The words come with a smile as Joe Flacco fires back at his critics.
They draw laughter from the gathered media in Owings Mills while the Ravens quarterback speaks without a tone of confrontation or disdain.
But, as the saying goes, there’s some truth behind every joke. In Flacco’s case, there’s plenty of truth in the response to criticisms levied upon a man whose 44 regular season wins are the most by a quarterback in his first four seasons in NFL history. Supporters find his statements refreshing while others view them as passive-aggressive, but it’s clear Flacco is drawing a line in the sand with his comments.
“We’ve won a lot of games around here,” Flacco said. “This is the second year in a row we’ve won 12 games. I couldn’t care less. At the end of the day, do you see the criticism sometimes and think, ‘What the hell are they talking about?’ Yeah, but who cares?”
For someone unconcerned with what his doubters have to say, he spends plenty of time addressing their barbs. It vaguely reminds you of a scorned man who claims he no longer cares about the woman who broke his heart but takes every possible chance he can to complain about her.
Flacco deserves to be proud of what he’s accomplished in his young career, becoming the first starting quarterback in league history to take his team to the playoffs in each of his first four years. He’s never missed a start, remaining durable and dependable week in and week out.
A generous portion of the criticism thrown his way, from the national or local media, has been unjust and short-sighted. While Flacco isn’t an elite quarterback in the same category of Tom Brady, Drew Brees, or Aaron Rodgers, he is certainly a good one — a very good one, at times.
“You guys want everybody to be Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady,” Flacco said. “You guys realize, those guys don’t run the ball. If we try to do that, the criticism we’d take around here would be ridiculous. We could win eight games like that and lose one, and you guys would be like, ‘Oh man, what are you guys doing?’
“Hey, this is what you guys said you wanted. ‘And you lose one game? Oh my God.’ You guys have to remember that [if] you want an elite quarterback, you have to stop complaining when we go out and throw the ball 60 times a game, because that’s what elite quarterbacks do.”
Ironically, Flacco attempted 40 more passes than Rodgers this season, but his message is clear in spite of the balanced offensive attack the Ravens have discovered in the second half of the season.
He hasn’t backed down from speaking his mind this season, defending his career-high 52 pass attempts in a turnover-laden loss to Seattle in November and questioning the conservative second-half play-calling in the Christmas Eve win over the Cleveland Browns. But the timing of his most recent comments leading up to Sunday’s divisional playoff game against the Houston Texans is puzzling and will place even more scrutiny on the signal caller at the onset of the most important playoff run of his career to date.
Instead of trying to keep the focus — and intense pressure — on the entire team, Flacco may have unintentionally placed himself on an island, with critics ready to pounce at the first sign of peril.
“[Criticism is] all right there in front of you, so who’s kidding who?” said offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, defending his quarterback while offering the only appropriate response. “Yeah, you get a little tired of it, but the bottom line is, ‘Hey, go shut people up.’” But, we have to let our play speak for itself, and he’s poised to do that. Let’s give the guy some credit for throwing it out there, and now, he gets the chance to go out there and do his thing.”
Yes, Flacco will need to come through in what’s easily the most navigable path the Ravens have been presented in their attempts to get to the Super Bowl over the last four years. The Pittsburgh Steelers are no longer standing in the way — in large part due to Flacco’s work in disposing of them twice in the regular season — and the Ravens have already received a much-needed week off before hosting their first playoff game of the John Harbaugh era.
Though he will face a Houston defense ranked second overall in yards allowed, Flacco has already proven capable of making plays against the unit, throwing for over 300 yards in a Week 6 victory over the Texans in Baltimore.