Joe Flacco is nobody’s prototype wide receiver. The lanky, 6-foot-6 Baltimore Ravens quarterback doesn’t exactly burst off the line of scrimmage. There are no quick-twitch moves in the open field.
Not only does he not look the part, he does a terrible job of selling it in those handful of instances when rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson takes snaps in the Wildcat formation – which forces Flacco to split out wide.
What bad body language. He goes about it as if lining up against a defensive back is the last place he’d want to be. Which, well, is probably what Flacco wants us to think.
He has heard all about it from in-house critic Dana Flacco, his wife and the mother of their four children.
“She’s busted my balls about just kind of standing there, nonchalantly,” Flacco told USA TODAY Sports. “I’m like, ‘Listen, I’m just not getting hurt. I want to make it known that I’m not part of this play.’ I’m just alerting everybody. I’m not part of this play.
“But, oh, yeah, she was making fun of me.”
Flacco, 33, leads the 3-1 Ravens into Sunday’s game at Cleveland having passed for his most yards through four games (1,252) since 2012, the season that ended with him winning Super Bowl XLVII MVP honors.
There are several factors for this, including a clean bill of health (a year after he missed the entire preseason and virtually all of training camp while dealing with back issues) and GM Ozzie Newsome’s remake of the wide receiver position.
Enter Michael Crabtree, Willie Snead IV and John Brown. And the offensive line is in a better place, too, aided by the return to health of all-pro right guard Marshal Yanda.
Then there’s the presence of Jackson, the multi-dimensional threat who might have been the most intriguing player in the 2018 NFL draft. The Ravens made a trade to get back into the first round to take the former Heisman Trophy winner.
Flacco doesn’t deny he was a bit miffed when Jackson was picked, but shoots down the suggestion that there’s extra fuel because his potential replacement is being groomed right in front of him.
“There’s obviously thoughts, the night they do it,” Flacco said. “But then you talk to people in the organization. It is what it is. You’d think anybody would have an initial reaction. But since then, I haven’t paid much attention to it. We always have a backup quarterback or two, so that’s the way I go about it.”
Maybe that’s the best spin for Flacco at this point. When Jackson was chosen, conditions seemed ripe for a QB controversy. Flacco refused to speak to the media – a message in itself – while at a team-sponsored draft event. A few days later, Jackson mentioned that the 11th-year veteran didn’t return his text messages.
Plus, competition is like the DNA of NFL culture. The last time Flacco was seemingly pressured to prove his worth came in 2012 when he turned down a contract offer and bet on himself. He won, with the Super Bowl triumph leading to a six-year, $120.6 million deal in 2013 that made him the highest-paid player at the time.
Now he looks like he’s being challenged again – with no excuses, given the supporting cast.
“My back wasn’t so much against the wall at that point and I don’t look at it like that right now, either,” he said, comparing his situation in 2012 with now. “I’m in my 11th year. Hopefully, I’ve got a lot of football to play. I expect to play well. It is what it is.”
Think Jackson’s presence sharpens Flacco’s edge?
“Competition means something to everybody,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “I’m sure in some ways it does. Everybody in football faces that. Probably the franchise quarterback, not as much. That’s why it’s somewhat of a story. But I don’t think it’s changed Joe. He would have been competing hard, regardless. I think he would have had a great year, no matter what.”
Flacco signed a three-year, $66.4 million extension in 2016, which guaranteed $44 million. Look down the road, though, and the Ravens could have a big decision in two years if they feel Jackson is ready to take over. If the Ravens part ways with Flacco in 2020, it would cost them just $8 million in dead money under the salary cap.
Sure, that’s a long way away … or solid long-term planning.
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Source: USA Today