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“The Reality Check” Week 5 NFL Power Rankings

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“The Reality Check” Week 5 NFL Power Rankings

Posted on 02 October 2013 by Glenn Clark

Glenn Clark’s Rankings…

32. Jacksonville Jaguars (Last Week 32)

Hey! Thanks for your tackle! Any tight ends or receivers you’d like to send along too?

31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (31)

You think Greg Schiano called Bobby Petrino for tips on how to sneak out in the middle of a season?

30. Oakland Raiders (30)

More wins than the two teams ahead of them, less good players.

29. New York Giants (22)

My buddy Gregg Rosenthal from NFL.com just keeps telling me that if you took the names of the back of the jerseys you’d think they were the Jags.

28. Pittsburgh Steelers (24)

They’ll still be winless next week.

27. Minnesota Vikings (29)

Their only win is over one of the worst teams.

26. St. Louis Rams (20)

Sam Bradford kinda makes you long for the days of…I dunno…Marc Bulger?

25. New York Jets (26)

Good news. They’ve left the door open for Matt Sims.

24. Arizona Cardinals (25)

Perhaps they could make a trade to get Brian Hoyer back?

23. Washington Redskins (23)

They beat the Raiders. That doesn’t move them up.

22. Philadelphia Eagles (19)

I’m so stupid I once had them in the Top 10.

21. Carolina Panthers (21)

1-2 doesn’t seem so bad all things considered, does it?

20. Buffalo Bills (27)

Still kinda in denial.

19. Cleveland Browns (28)

Finally NFL Network gets a good game Thursday night.

18. Atlanta Falcons (13)

They’re better than this. They are.

17. Dallas Cowboys (14)

About right.

(Continued on Page 2…)

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Purple Reign 2: Flacco & Bisciotti met, talked Super Bowls & millions last August

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Purple Reign 2: Flacco & Bisciotti met, talked Super Bowls & millions last August

Posted on 30 May 2013 by Nestor Aparicio

This is an excerpt from a new, 480-page book on the Baltimore Ravens championship run called Purple Reign 2: Faith, Family & Football – A Baltimore Love Story. If you enjoyed every aspect of their Super Bowl win in New Orleans, you’ll love this book that chronicles how the team overcame adversity and personal tragedies, and used theology sprinkled with faith, family and love on the way to a Baltimore parade fueled by inspiration, dedication, perspiration and yes, a little bit of luck.

Here’s an excerpt from Chapter 15 of the definitive book on the Ravens’ Super Bowl XLVII victory in New Orleans, Purple Reign 2: Faith, Family & Football – A Baltimore Love Story.

If you enjoy it, please consider buying the books for the holidays as gifts for anyone who loves the Baltimore Ravens.

You can purchase both Purple Reign books by clicking here:

You can read an excerpt from Chapter 9 here where Joe Flacco and Steve Bisciotti talk about the risk of $100 million:

You can read an excerpt from Chapter 15 on the firing of Cam Cameron and its impact on Joe Flacco

This is from Chapter 9, “Injury after insult after implosion – Psychology 2012.” If you enjoy this small snippet you can purchase the book and read another excerpt here. You can also join the Facebook fan page here. The book will be released on May 31st and will be delivered before Father’s Day if purchase before June 5th.

 

AS THE TEAM WAS ASSEMBLED in the preseason, questions lingered, but Harbaugh felt great that the team had survived an offseason without arrests, without incidents, without any member of a veteran team blaming Evans or Cundiff for the New England loss. He inherited a fractured team in 2008, and by the summer of 2012 he was feeling good about the unity of the players and their maturity.

But the obvious questions for fans, media, and The Castle staff were all the same:

Is this the last chance for Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, and Matt Birk?

Will the offensive line hold up?

Can the Ravens win the big one?

Can Joe Flacco win the big one?

As Bisciotti knew on draft day in 2008, and as Newsome, Harbaugh, and everyone else in the organization had experienced the hard way — it always comes back to the quarterback. Was Joe Flacco going to be the franchise quarterback who would win a Super Bowl for the Baltimore Ravens?

