They both entered the NFL after their junior year at California-Berkeley. They both played under Jeff Tedford. They both were drafted in the first round of the NFL draft to guide their franchises into the future. They both share the same agent, Mike Sullivan.
The undeniable similarities between Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and Baltimore Ravens quarterback Kyle Boller have paved the way for a strong kinship.
"We are friends," Rodgers said. "We keep in touch in the offseason and get together."
Rodgers succeeded Boller as the starting quarterback at California in 2003. Their football careers did not coincide at Cal, but Boller helped recruit Rodgers. Aside from their college affiliation, they belong to a select fraternity of quarterbacks who played under Tedford. Tedford served as quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator at Fresno State before taking the offensive coordinator position at Oregon and then the head coaching job at California. Boller, Rodgers, and Fresno State alums Trent Dilfer and David Carr remain close. Dilfer, the so-called "grandfather," organizes gatherings.
"There's a bond between all Tedford quarterbacks just because we love him so much," Rodgers said.
Another similarity is the Packers' interest in both quarterbacks. The Packers drafted Rodgers with the 24th overall pick in the draft and considered taking Boller, the 19th pick overall, in the 2003 draft. Head coach Mike Sherman and offensive coordinator Tom Rossley attended his workout and took him out to dinner the night before.
"I thought he'd be a good NFL quarterback," Sherman said. "I had no question about that."
The similarities end, however, when you look at their pro careers. The Ravens threw Boller into the fire. He started his very first NFL game, completing 22-of-43 passes for 152 yards, a touchdown and an interception while losing to a strong Pittsburgh Steelers team in Heinz Field.
"That's a tough circumstance," Ravens head coach Brian Billick said.
Rodgers, on the other hand, has only attempted one NFL pass, which came during mop-up duty of the Packers' 52-3 drubbing of the New Orleans Saints in Week 5. He learns behind future Hall of Famer Brett Favre, running the scout team during practice and picking Favre's brain at every opportunity.
"I'm in a great situation," Rodgers said.
Few would characterize Boller's career thus far as great. Most would deem it uneven. In his three years, he has never reached a quarterback rating of 71 and has thrown more touchdowns than interceptions in a season only once. Injuries have played a role. A quadriceps injury cost him five games in 2003, and a toe injury forced him to miss seven more this year.
"Kyle's gone through a lot," Rodgers said "It's been pretty tough being a buddy and seeing him go through that. A lot of his struggles have been he's not been able to stay healthy and kind of get in a rhythm."
Some observers thought Boller would enjoy a breakout season in 2005. During the offseason the Ravens bolstered their skill positions, signing free agent wide receiver Derrick Mason and drafting rookie wide receiver Mark Clayton. Two-time Pro Bowl tight end Todd Heap also regained his health after missing 10 games with an ankle injury in 2004. But Boller hurt his toe in Week 1.
"It was regrettable that he got hurt in the first game," Billick said. "Last year through our injuries ... we didn't have a very dynamic receiving corps for him to go to."
Like those of Dilfer, Carr and Oregon products Joey Harrington and Akili Smith, Boller's professional career has yet to match the success he had at the college level under Tedford. Right or wrong, those players have developed a label, which marked Rodgers. After several draft experts had pegged him to go as high as first overall, Rodgers dropped to the 24th overall pick amidst questions of whether Tedford's coaching had prepared him for the NFL.
"For some reason there's negativity associated with it," Rodgers said. "When I get my opportunity, I'm going try and change that false image of coach Tedford quarterbacks."
Although both Boller and Rodgers embody some of Tedford's philosophies, they have different quarterbacking styles. Boller has a stronger arm and better mobility, but Rodgers can throw passes with greater precision.
"He might be a more of a runner outside of the pocket and he's a little bit more athletic," Rodgers said. "But I put up a little better accuracy numbers at Cal."
As the backup to Favre, Rodgers may not display that accuracy in a regular season NFL game any time soon. While Boller leads the Ravens against the Packers on Monday Night Football, the Packers will have to settle for watching Rodgers showcase his Tedford-honed skills during practice.
"How he looks at the game, how he's approaching his job now watching and learning from Favre all speaks very well of him at this present stage," Sherman said. "But until he gets on the field and does it week in and week out, we really won't know."