Being a sports fan doesn’t get any better than when a highly-touted prospect develops into a star for the local team. It doesn’t happen often, and the occurrence is even more rare when it comes to NFL quarterbacks. Around here, it’s been generations since Baltimore football fans were blessed with John Unitas and decades since Bert Jones graced the book-covers of many of our elementary school textbooks.
It was 1973 when the Colts took Jones with the second pick in the NFL draft, then watched him develop into a league MVP by his fourth season. Thirty five years later, Baltimore tries again to pull off the rare feat with Joe Flacco, who will make his NFL debut this Sunday vs. the Bengals.
The fact that there was little buzz over Flacco this summer shows how gun-shy we are about getting our hopes up for such a rare occurrence, especially since we just tried this five years ago with Kyle Boller. My guess is if the Boller experiment wasn’t so fresh in our minds, Joe Flacco would’ve been the biggest story in Ravensland, trumping even Camp Hardball. It’s like we’re collectively trying to avoid jinxing Flacco by not talking about the possibility that the Ravens may now hold in their possession one of the rarest gems in all of sports: the star NFL quarterback.
Well I say we put our fears aside and enjoy this ride from the beginning. Though our Flacco experience has thus far been limited to compact chunks of preseason games, Flacco seems to posses the necessary combination of physical tools and quiet confidence that is shared by all the great ones. At the very least, he combines the positive attributes of the other two candidates in the short-lived quarterback competition the Ravens tried to hold this preseason, bearing the size and arm strength of Boller and the natural leadership skills and self-assurance of Troy Smith.
If one Flacco play stands out for me thus far, it was the fade to Derrick Mason vs. the Rams last Saturday. In nonchalantly lobbying that perfect pass, Flacco looked like a kid effortlessly tossing one last imaginary buzzer-beater into the basketball hoop in his parents’ driveway before coming in for dinner. Heck, if the guy can look that relaxed throwing a touchdown pass after just a handful of NFL snaps — preseason or not — you can’t help but be excited.
Here’s hoping for a bright future for Joe Flacco…and for us.