You can’t blame Baltimore for being sensitive about their quarterbacks. While the team itself has worked a minor miracle in establishing such a strong history and identity in such a short period of time, their experiences with the guys under center have left as much of a “legacy” with the fans as their penchant for stifling defense. That said, during his brief tenure at the helm of the Baltimore offense Joe Flacco has probably earned a lot more leeway, respect and benefit of the doubt than he’s seemingly gotten from the Baltimore fans (at least a vocal minority), opponents or the media at large.
At the end of the day, that could serve the Ravens and their team goals well. The greatest of champions seem to emerge from improbable challenges. Flacco’s road has been wrought with them. Maybe it’s finally time for him to respond to those challenges (and critics) in a big way, and put all of the arguments to bed.
Whether or not however, Flacco is able to silence his critics and reveal the mythical “it” factor that those offering doubts fail to see is debatable, and maybe not what’s best for the Ravens anyway. As the world quickly buys into Aaron Rodgers, Josh Freeman, Matt Ryan and Sam Bradford, their reluctance to embrace Flacco may lead to at least a modest savings for the Ravens when the time comes to extend Joe’s contract. Something tells me though that enough of the league buys into Flacco that those savings won’t be too substantial.
For better or for worse, our inability to truly believe in a quarterback, as Baltimore fans, will be Flacco’s cross to bear until he erases all doubts with his achievements. Until then, the criticisms and doubts will continue, as will the magnification of the shortcomings in his game, as will the calls for the backup.
Speaking of the backup quarterback…it seems the Ravens may be realistically entertaining the notion of carrying Tyrod Taylor as the #2 quarterback into the 2011 season. As everyone comes up with their own 53-man roster projections, there are already some tough choices to be made. Adding a third (veteran) QB to the mix in front of Taylor would make for another tough decision over those final few spots. If the Ravens can get away with it I’ll bet they’ll keep Taylor on as the #2 at least until after week 2 and then might think about bringing in a veteran without having to guarantee his contract.
While Taylor is an interesting option and exciting piece for the future, positioned as the #2 quarterback it would seem that the Ravens have conceded that they’ll go as far as Flacco can take them this year and in the event Flacco goes down their prospects would be bleak anyway. That said, the same scenario might be true were it Marc Bulger or some other veteran of note behind Flacco if called on for a long stretch.
As Taylor’s athleticism continues to enamor fans however, and as the Michael Vick comparisons begin to flow more readily, the question might become how could they use Taylor to their benefit right now.
The “Suggs Package” wildcat looks that were Troy Smith’s calling card a few seasons ago would surely be much more dangerous and unsettling with an athlete the caliber of Taylor behind center. But if Taylor were the #2 QB, using him in that capacity (much like pinch hitting your backup catcher in baseball) could leave your without a net at the most important position on the field.
The other side of that argument of course is that teams like the Colts and Saints and Packers don’t run wildcat sets because taking their quarterbacks off the field doesn’t make those teams better. When Flacco becomes elite in the eyes of those deploying him, even an all world athlete like Tyrod Taylor won’t make the Ravens better by replacing Flacco behind center. The rank and deployment of Taylor this year should give us a pretty healthy read on how the Ravens coaches feel about Flacco’s development, ability and value as a playmaker.