Barring a remarkable turn of events in the first 34 days of 2019, Joe Flacco will be in the Ravens’ rearview mirror come this March.
The die was really cast late in the first round of the NFL draft on April 26, 2018. That night, after having drafted tight end Hayden Hurst for his #1 pick, outgoing general manager Ozzie Newsome, swung a deal with the Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles to get back in the first round and select University of Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson.
With that pick, Newsome made what will most likely be the last first-round pick in his personal drafting history. The move also was the beginning of the end of Flacco’s tenure as “the man” at quarterback in Baltimore.
While there are some who questioned the decision, there was no getting around the fact that as the 2017 season was winding down, the club had determined it was time to begin the move toward parting company with Flacco, the man who has been their undisputed No. 1 QB since taking over for the injured duo of Kyle Boller and Troy Smith in the preseason of August 2008. Mostly, the quiet, unflappable Flacco was robot-like in how he just showed up each and every season to play all 16 games.
It wouldn’t be until season eight that Flacco missed a game — a consecutive-games streak of 122, which is eighth all-time for QBs. While several of Flacco’s contemporaries — Philip Rivers, Matt Ryan and Matthew Stafford — have active streaks that are longer, Flacco’s durability from day one through game 11 of his eighth season seems quite remarkable.
For all the flaws we foist upon Flacco, perhaps the most inescapable was that he lacked a passion for the game that might have made him work a little harder, watch a little more film, to have made himself prepared a tick or two better.
But even that description of Joe isn’t quantifiable. In many of my defenses of Joe, I found myself arguing he was just too normal to have stayed at the facility to watch tape until 9 or 10 at night when he had a family to get home to.
What a crime: Joe Flacco was too normal.
It was Ravens’ management that may have felt the same about Flacco’s lack of passion to be great. Why else did the team elect to roll the dice into the 2012 season without having given him a more affordable extension before that Super Bowl season?
After all, you are talking about a guy who was in their building for four seasons and had amassed a .687 winning percentage, and yet you challenged him to take the next big step before you’d extend him.
In those first five seasons, Flacco made just under $24 million. Since winning SB XLVII in New Orleans, Flacco has pocketed another $124 million.
It’s clearly not Joe’s job to decide what management should pay him and allow for winning roster construction. But it’s clear in Baltimore like every other NFL city that gets the benefit of a cheap QB, the calculation those first five seasons of how you build a team once the QB begins to eat up a huge percentage of your payroll is essential to being able to win.
Specifically in Baltimore, in the couple seasons after SB XLVII, the club had to deal with losses to elite defensive personnel and the sudden loss of Ray Rice. But still, Flacco’s percentage of payroll has been a big piece of what has ailed the Ravens and seen them go just 47-46 (through 13 games of the 2018 season) since winning the sport’s ultimate prize in New Orleans.
With Flacco scheduled to make an additional $63 million non-guaranteed during the 2019 to ‘21 seasons, it’s no wonder the relationship is about to come to a halt.
So what’s next for Joe? From people I know who know Joe well, they seem to feel he’s likely to simply retire rather than pay the price on his family to be the answer in Jacksonville, Cincinnati or the Meadowlands with the Giants.
However, there is a team 40 miles south of Baltimore that has seen their QB, Alex Smith, suffer a horrific injury, similar to the multiple compound fracture that Joe Theismann suffered more than 30 years to the day. In Theismann’s case, it ended his career. Smith, 34, who is battling infections after his initial round of surgeries, is likely finished as a player.
Flacco could be a nice fit in Washington. It’ll be odd to see him in that other uniform, but it’s very unlikely we’ll see him in purple and black ever again.
Stan “The Fan” Charles is the founder and publisher of PressBox.