Flacco, who played perhaps the best game of his career and threw what would’ve been the pass that took the Ravens to the Super Bowl on his last drive in January, somehow went into the 2012 season as the man on the hot seat who had not only turned down a $90 million offer for more than six months, but who had gone on WNST.net & AM 1570 in April and said he thought he was the best quarterback in the NFL. As much as Tim Tebow was the darling of ESPN with a seemingly non-stop Jets theme on SportsCenter, Flacco became something of a punch line for a quarterback who could get a team to the playoffs, but somehow was perceived as “not Super Bowl caliber.”

Short of catching his own pass in Foxborough, he literally had done everything he could do to get his team into the Super Bowl and yet the abuse was seemingly endless.

But the game is won on the X’s and O’s and the execution, and Flacco knew this. Cameron and Flacco had talked about more passing, more shotgun formations, and more pressure on defenses, but over the summer of 2012 it became clear the Ravens would become more of a personalized offense for No. 5. If the Ravens were offering Flacco $90 million dollars, they’d need to trust him to earn that money. He loved the tempo of the no-huddle offense and loved that it allowed him to dictate to the defense both personnel and pace.

“What quarterback wouldn’t want to run the no-huddle or fast-paced offense?” Flacco said. “Let’s be honest, it’s more fun to play quarterback when you do that. We like the pace we’re running on offense right now, but it’s a work in progress. We’ve done OK, and we’ve played pretty quick. But, we know we can play better, and we will play faster as we get into it more.”

Harbaugh endorsed this ideological move from being a team that always allowed its defense to cut loose while always seeming to fear the worst from the offense — trying to utilize the clock, run the ball, and be more conservative. “We’ve talked about the no-huddle [offense] since Joe’s [Flacco] rookie season,” Harbaugh said. “He ran it at Delaware and has had success in it when we’ve run it the last few years. He is a key to running it, and he loves it. And, we have the parts for it right now, including the offensive line. We can run the offense very fast, a little fast, slower, and we can huddle. We’re in a good spot right now with how we can run our offense.”

While some of the idiot sports talking heads and media types were constantly flogging Flacco, the people who watch coaches’ film were always impressed with him, using the evidence and residue of four straight playoff appearances and his improving game to shout down the detractors.

“We’ve spent time with Joe [Flacco], and I perceive a change in him,” said NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock, who saw Flacco play at Audubon High in his hometown of Philadelphia. “He’s won since Day One with the Ravens, but he’s more confident now. They’re confident in him, too, and the improved offense reflects all of that. He can make every throw. He can bring his team from behind. The question becomes, ‘Can they win a Super Bowl with Joe?’ And the answer is an emphatic, ‘Yes!’”

Mike Lombardi, who was doing NFL analysis in the summer of 2012 before becoming the general manager of the Cleveland Browns, said “That anyone spent the offseason criticizing [Joe] Flacco strikes me as ludicrous. Flacco didn’t drop the ball in the end zone against the Patriots. In fact, it was Flacco who drove the Ravens to give them two chances to win that game. It was others who didn’t make plays. While he doesn’t play in an offense that shows off his skills statistically, Flacco is a winning QB, and his record [45-21] shows it.”

ESPN’s Ron Jaworski spoke out on Flacco’s arm strength and ability to attack opposing defenses. “Arm strength – that’s Flacco’s No. 1 attribute,” Jaws said. “I get so tired of hearing how arm strength is overrated. It’s far more important than people think. He has the strongest arm in the NFL. And he has an aggressive, confident throwing mentality. The element always overlooked by those who minimize arm strength is the willingness of quarterbacks like Flacco to pull the trigger. Few recognize that because there is no quantifiable means by which to evaluate throws that are not made by quarterbacks with lesser arm strength. It’s all about dimensions. Flacco gives you the ability to attack all areas of the field at any point in the game.”

Flacco took the responsibility as a personal challenge and something he embraced.

