How Long Will The Fire Burn?
Joe Flacco is an immensely confident athlete who throughout his life has had extreme success on many competitive levels in various sports. He’s that physically gifted.
But such gifts can give way to complacency without the proper challenges. It’s human nature really. Why put the pedal to the metal 24/7 when something less can still get the job done?
Of course, the greatest in all sports don’t quite see it that way. It’s part of their superhuman nature to take their gifts, inject a fierce competitiveness coupled with an uncommon work ethic, resulting in accomplishments that place them among the all-time best. Ray Lewis, Michael Jordan and Tom Brady come immediately to mind.
But Flacco isn’t wired the same way. He doesn’t seek greatness like those mentioned above. However, when inspired and healthy, the Ravens gunslinger can be quite impressive and can lift his team to extreme heights.
The good news is, Joseph Vincent Flacco now appears to be very motivated, sparked by the arrival of Lamar Demeatrice Jackson, Jr. Eric Weddle has taken notice.
“As older players, every year is a prove-it year, and if you don’t believe that, you’re fooling yourself. I have to prove that I’m still a starter in this league, that I can compete, that I should be a starter and that I should be on this team, because if you don’t, then you’re going to be out of here. So now, so with drafting Lamar [Jackson] and bringing [Robert] Griffin in, it’s lit a fire under him – you can tell – and he’s shown.”
— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) June 13, 2018
The frustrating thing for the Ravens is that it has taken a threat to Flacco’s job to get him to amp up his effort – to focus and commit to improvement. Maybe it’s just part of his career evolution and maturity. Whatever the case, it’s all about what he does moving forward. Past seasons marked by underachievement are now in the rearview mirror. Their only redeeming value lies in the lessons learned.
If anything, the addition of Jackson sends a clear signal to Flacco – earn your paycheck or you might be looking for a new employer next season.
That signal is just what the doctor ordered.
It does make you wonder why it took the Ravens so long to see that their most expensive investment on the field responds positively to pressure. Hiring backups like Matt Schaub, Jimmy Clausen and Ryan Mallett hardly motivates Flacco to mind his P’s and Q’s. They provided no threat to his job security.
That all changes when a team invests a first-round pick in a quarterback, one -year removed from at least a $10.5M cap savings if Flacco is released in 2019.
So now the fire has been set. The focus, missing for years has reappeared. Flacco is in the best shape he’s been in for years and is said to be planning some off-campus workouts with his receiving corps. And now with his job security as shaky as it has ever been, perhaps he’ll take to coaching a bit better than he has in the past and begin to correct his mechanical flaws.
“Joe Flacco, to me, has one of the great arms maybe in the history of this league”, explained new Ravens QB Coach James Urban.
“That’s been evident from the beginning. I probably placed a big emphasis on mobility, movement within the pocket, footwork timing. But the ability to push up and slide, find passing lanes, buy time, all of that has been a big emphasis.”
And then Urban dropped this juicy nugget…
“I’m not sure that [the footwork, etc.] was or wasn’t emphasized in the past, but that’s where I go pretty quickly.”
Maybe his faulty technique was ignored or not emphasized enough since Flacco had all the leverage. Or maybe the fundamentals were emphasized but Flacco scoffed at them. Whatever the case, now there’s a new QB sheriff in town and the star pupil has no choice but to kowtow to the coaching staff. His future hangs in the balance.
So now the Ravens have their franchise quarterback motivated, in shape, healthy, focused on details and equipped with a much better group of pass catchers. The barriers to success have been removed.
That said, there seems to be a growing consensus that regardless of how his season goes, 2018 will be Joe’s last in Baltimore. If things go well for Flacco, many believe that he will be traded, much like a similarly positioned Kansas City Chiefs did with Alex Smith earlier this year. If things go awry, conventional wisdom suggests he’ll be cut.
It’s really not that cut and dried.
If Flacco fails, he’s gone. But if he’s successful, why rush him out of town? If the Ravens go deep into the playoffs and the offense is clicking, why wouldn’t the Ravens give it another go with Flacco in 2019? That would give Jackson another year to develop, after which he would presumably be ready in 2020. The Ravens could then shed the hefty Flacco W-2 and save a whopping $20.25M in cap space.
Give the Ravens credit for implementing a plan to re-ignite their Super Bowl 47 MVP. If it works, everyone wins. If the pilot light goes out on Flacco’s newfound fire, at least they already have Plan B queued up and ready to go.
And it’s about time!