On the best night of his brief run as a starting quarterback for the Las Vegas Posse, Len Williams came within 2 yards of beating Baltimore.
On Aug. 6, in an early-season matchup of Canadian Football League expansion teams, Williams threw for 362 yards and two touchdowns. But cornerback Irvin Smith preserved Baltimore's 38-33 victory with a tackle at the goal line.
Six months later, Williams' 21-for-39 performance has the look of a job audition. Cut by the Posse last November, the former Northwestern star has resurfaced with Baltimore. He will go to training camp next summer as an intriguing candidate for the backup quarterback job behind Tracy Ham.
"Against us, he showed the ability to compete in this league," Baltimore coach Don Matthews said of Williams, whose signing was announced yesterday.
Not long after his big day against Baltimore, Williams fell from grace -- all the way to third team behind Preston Jones. When he was cut in Week 18, Williams had completed 58 percent of his passes for 1,222 yards, 10 touchdowns and eight interceptions. His 8.9-yard average gain was second to Winnipeg's Matt Dunigan (9.2) in the league.
"He didn't think I was into it," Williams, 23, said of Posse coach Ron Meyer. "I thought it was a bad deal. I'm a very confident person. Anthony Calvillo is a good quarterback and my friend, but I didn't think he was better than me."
Meyer now says that Williams was "probably better" than Jones. But he doesn't think the 6-foot-2, 220-pound Williams meets the CFL prototype.
"He's got a chance, but he needs to lose weight," Meyer said. "He's a nonmobile quarterback in a mobile game. He can't make the Tracy Ham plays you have to have. . . . Me releasing him may have been the greatest thing that happened to the kid."
Last season, Baltimore got spotty production from backup quarterbacks John Congemi and Shawn Jones. They completed 36 of 84 passes (43 percent), with three touchdowns and nine interceptions.
"We must have better production out of that position," Matthews said. "But it's tough to come off the bench cold."
Baltimore will bring back practice-roster quarterback Matt Rodgers this summer and has negotiation rights to Robert Dougherty, a 5-10 Doug Flutie look-alike from Boston University. Although the team exercised its option on Congemi, his return is questionable.
NOTES: Charlie Carpenter, at Ottawa last season, starts today as Baltimore's offensive line coach. . . . Director of player personnel Jim Popp says he'll make a decision by the end of the week on whether to accept a job offer from Memphis. . . . Chad Bolen, who last worked for the Charlotte Knights in Double-A baseball, will direct Baltimore's game-day operations, replacing Tom Renado, who left for another business opportunity.