“It’s definitely my offense as a quarterback; it’s my job to get out there and lead these guys and direct them and run the traffic, and get it run the way that I want it to be run,” he said in training camp. “Cam may be running the plays, and I may be controlling certain things on the line depending on what the play is, but the fine details of being a good offense are all of the fine details. And it’s my job to get those correct and that we have everyone on the same page. As long as I’m out there in practice getting it to the games and on game day, as long as I’m doing that and expressing to the receivers, expressing to the running back, and to the offensive line how I feel, and what I see back there and as long as we can get on the same page as that together, then that’s when we’re doing something, and that’s when I’m doing my job.

“You talk about being paid that much money, they don’t do that so that they can go out there to do every job, they do that so they can delegate some jobs onto me. And I can go out there and get it done the way it should be. That’s a big part of being a quarterback. To be able to make sure that everything is running smoothly and everybody sees it the way I see it. And that once we get there on Sunday, we can just react and play. Because we’re all up to speed and we all have the same vision of everything. I think that’s what good quarterbacks are able to do, is to take that and then take a certain play and make it great, just because everyone has a good understanding of that.”

By the beginning of training camp it was very clear that the Ravens and Flacco were at an impasse in negotiating a new contract that would replace the final year of his five-year deal from 2008. Newsome called Bisciotti and said that after tireless conversation with Flacco’s agent Joe Linta, there was no way to get a long-term deal and that the Ravens would need to play out the season and consider signing or franchising their star quarterback in 2013.

Bisciotti authorized a final offer – a “bump and roll” contract that gave Flacco a $1 million per year bonus if he won a Super Bowl and $2 million per year for the six years of the deal if he had won two Super Bowls. It would’ve been a raise that stayed on the books for the life of the deal. The average salary number was $16.7 million per year on the Ravens’ base offer, which would’ve made Flacco the fourth-highest paid quarterback behind Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning. Flacco was essentially turning down $90 million because he was rejecting the notion that he was the fourth best quarterback in the NFL.

Linta and Flacco once again turned it down the week before training camp opened.

Bisciotti was flustered, wanting to get the deal done and ran into Flacco in the cafeteria in Owings Mills during the first week of training camp and summoned the quarterback to his office upstairs.

“I had never, ever – not for one minute – even spoken to Joe about the contract,” Bisciotti said. “That was for Pat [Moriarty] and Ozzie [Newsome] to do, but I wanted to take one more swing at it and try to understand the situation.”

They spent 45 minutes with the door closed.

“There are two things here that I don’t understand,” Bisciotti said to Flacco. “I don’t understand why you’re walking away from this deal? As maligned as you are in the press and as little faith as so many pundits have in you, we’re offering you a $90 million deal and you can go wave that in their face and say, ‘F**k you guys! See, the Ravens DO believe in me!’ ”

Flacco was nonplussed. “I really don’t care about my critics,” he bluntly told the Ravens owner.

Bisciotti was exasperated. “I don’t understand it. Joe, don’t you think you’d play better with a clear head and having this contract behind you?” he continued. “You won’t have to answer questions from anybody, and you can just focus on playing and winning the Super Bowl.”

Flacco said it again. “Steve, I appreciate the offer, but I really don’t care about the media, critics, any of it. I’ve gotta trust my agent, and he doesn’t want any incentives in contracts. And I’ve gotta leave it to him.”

Bisciotti reasoned that until they won a Super Bowl together neither one would get that ultimate respect they desired. “I’m offering you a better deal than the one you’re asking me for if you’re planning on winning the Super Bowl,” he said.

Flacco wasn’t upset or emotional, as is his custom. He simply smiled and said he was going to play out the year. Bisciotti said, “Well, I tried,” as he shook Flacco’s hand. “Then go out and put a few rings on my desk and get what you think you deserve.”

“I figured if he’s fine with it then I should be fine with it,” Bisciotti said. “I wanted it behind both of us. I guess I didn’t really understand how different a guy he was. I told him, ‘You are a different cat, man!’ ”

Flacco remembers the conversation vividly. “Yeah, he couldn’t get over it,” Flacco said. “He said, ‘Do you know what you’re doing? This is the craziest thing I’ve ever heard!’ I told him I knew what I was doing and my price wasn’t getting cheaper. I saw his point of view but I also thought that I was right. I’m a little bit of a hard head.”

