Joe Flacco will dress as a backup quarterback for the first time in his NFL career this upcoming Sunday. The inevitable was finally made official when Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh announced that Lamar Jackson will remain the Ravens starting quarterback going into week 15 of the NFL season. Since getting his first shot at starting in the NFL against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 11, Jackson has gone 3-1 as a starter and ignited a Ravens rushing attack that was amongst the worst in the NFL. Baltimore currently sits in sole possession of the second AFC wild-card spot and are only a half-game back of the Pittsburgh Steelers for the AFC North lead.
— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) December 12, 2018
Though the starting quarterback job is now Jackson’s to run with, there are still some questions lingering around Flacco. Flacco has always had one of the strongest arms in the NFL, and Jackson’s clear weakness is his ability to throw the ball. As demonstrated earlier in the season, Harbaugh is also not opposed to using just one quarterback either. This could mean that the former starter may have a role to play down the stretch in Baltimore.
Flacco is almost certain to be cut at the end of the season if he remains behind Jackson on the depth chart, but he currently sits in a unique position.
What’s Next For Joe Flacco?
What has made Flacco stand out among a lot of quarterbacks since he entered the league in 2008, is his playoff record. He holds a 10-5 career playoff record and has only thrown a total of four interceptions in his last 10 playoff games. The Ravens haven’t made the playoffs in three seasons so a lot has changed since the Ravens defense coughed up two 14-point leads to the New England Patriots in January of 2015. With that in mind, consider that in almost all of Flacco’s playoff games since 2010, only one win (Houston 2011) was based on superb defensive efforts.
Defense is clearly the Ravens strongest side of the ball and the unit has been putting in work since Jackson made his first start. Defense wins championships but can the Ravens count on the group they have now to steal games if they make it into January?
Yes, but it will be incredibly difficult. The NFL is shifting to an incredibly pass happy league and it will be hard for Jackson to keep up in crunch time.
This leaves room for Flacco to potentially get playing time in the postseason. For example, if the Ravens find themselves in a large hole going into half-time, it is very plausible that Harbaugh is forced to put Flacco in the game. Maybe the jitters will get away from Jackson but as of now, in the two games, he’s had to go out and finish the game off – against Cincinnati and against the Kansas City Chiefs – he has failed. Flacco may not be the most clutch quarterback, but he at least has the passing ability to dig the Ravens out of a hole.
It is impossible to imagine the Ravens survive the playoffs without playing from behind late.
A Reverse Jackson
The Ravens became league-wide news when they began the season using Jackson as a gadget quarterback. This involved him lining up in different positions including running back, wide receiver as well as quarterback. Obviously, Flacco is not this versatile. However, there are a couple of situations in which Flacco has significantly more value on the field than Jackson.
The tricky part of this idea is the need to factor in Jackson’s confidence. He’s made a number of impressive plays this season but Flacco is the superior thrower and takes far better care of the football. So what happens when the Ravens find themselves in third and 18? Does it really make sense to keep Jackson on the field when defenses are certain that he is going to pass the ball? This eliminates the single thing that makes him special. No team plans to be in third and very long but it happens to everyone. Harbaugh knows he has a better arm on the bench in Flacco as well as the fact he has made similar throws at the NFL level before.
It’s a touchy scenario but one that needs to be considered. Harbaugh himself said, “We have the best quarterback situation ‘in the league'” showing supreme confidence in both his quarterbacks. The Ravens are in a very unique position in which if one quarterback falters, the other can seemingly step in.
I don’t believe that Flacco will stay off the field for the remainder of the season even if his role has changed.
With the promotion of Jackson, it is clear that Flacco and his hefty contract will be cut from the Ravens books at some point before the 2019 season begins. This gives the Ravens both the options of trading him or cutting him and letting him find a destination on his own. Despite the cap concerns, it cost a lot to get a starting quarterback and a team may be willing to bite the bullet if they’re desperate enough. Just remember, Teddy Bridgewater and Tyrod Taylor were both traded for third-round picks last off-season and Flacco has a far more impressive resume than either.
Flacco could move to the Jacksonville Jaguars, where he would be playing behind a great defense that was close to a Super Bowl just a year ago. Blake Bortles has officially been benched and Tom Coughlin will not want to waste the elite defence he was able to assemble.
Flacco could also end up with the New York Giants. The Giants floundered again this year after a disappointing 2017 and Flacco could do wonders with the supporting offensive cast. New York may be looking to draft a quarterback but if they want to wait a year and get a shot at either Jake Fromm or Tua Tagovailoa in the 2020 draft, Flacco might be a perfect bridge and mentor.
The team that signs or acquires Flacco will most likely be one that is trying to win now. Flacco is already sitting behind an heir to a franchise and will probably choose to go somewhere he is guaranteed a starting spot for at least a year.
Though Flacco will be watching from the sidelines Sunday, it is important to note that this was not due to his deficiencies. He was never a perfect quarterback but he was let down on multiple occasions by his teammates in 2018. Harbaugh is doing the smart thing by playing the quarterback that best nullifies the Ravens shortcomings.
Jackson now has to fill the shoes of a quarterback that has never been one-and-done in the postseason. He has a big task in front of him while trying to reverse the fortunes of a Baltimore squad that has choked their way out of the playoffs two years in a row.