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Ravens hopes rest on the shoulders of Joe Flacco

Lombardi's Way Ravens hopes rest on the shoulders of Joe Flacco

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When Joe Flacco was drafted by the Baltimore Ravens with the 18th overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft the team’s quarterback stable included: Steve McNair, Kyle Boller and Troy Smith.

The plan was to bring Flacco along slowly and if things went the right way, Flacco might assume the starter’s reins sometime midseason.

It didn’t exactly go down that way.

McNair retired. Boller went down with a broken collarbone during the preseason and that left Smith and Flacco. Just prior to the opener Smith contracted an extreme case of tonsillitis leaving the Ravens with no choice other than to turn to their rookie.

Since then Flacco has started 80 consecutive games (good for 3rd best among active QB’s, E. Manning (137), Philip Rivers (107)) and he has thrown 2,221 of the teams 2,247 passing attempts during this span.

So for all those national media guys who fawn over Jay Cutler and heap mounds of praise upon the overrated Bears signal caller and remind us how tough he is, well they better take a look No. 5’s way.

Opposing players certainly do. Count the Texans’ Connor Barwin among his admirers.

“I told Flacco after, I was like ‘that was impressive, you’re still in the game,’ because I hit the (crap) out of him twice, I think he deserves some credit, he played the whole game.”

That said, Flacco could use a little of Cutler’s edginess so he might on occasion ride an offensive line that all too often is like a New Orleans dike trying to contain Mississippi flood waters.

Maybe Flacco’s toughness is taken for granted.

His offensive coordinator rarely spreads the ball. The wide receiver route tree has seemingly been pruned from 9 branches to three. They rarely use misdirection or gadgets or pump fakes or vary formations to keep defenses honest. And their screens passes to tailbacks are as organized as an electric football game.

Come to think of it, the Ravens offense is about as dated as those electric football games.

And here of late Cameron doesn’t want to establish the run – a weak offensive line’s best friend, to help loosen things up in the secondary.

Add it all up and Flacco’s dependability can’t be understated.

Last week on the Ravens Rap, team owner Steve Bisciotti joined us. I reminded him that a few years back towards the end of Brian Billick’s tenure, Bisciotti mentioned that he wanted the club to be managed in a way that allowed the window of opportunity for success to always remain open instead of the up/down, open/shut cycle during the Billick years.

Since John Harbaugh’s arrival, the Ravens have managed to make the playoffs four consecutive seasons. So I asked what he might attribute that to – the organization, scouting, coaching, personnel or all of the above.

“Joe Flacco”, was Bisciotti’s answer.

The stability of good quarterbacking keeps the team steady and that window pried open.

So isn’t that even more reason to protect him?

The Ravens keep tinkering around with an offensive line and they get away with it because Flacco is tough as nails. There’s no Roethlisberger-like drama. Joe just gets up off the deck, dusts himself off and moves on to the next play.

But if the Ravens aren’t careful, Flacco’s understated durability might come crashing down if they don’t improve their play along the offensive front and if their coordinator doesn’t start managing a game they way he’s paid to manage.

And stop playing games with Bryant McKinnie and his contract! Put the man at left tackle; move Michael Oher to right tackle and go with Kelechi Osemele at left guard.

You know, maybe they should all remember that a Ravens team without Flacco will not only cost them a season, it will also cost jobs, particularly if Bisciotti’s window gets slammed shut.

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Tony Lombardi

About Tony Lombardi

Tony is 24x7 Networks, LLC's founder (the parent of EutawStreetReport.com and RussellStreetReport.com) His work has been featured on various sports websites and he is a regular guest on 105.7 The Fan and CBS Sports 1300. He also hosts Backfield in Motion with Justin Forsett seen on ABC2 every Saturday at 1PM. A diehard Fab Four fan, Tony is a frustrated musician who thinks beating on the steering wheel is akin to being John Bonham. He ignores the passengers in cars beside him who laugh. Follow Tony's new Twitter @RSRLombardi. More from Tony Lombardi

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