Flacco believed the market always get set by the next elite quarterback that signs and the price always goes up if you perform. “It wasn’t a bad offer but I felt like I could do better if I waited,” he said. Like his adversary in this $100 million negotiation, he had gone to the Bisciotti school of downside management.

“My agent said to me, ‘Think about the worse possible situation and if you’re OK with that then hold your position,” Flacco said. The downside here would’ve been a catastrophic injury or a bad 2012 season on the field. “If I got hurt, I got hurt,” he said. “That’s the nature of the game. I was willing to look in the mirror and live with that.”

Flacco said he turned the tables on Bisciotti: “I told him, ‘You should give me four or five million more now because if I win the Super Bowl’ – and I did say ‘if’ – ‘then it’s gonna cost you $20 million.’ ”

Flacco figured he was still only making his base of $6.5 million in 2012 no matter what. The Ravens weren’t ripping up his deal. It was an extension. And there’s always a new “going rate” for top quarterbacks.

“I was actually glad that he called me up to talk about it because it was a cool conversation to have,” Flacco said. “Even though we weren’t agreeing it was a great conversation. It’s one of those talks that grows a relationship, I think.

“Hey, I tried to throw him a bone and save him some money.”

 

To purchase Purple Reign 2: Faith, Family & Football – A Baltimore Love Story, click here.

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Ravens keeping tabs on McKinnie as New Orleans shows interest

Posted on 21 March 2013 by Luke Jones

Just a couple days after saying the Ravens were “very open” to bringing back Bryant McKinnie, head coach John Harbaugh reached out to the 33-year-old on Thursday to say he’d like him to return to Baltimore this season.

Whether it happens remains to be seen as the tackle said in a text message that the New Orleans Saints are showing the most interest in his services with their left tackle position currently unsettled following the free-agent departure of Jermon Bushrod, who signed with the Chicago Bears on the first day of free agency last week. Former Ravens guard Ben Grubbs signed a five-year, $36 million contract with the Saints last offseason after playing his final season in Baltimore next to McKinnie on the left side of the offensive line in 2011.

McKinnie said that Harbaugh was simply checking in with the 6-foot-8 offensive lineman but wanted him to know he wants him back with the Ravens, who have already lost center Matt Birk from their offensive line due to retirement. The Ravens haven’t had any contact with McKinnie’s agent Michael George.

“They have other things they are working on, so it’s no rush,” said McKinnie, who joked with Harbaugh to tell general manager Ozzie Newsome to pick up the phone. “We will see how things go.”

The Bears showed some interest in McKinnie prior to signing Bushrod away from the Saints. However, McKinnie might be the top left tackle remaining on the open market as teams are now focusing on the best right tackle options available such as Eric Winston, Sebastian Vollmer, and Andre Smith.

Many have regarded McKinnie as no more than a backup plan for the Ravens at this point as they could look to the draft to potentially find their left tackle of the future. However, Harbaugh told reporters at the league meetings in Phoenix that Michael Oher and Kelechi Osemele would also be considered for the position if they do not add another veteran tackle.

The mention of Osemele’s candidacy for the left tackle position is intriguing after Brian Baldinger of the NFL Network mentioned on AM 1570 WNST earlier this week that new run-game coordinator and former Eagles offensive line coach Juan Castillo told him the second-year lineman might be a fit to play on the blind side.

“I think Juan is the single-best developer of talent on the offensive line in the entire league,” Baldinger said. “If Juan tells me he thinks that Kelechi Osemele can play left tackle, I want to see it. I want to see what he looks like if he lines up there.”

The 2012 second-round pick was a three-year starter at left tackle for Iowa State and split time between right tackle and left guard last season.

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neworleans

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Ravens give back to New Orleans police department

Posted on 06 March 2013 by Luke Jones

After triumphing in Super Bowl XLVII last month, the Ravens are giving back to the city of New Orleans.

Owner Steve Bisciotti purchased and donated two 2013 Harley Davidson FLHP motorcycles for the New Orleans Police Department traffic division. The gifts were presented to mayor Mitch Landrieu and police superintendent Ronal Serpas during a Wednesday morning press conference in New Orleans.

