Aggressiveness in a quarterback is a double-edged sword. When Brett Favre fires the ball into traffic and it's caught, he's a Hall of Fame gunslinger; if it's intercepted, he's careless and flawed. That's the tightrope Ryan walked at Boston College. Now if he slides in the first round—smart money has him going to Atlanta at No. 3, though Miami (picking first) and Baltimore (eighth) will be in the running too—it will be because of his 37 career interceptions, particularly those 19 picks last fall.
Ryan doesn't want to play cautiously, but he is also a fan of Tom Brady and is aware of how Brady turned running back Kevin Faulk into an invaluable part of the New England Patriots offense by checking down to him so often. "A quarterback cannot be passive; a quarterback's going to throw interceptions," Ryan said last Saturday night, while relaxing in his hotel room after his team interviews were done. "I've watched all 19 interceptions on tape again, and it's frustrating, obviously. I have to learn to check down a little more, which is something I know will be stressed at the next level. And it will be good for me.''
In Ryan's trademark performance, the Virginia Tech game, he tossed two interceptions and fell behind 10--0. The score held until the fourth quarter, when Ryan threw two scrambling TD passes in the final 2:11, the second with 11 seconds left, to pull out a 14--10 win. "I think I can make any throw on the field," Ryan said. "But I think what I do best is just keep my head down and play. I think I do that as well as anybody. No matter what happens, compete and compete and compete till the end."
POLIAN, WHO picked Manning over Ryan Leaf 10 years ago, isn't as concerned as some scouts about Ryan's interceptions. "Every time I've seen him play, maybe half a dozen times, he's been wonderful," Polian says of the BC quarterback. "I was in Blacksburg for the Virginia Tech game, and all I can tell you is Boston College was out of that game. They were totally ineffective for 55 minutes. But for the last five minutes, Matt was magic. And that's what you pay quarterbacks to do in this league."
Ryan will work out for teams on March 18 at Boston College. He'll throw to his own receivers, at his own practice field. He'll be prepared, before and after the workout. "My mother always told me to look professional and be professional," he said.