In an in-depth interview published in ESPN the Magazine this week, Joe Flacco tells Kevin Van Valkenburg (formerly of The Baltimore Sun) that he wishes the Ravens coaching staff had handed him the reigns to the offense earlier in his five-year career.
He also touches on his communication issues with former offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, trying to make sense of Ray Lewis’ speeches, and the perception among fans that he’s “boring.” It’s a fascinating piece by the always insightful and articulate Van Valkenburg, and I absolutely encourage you to head over to ESPN.com and read the entire thing.
I really miss Kevin at the Sun. His “Five Things We Learned” article after every Ravens game were appointment reading for me. Some of the quality was due to practicality – since his column was published only on the web, and not in print, KVV could use many more words than columnists who only had X inches of newspaper space to work with. It wasn’t just that his analyses were long though; they were much more nuanced and in-depth than than 90% of what you’d read and/or hear in Baltimore sports media.
However, due to his experience in Baltimore and with the Ravens, Kevin has still written pieces on the team since being hired by ESPN. Last fall, he did this great article on Torrey Smith, and he routinely opines on Ravens games on his Twitter account. Just as his “Five Things” columns dove deeper than others, his story on Flacco elicits the kind of quotes you’d never hear from the Joe that stands in front of the podium.
A few of my favorite snippets…
On the team’s conservative philosophy:
Is it possible that Flacco was capable of this all along? It’s hard for him, looking back, not to view it that way. “I wish we’d been more willing to take risks,” he says. “We were never willing to fail to get better. We always played safe. And we won, but we didn’t really get better. I had no margin for error. I’d love to throw 40 touchdown passes a year. But I didn’t even have a chance to do that.”
On Ray Lewis:
“I love Ray, and I love how he always spoke from the heart, but if you listened to those speeches, a lot of them didn’t even make sense. He meant everything he was saying, but I didn’t know what he was talking about 90 percent of the time.”
On the “controversy” caused by saying he was the best QB in the NFL:
A few years ago, a Baltimore sports-talk-radio host asked him where he thought he ranked among the league’s quarterbacks. When he replied that it was important for him to believe he was the NFL’s best, his comments were virally mocked. “I guess I should have said, ‘You know what? I think I’m the 20th best,'” Flacco says now with a shrug. “That’s exactly what you want to hear from your quarterback, right?”
On his relationship with Cam Cameron:
The issue of who or what was holding him back is still a touchy subject for anyone on the Ravens. Privately, Flacco pushed for more control. Publicly, he backed the company line, but the debate over when he would be able to cut loose was getting tense. And Flacco’s relationship with Cameron, the man who had fought to draft him, had become visibly strained at times.
“Our relationship was good, he was just a tough person to communicate with,” Flacco says now, carefully choosing his words. “When you don’t feel like you can communicate at a great level, obviously there are going to be times when you see things differently.”
While it may be frustrating for Ravens fans to know that what we all suspected – that the coaching staff was telling Joe to “not lose” games, rather than win them – was indeed the case, it’s at least nice to see Flacco open up and be honest about what was going on. Could the Ravens have won a Super Bowl sooner, had the reins been let off Joe? That’s obviously up for debate (bring up these quotes at your next tailgate party and let the arguments ensue!), but I’m a glass-half-full kind of guy: all’s well that ends well.
The Ravens finally hoisted another Lombardi Trophy after deciding to attack on offense – a decision that, as you’ll read in the article, truly happened only about six quarters of football ago – and they’re now led by a former Super Bowl MVP quarterback.
Not a bad position to be in.