The gift was a show of gratitude for the services provided by the city during the Ravens’ stay in New Orleans the week leading up to Super Bowl Sunday on Feb. 3. Throughout the duration of their stay, the Ravens received police escorts, 24-hour security, and outstanding community support, according to a team release.

“We wanted to do something to show our appreciation for how well our team, our families, and our fans were treated by everyone representing New Orleans,” Bisciotti said in a team statement. “Every place we went, the good people of New Orleans treated us with kindness and tremendous service — across the board. It started in our team hotel, continued with the police, and included many in the hospitality industry. The people of New Orleans were great.”

Pro Bowl return specialist and New Orleans native Jacoby Jones was in attendance to present the gift on behalf of the organization.

If not for teammate Joe Flacco, who threw for three first-half touchdowns in the win over the San Francisco 49ers, Jones would have likely been named Super Bowl MVP after accumulating a Super Bowl-best 290 combined yards. Jones caught a 56-yard touchdown pass right before halftime and opened the second half with a 108-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, which tied for the longest return in NFL history.

“I always talk to my teammates about southern hospitality, and the fact that it was on display enough during our Super Bowl week to have the Ravens donate something to the great people of New Orleans is special,” Jones stated. “Winning the world championship in my hometown and then being able to do something to help the people who protect it is a great feeling.”

The Ravens also took out a full-page ad in the New Orleans Times-Picayune offering thanks to the city and its hospitality.

These gestures aren’t typical of Super Bowl teams in past seasons, but it’s the latest example of the class epitomized by owner Steve Bisciotti and his organization.

“Our officers who assisted the Ravens last month truly enjoyed being of service to this team and this organization,” Serpas said. “It was an exciting opportunity, and this department was honored to be a part of it. These motorcycles are custom-made for the NOPD and are a lasting gift, as they’ll help in our efforts to keep the people of New Orleans safe for many years to come. We can’t thank the Ravens organization enough for their generosity.”

Despite a power outage at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome lasting more than 30 minutes early in the second half, Baltimore prevailed 34-31 to win its second Super Bowl title.

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Flacco hoisting trophy

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RAVENS ROLLER COASTER RIDE

Posted on 12 February 2013 by Tom Federline

It has been a week. What just happened Baltimore? I’ll tell you what happened, the Baltimore Ravens losers of their last 4 out of 5 regular season games put on an inspirational run to win the NFL Lombardi Trophy. Is it time to get off the ride? Heck no, the city and surrounding area actually has claim to another National championship in a major sport. It has been 12 years and you don’t know when it will happen again – no you don’t get off the ride. Now, does the roller coaster level out? I sure hope so. That was one heckuva January run. I am not a fan of the roller coaster, not at this stage of the game. I’m to old, my heart can’t take it. Now, back in the day…………….different story, maybe that’s why my heart and blood pressure tells me,” cool out middle aged guy – just sit back and let the chips fall where they may.” Yeah right – not happenin’.

The Baltimore football Ravens took their fans on a ride of a lifetime. All the while catching the eye of sports fans around the country. Underdogs over-achieving, was story line enough. Then add on the Ray Lewis’ retirement. Then add on Ray-Rays religious dramatizations (and the Saturday Night Live skit http://www.myspace.com/video/saturday-night-live/weekend-update-ray-lewis/109174459 ). You go Keenan Thompson. Then to top it off, add on the sibling rivalry of the Harbaugh Brothers coaching against each other in the Super Bowl. “O” and don’t forget the Denver Classic and the dis-mantling of pretty boy Brady and his troll coach Bill Belichek.

The run, I mean the ride. I was lucky enough to be offered a ticket to the Colt game. The Ravens were not going to lose that game. Ray-Ray had announced his retirement during the week and it was going to be his last home game – the Ravens were not losing that game. Las Vegas money, Steve Bisciotti’s money and the NFL’s money was not going to end Ray-Rays run on that game. It was not going to be his last dance. It was an ugly game but they won. Denver game – wow, then wow, then wow again. Definitely one of the top 3 Ravens games of all time. New England game – sweet payback and no retirement party for Ray. San Francisco in New Orleans – hold the phone.

