalled Billick on “As the clock clicked down Minnesota got greedy and kept playing one side against the other.”

Minnesota’s time on the clock was quickly approaching the two-minute mark and Billick got antsy.

“I finally pulled the phone from Ozzie and said, ‘Mike [Tice, Billick's former line coach who was working the deal], you have to pull the trigger on this one way or the other because we are running out of time. Decide!’

“Once Ozzie got the phone back he was able to get the deal done, but knew we were probably out of time. It is the protocol of the draft that the team getting the pick is responsible for phoning in the deal. As we quickly dialed the league number, it was busy — as were the secondary numbers we had.”

Billick suspected the Jaguars were purposefully tying up the phone lines to prevent a last-minute trade. With time winding down, Newsome told his team representative at the draft to write two names on two different cards:  Byron Leftwich and Terrell Suggs.

“Through all of this,” Billick added, “we were amazed that Suggs had fallen down the board. During our ramp up to the draft I can remember on several occasions when we would ‘read our players’ to rank on the board Ozzie said, ‘We will do Suggs but it is a waste of time. He is never going to get past the fourth or fifth pick.’”

Turns out, time had expired before Baltimore and Minnesota could complete the trade and make a pick. And when a franchise fails to make its pick in the allotted time, each successive team can turn in its selection until the original team comes back with a decision. So when time expired, Jacksonville jumped in front of Minnesota and got its quarterback in Leftwich.

The Ravens wound up with Suggs at No. 10, a player Baltimore thought was worth the third- or fourth-overall pick.

“Normally, the room would have erupted in our good fortune, but it immediately went to work trying to trade back up into the first round to [grab] the final premier quarterback remaining, Kyle Boller,” wrote Billick.

Boller was rated No. 10 overall on the Ravens’ draft board and the franchise would later get him at No. 19.

Looking back on the events that transpired nearly eight years ago, Billick insists: “To this day I believe that [the Jags' GM] masterfully stretched the conversation out [with Minnesota] so as to get his player and not have to give anything up in the process.”

And if he hadn’t, what would the stories be on Suggs, Boller and Leftwich today?

Harbaughs’ Parents Passing on Thanksgiving Game

It was a “cunning” move for the league to promote a sibling rivalry on Thanksgiving, wrote ESPN’s James Walker.

The nation is sure to tune in for an NFL historical moment, the first time two brothers will face each other as head coaches.

But count the brothers’ parents out.  They don’t plan on being in M&T Bank Stadium to witness the live event.

“No way. And Jackie [Harbaugh] and I have talked about it, and we will not be within two time zones of that venue, I promise you,” father Jack Harbaugh said on FOX 1370-AM, per The Baltimore Sun.  “We’re going to stay as far away from that as we can.

“We’ve seen these two guys compete for about 47 years, so … we’ll allow other people to enjoy it with us here in Milwaukee, watching on television.”

Compelling Arguments for Pass Rusher and Tackle

NFL Network: Ravens On The Clock
Right Click for Full Screen Option

On this most everyone can agree: the Ravens biggest needs heading into the draft are pass rusher, wide receiver, offensive tackle and cornerback.

But what is the No. 1 need?  That’s where analysts disagree.

The latest buzz is that neither a corner – not even Jimmy Smith – nor a receiver left on the board at No. 26 will be worth taking.  Thus, pundits are left arguing for either a pass rusher or an offensive tackle in the first round.

In addition to the NFL Network debate below, I found some compelling arguments made for each position this morning:

Pass rusher:  “The Ravens’ most pressing need is a pass rusher,” The Baltimore Sun’s Jamison Hensley told fans in an online chat. “They tried to upgrade that with Kindle and they got nothing in return last year. The Ravens set a franchise-low in sacks last year and they can’t afford to let QBs pick them apart like last season. It’s a priority for the Ravens to find someone who can take the pressure off Suggs.

“If the Ravens had to do it, they could get by at WR with Boldin, Mason and David Reed. They could also get by with Yanda at OT for another year and be OK with Foxworth and Webb starting at CBs. But the Ravens can’t afford to struggle in the pass rush again.”

Offensive tackle: “Michael Oher is an inspiring story, and played well on the right side of the line as a rookie,” wrote’s Kerry J. Byrne. “But he didn’t protect Joe Flacco’s blind side very well when he moved to LT in 2010. He allowed seven sacks and was whistled for 10 penalties — not good numbers for your top tackle.

“Baltimore, so solid in so many areas, was merely average at protecting Flacco, allowing a Negative Pass Play on 9.42 percent of dropbacks (18th league-wide). … The performance of the OL was easily the statistical weak link of the otherwise rock-solid Ravens.


Quick Hits

  • “A splinter group of players could be a sign that not all of the roughly 1900 players are satisfied with the NFLPA’s handling of the labor impasse,” said Sean Leahy after reading a Sports Business Journal report indicating 70 second-tier players are close to hiring a law firm to intervene in the antitrust lawsuit against the NFL. The group isn’t pleased that labor talks broke down on March 11, which resulted in the dissolution of the union and the lockout. [USA Today/Sports Business Journal]
  • Ready for a motivational speech? Linebacker Ray Lewis gave a pep talk to the Elon University football team.


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,