Joe Flacco will almost certainly kick off the 2018 NFL season as the Baltimore Ravens’ starting quarterback, marking the 11th consecutive year in which that’s been the case. But with the Ravens signing former No. 2 overall pick and 2012 offensive rookie of the year Robert Griffin III and then selecting Lamar Jackson in Round 1 of the NFL draft, there’s never been more pressure on Flacco to perform.
After all, one can’t lean on a single hot Super Bowl run forever.
Flacco has earned $135.8 million thus far in his NFL career, and the Ravens are scheduled to pay him another $108.3 million over the next four years. That despite the fact the 33-year-old has never made a Pro Bowl in his career.
Hard to believe, isn’t it?
The reality is Flacco has never been an upper-echelon NFL quarterback. If he hadn’t suddenly thrown 11 touchdown passes to zero interceptions during a 2012 playoff run which culminated in Baltimore winning Super Bowl XLVII, he likely wouldn’t be a starting signal-caller in this league right now. He’s been living off that accomplishment because the Ravens have been hoping he might suddenly replicate it, and because there’s so much desperation for franchise quarterbacks these days that if a dude has led a team to a championship he’s a made man.
Flacco should be in his prime, but he’s coming off a complete season in which he was the seventh-lowest-rated qualified passer in the NFL. He’s never had a passer rating above 94 and only twice has his rating been higher than 90 (typically considered average in this day and age). He averaged a league-low 5.7 yards per attempt last season, bringing down his career average to a comical 6.8, and his 200-to-130 touchdown-to-interception ratio is poor by today’s standards.
Among 17 quarterbacks who have made at least 100 starts in the last 10 years, Flacco ranks 16th (ahead of just Ryan Fitzpatrick) with a passer rating of 84.1. He also ranks 16th in terms of yards per attempt and dead-last when it comes to touchdown rate.
Now, suddenly, the Ravens have two extremely talented quarterbacks backing up Flacco. And when asked about those dynamics earlier this month, Baltimore head coach John Harbaugh didn’t exactly give his longtime starter a ringing endorsement.
“You take it one year at a time in this league,” Harbaugh said, per ESPN.com. “You want to predict the future? Great, that’s cool. I get it. But the future is going to come and it can predict itself, really.”
Few expect Griffin to seriously challenge for a starting job, but you don’t draft a quarterback in the first round unless you believe he’s got a future under center with your team. Jackson is one of the most uniquely talented members of this rookie class. And while he’s polarizing, the fact is that if Flacco can’t start to produce, the Ravens won’t have much to lose by making a change. Baltimore has been to the playoffs just once since winning that Super Bowl in 2012.
If the 2016 Heisman Trophy winner can be ready to start in 2019 and the Ravens miss the playoffs with Flacco again putting up mediocre numbers in 2018, expect the team to do its best to trade the veteran Delaware product. And if that doesn’t happen, don’t be surprised if they release him in order to gain upwards of $10.5 million in salary-cap space.
Despite the Super Bowl and the “winning record” and the big-money salary, Joe Flacco might be entering a make-or-break season.
It’s about time.