The ride had a couple more heart stoppers left in it. Heck at one point, it even felt like somebody had turned off the lights and play had to be stopped. Ravens up 28 – 6, the tide was a crestin’, 3rd and 14 for the bad guys and ”Boom, Boom, Out Go the Lights – Pat Travers Band. Ok gang, I actually have a little experience with this one – Rule #1, Electrical Engineering for Stadiums 101 – “You don’t lose power to the venue – unless there is a major city grid outage.” Two separate hot feeds to the venue with transfer and generator back-up for life safety. I do not know the history or infrastructure of the Super(?)dome, but somebody screwed up big time. Or a 49er’s fan, got access to the Substation or the Service Level and knew what switch to hit.

It almost changed the outcome of the game. I think the astronauts in the space station orbiting the earth could feel the tension emanating into the atmosphere directly above the east coast mid-atlantic region. It was not a pleasant evening there for about 1-1/2 hours there during the 3rd and 4th quarters, now was it. Still on the roller coaster, still hanging on, still hoping for a safe, happy ending. The power outage changed the momentum of the game. I don’t care what Roger Goodell said, I don’t care what Steve Bisciotti said, I don’t care what the Superdome Facility guys said, the power outage changed the game, but not the outcome. The Superdome and city of New Orleans should not host another Super Bowl until a new properly designed facility is in it’s place. The power outage was a nice final hairpin turn on the ride – it did not help the blood pressure.

Ravens Won.

Ravens Won.

A new generation now knows what it feels like for a local sports franchise to win a National Championship. The city needed it. The State of Maryland and surrounding area needed it. The Baltimore Ravens needed it and Ray Lewis deserved it. You Go Ravens!

Pitchers and cathers reported to Spring Training. Are we ready for another ride? Your darn right we are. GO O’s and Thank You - Ravens. Baltimore Sports Pride is front and center.

D.I.Y.

Fedman

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My New Orleans march & Baltimore parade Super Bowl scrapbook of Ravens memories

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My New Orleans march & Baltimore parade Super Bowl scrapbook of Ravens memories

Posted on 10 February 2013 by Nestor Aparicio

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More than 5K Ravens fans at 2:52 marching thru streets of New Orleans at Super Bowl 47

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More than 5K Ravens fans at 2:52 marching thru streets of New Orleans at Super Bowl 47

Posted on 09 February 2013 by Nestor Aparicio

You’ve heard about the big WNST-organized 2:52 march through the streets of New Orleans on Super Bowl Sunday. Now, you can witness it here in real time.

First person to get an accurate headcount gets a free Hurricane next time in The Big Easy!

I’m wondering which 10 of these are the only listeners we have at WNST. LOL…

Enjoy the march…and if you spot yourself, throw us a note: nasty@wnst.net.

We’re planning the NOLA March reunion over a beer in the spring!

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Flacco says the confetti is pretty cool

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Flacco says the confetti is pretty cool

Posted on 04 February 2013 by Nestor Aparicio

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Super Bowl brilliance brings Flacco’s offseason comments full circle

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Super Bowl brilliance brings Flacco’s offseason comments full circle

Posted on 04 February 2013 by Glenn Clark

NEW ORLEANS, La. — Remember that time when I asked Baltimore Ravens QB Joe Flacco that thing?

I’m sure you remember it. If not, I’m happy to refresh your memory…

Oh right. NOW you remember. I asked Joe Flacco if he thought he was a “Top 5″ NFL quarterback (which had been a hot offseason debate), and he responded by telling me he thought he was THE BEST quarterback in the National Football League.

I bring this conversation back up because it seemed like everyone ON THE FACE OF THE PLANET wanted to remind you of those comments every time Flacco had a moment this season that may have been slightly more “down” than “up.”

During the week, Flacco’s comments to WNST were featured prominently in the coverage NFL Network and ESPN gave in New Orleans. On Sunday, the comments were part of the pre-game package that aired on CBS.

