Much has been made of the weapons the Ravens have added on offense this offseason. Regardless of whether you think Steve Smith is too old, Owen Daniels is injury prone, or the Ravens were foolish not to add a playmaker early in the draft, there is no denying the offense is improved from 2013.
These additions are vital, and will help put the Ravens back in position to have an opportunity to recapture the AFC North and return to the playoffs.
But there may be one element that is being overlooked, that is just as important to the Ravens chances in 2014, Joe Flacco’s resolve.
Joe Flacco certainly has his critics, and the “elite” debate seems as if it will be a constant throughout his entire career. But even his biggest naysayers can’t deny the fact that the guy is a flat out winner. He’s the anti Tony Romo. Despite his mediocre stats and struggles at times during the regular season, he’s clutch in big games and situations, bounces back from bad games and plays well with his back against the wall.
Last season when the offense struggled, the Ravens coaching staff implemented the wildcat into their game plan. Flacco was not a fan, and made no secret about it. After running it seven times versus the Jets he was visibly irked, but needed to show the offense could succeed without it. The following week versus the Steelers, Joe completed almost 69 percent of his passes for 251 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions and a 98.6 QBR.
In week 15 of 2012 Flacco laid face down just outside his own end zone. After throwing a pick six to Chris Harris he made a valiant effort to chase down the speedy corner but failed, it was the low point of the Ravens 2012 season, but it was a turning point. The following week Joe threw for 309 yards and 2 touchdowns in a 33-14 rout of the New York Giants. It set the tone for the playoffs and got the Ravens rolling on their way to their second Lombardi.
Perhaps the best example is when he left millions of dollars on the table before the 2012 season. When he said, “no thanks, I’m good” to the Ravens brass. Convinced he was worth more, he bet on himself, and in turn became what was at the time the highest paid player in NFL history.
The new weapons are great and will certainly be helpful. A bigger and better offensive line to keep Joe upright is critical as well. But the best thing the Ravens offense may have going for it is all the doubters who think they saw the real Joe Flacco in 2013. The critics who think that Joe’s down year was a result of his big contract, and not a set of difficult circumstances, and a lack of playmakers.
Joe Flacco may never put up gaudy stats, be considered elite, or even make a Pro Bowl. He may not be the best guy to start on your fantasy team and will struggle at times during the regular season. But he possesses the intangibles that guys like Tony Romo and Andy Dalton lack, and he thrives and plays his best football when people doubt him the most.
You can’t teach resolve.
After a down year in 2013, expect those doubters to be out early and often in 2014.
Don’t be surprised if Flacco proves them all wrong, and has a career year and leads the Ravens back to the playoffs.