Purple Reign 2 excerpt here: How to find a franchise quarterback

April 25, 2013 | Nestor Aparicio

In a game with six lead changes that featured over 1,000 yards of total offense, Flacco was 30-of-41 for 434 yards and four TDs in a 59-52 upset win over the Midshipmen. With the game on the line, Flacco led the Blue Hens on an 89-yard drive in the final minutes to ice the game.

“I began the day thinking I’d be leaving Navy at 2 p.m. and I wound up never going to College Park. Instead, I went back to the office to watch more Delaware tape,” DeCosta said. “I need to figure out more about this kid because now he was on my radar.”

Now, two weeks later, Douglas and Weidl were dispatched to watch Flacco square off against 9th-ranked Richmond. It was finally their chance to get their eyes on the 6-foot-6 transfer from Pittsburgh who had the upstart Blue Hens at 8-1 and ranked No. 6 in the country. It was the first time Weidl had seen Flacco in person and the recommendations by Douglas and DeCosta piqued his interest.

Upon arrival, Douglas struck up sideline conversations with his old Spiders pals on the coaching staff and right away they were talking all things Joe Flacco. “This kid can really spin it, Joe,” they said. “That kid is legit. He’s the best quarterback we’ve seen in 10 years in this league.”

In any press box before any game there’s a gathering of media, scouts, college officials, and staff getting lunch, watching games on the television on a Saturday afternoon, and chatting about football. It’s not unlike a sports bar, lively with conversation and debate.

There were five other NFL scouts at Tubby Raymond Field in mid-November watching Division I-AA football. They all know why each other is in Newark. They’re all there to watch No. 5 in the blue jersey. And, as you can imagine, it’s always a chatty bunch, filled with gossip and tales of the road and players and, quite frankly, poker. Some scouts are friends and exchange real information, and some are strangers that circulate strange information.

But, inevitably, guys start talking. And initially, no one was impressed.

“This guy can’t play,” said one NFC scout, talking about Flacco.

“He’s got a big arm, but he’s like a wooden Indian out there,” said another. “He’s stiff. He’s another Dan McGwire,” a reference to another 6-foot-8 gigantic quarterback and brother of infamous baseball home run and steroid man Mark McGwire, who played at San Diego State in the 1980’s and was drafted and played briefly for the Seattle Seahawks.

Despite the criticism upstairs in the peanut gallery, Flacco wasn’t having a bad day down on the field vs. Richmond.

He threw an 84-yard touchdown pass and ran in another short score in the first half and was leading the Blue Hens down the field in a two-minute drill up 21-17 with 25 seconds remaining before the half. He was in shotgun and nearing midfield, but was slow to get the ball released on an out route. Flacco was a little aggressive and the cornerback undercut his throw and returned it 44 yards for a touchdown, giving Richmond a 24-21 lead with just 16 seconds left in the first half.

Commonly referred to in football as a “Pick Six” – because the defense got six points by “picking off” a pass and returning it for a touchdown the other way – this is the deadliest sin in the sport for a quarterback. Especially with so little to gain and so little time left on the clock.

In a sold out, energy-filled stadium leading the No. 6 team in the country against No. 9 Richmond, Flacco had clearly disappointed some NFL scouts. Five of the seven scouts in the press box grabbed their jackets and made their way to the exit. They had seen enough of Joe Flacco. Like Douglas, several were headed to College Park to see Matt Ryan and figured they’d get a jump start.

It’s not unusual for scouts to leave any college football game in the fourth quarter to beat traffic or to catch a flight on a Saturday afternoon. You always have the ability to watch film later. So the last taste and look that five of the seven NFL scouts got in Newark in November 2007 was that of Joe Flacco chasing a kid from Richmond named Seth Williams down the sidelines in vain and watching the defense celebrate at the feet of No. 5, who walked into the locker room with his team down three points due to his carelessness with the football.

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