There’s a lot of football left and anything can happen.
Five games is an eternity in the NFL.
Injuries…a missed call by the zebras…a bad match-up or two.
In the NFL, you can win three in a row in a heartbeat and lose three in a row just as quickly.
But this is a Ravens team that looks different than in years past. Record wise, this team is clearly much better than last year’s squad that was beset with injuries and dictated a mini-coaching-mutiny from within when it was apparent by Thanksgiving that the season was a lost cause.
I think this team is better than the one that went 13-3 in 2006, truth be told.
They have a quarterback.
Steve McNair wasn’t chopped liver when he showed up here for the ’06 campaign but he became chopped something shortly thereafter. Even when he was healthy, he looked like he was on his last legs. Players would openly marvel at how McNair could literally sleep for 20 minutes an hour before kick-off. And, while the players knew McNair was better than Kyle Boller, they also knew his stay in Baltimore would probably be short-lived.
That’s not the case now. Joe Flacco’s going to be here for a long time. And the players know it.
Flacco’s meteoric rise hasn’t come as a total shock to the Ravens. Even back in training camp, players watched him and remarked at how he *looked* like a pro quarterback. Samari Rolle showed up a week or so into camp after the death of his father and was standing on the sidelines on his first day in Westminster. He watched Flacco play for about 10 minutes and looked around to a Ravens’ staffer and said, “#5, the rookie. We’re gonna play him, right? I mean, we’re trying to win aren’t we?” A very telling statement from a Pro Bowl defensive back who knows a thing or two about quarterbacks and their abilities.
It might have taken some players (and fans) longer than 10 minutes to buy into Flacco, but one thing for sure by now. Everyone wants to invest him.
The standard line at Owings Mills these days is this: “Buy stock in Joe Flacco.”
Flacco’s emergence is reflected in the team’s 7-4 record and their rise in the ranks of the AFC, but his play has done much more than just put points on the board for the Ravens. He’s all but squashed any thoughts – private or public – from players who think Troy Smith would be a better fit than Flacco for this Ravens team. He’s also quieted a locker room that was well-known for hosting a group moaning session on regular occasions when the Quarterback Du Jour wasn’t getting the job done. There are no more cryptic radio show comments from Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs or Willis McGahee. Flacco has shut everyone up, critics and teammates alike. As we all know, it’s not easy to shut up the Ravens. But Flacco has done just that.
And a quiet locker room can make a lot of noise on the field, where those sounds best belong.
#5 has made life pleasant again in Baltimore. He’s a viable candidate for NFL Rookie of the Year and could very well lead his team to the playoffs in his inaugural campaign in the league — something few people expected, much less demanded. And his play has also brought harmony to the locker room. No more bickering, no more mid-season finger pointing and no more concerns about having to win games with a quarterback who is a liability.
For years, the Ravens have belonged to Ray Lewis.
And, in perpetuity, #52 will always be the guy who built the Ravens’ house.
But it’s looking more and more like Joe Flacco is going to build an addition on to that house.
And when you build an addition, the first thing people say is, “Wow, your house sure looks better.”
That’s the story of the Ravens in 2008. No matter what happens from here on in, their house looks a lot better with Joe Flacco at work. In fact, the house hasn’t looked this good in a long, long time.
I hope that new addition has room for a certain trophy named after a Hall of Fame NFL coach.
I think we’ll need the room one of these days in the not so distant future.