The comments became such a prominent part of the narrative surrounding the Ravens’ fifth year starter that it almost reached the point where you couldn’t make commentary about Flacco without including them. You would either hear “sure, Joe Flacco had a good game-but let’s not forget he thinks he’s the best quarterback in football and he most certainly wasn’t today” or if he struggled perhaps you’d hear something along the lines of “when Joe Flacco plays like this it becomes more and more laughable that he considers himself the best quarterback in football.”

Instead of judging Joe Flacco on his numbers or the Ravens’ record, it became increasingly popular to judge him based on a legitimate answer to a throwaway question presented in the context of a charity radio event at a local bar.

Joe Flacco told me something else that night back in April over in Perry Hall that didn’t get nearly the same amount of publicity. It’s equally worth remembering, however. Fast forward to the 7:30 mark of the above video.

“Everybody wants to go back and forth-’we’re this kind of team, we’re that kind of team.’ Well, you know what kind of team we need to be? We need to be a Super Bowl champion team.”

Wow.

He added “I love winning and I’m going to continue to win no matter what our numbers are.”

I’m starting to think we should have taken this sentence and carved it into stone for prosperity.

Joe Flacco very much so continued to win this season after making those comments. He won double digit regular season games once again, a second AFC North title, a first AFC Championship and Sunday night capped it with a SPARKING Super Bowl MVP performance to win his first ever Vince Lombardi Trophy. Of course, the numbers in the postseason came WITH the winning, as Flacco put together a Joe Montana-esque 11 touchdown, zero interception stretch over four games. The final three TD’s came against Montana’s former team, the San Francisco 49ers, inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome Sunday night in Super Bowl XLVII.

So now I put it right back to you, Baltimore Ravens fans? Is Joe Flacco a Top 5 NFL quarterback? Is he the best quarterback in football?

Or perhaps you’re really thinking to yourself “this doesn’t even matter.” That’s essentially what your quarterback is thinking.

“I’ve never cared. I don’t ever want to feel like I’m in a position to defend myself” the quarterback said after hoisting the Lombardi Trophy Sunday night. “It’s not right. I don’t have to do that. We’ll have (the Super Bowl win) forever.”

That’s the answer. It doesn’t matter. It didn’t matter in April. It didn’t matter when the season started. It absolutely didn’t matter in the postseason. It will not matter at all moving forward.

Joe Flacco is a great NFL quarterback. There’s simply no doubting that at this point. Whether that means he’s Top 5, Top 10 or the best quarterback in the game-I’ll leave that for you to decide.

The comments everyone in Baltimore and around the country should have cared much more about were the comments about needing to be the type of team that can win a Super Bowl title. The comments everyone in Baltimore and around the country should have cared more about were the comments about a guy caring much more about winning than numbers.

It shouldn’t have taken a magical postseason run for Charm City to fall in love with this quarterback. It shouldn’t have taken a magical postseason run for many national commentators to realize the guy could really play quarterback and had changed the culture of one of the more successful franchises in the league.

Perhaps Monday would be a good day for those of you in Baltimore that haven’t started fawning over your quarterback yet to start doing so. I’d stop a bit shy of “hero worship”, but I’d make your love known.

I haven’t even bothered with throwing out the word “elite” yet. That one doesn’t matter either. (But the answer is now YES for those scoring at home.)

I’m grateful Joe Flacco had the bravado to step up and tell me he thought he was the best quarterback in football last year. I think that bravado served him well in leading the Baltimore Ravens to their first Super Bowl title in 12 years.

I’m significantly more grateful that Joe Flacco always cared so much about winning. It made for an unforgettable weekend on the Bayou for this particular Baltimore native.

-G

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Perfectly imperfect Ravens show us all they were champions in end

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Perfectly imperfect Ravens show us all they were champions in end

Posted on 04 February 2013 by Luke Jones

NEW ORLEANS — Even after witnessing the most incredible month in the history of the Baltimore Ravens, it’s still difficult to believe it all happened in the hours following their 34-31 win in Super Bowl XLVII.

The Ravens have had better and more talented teams than this group that finished the regular season with a 10-6 record, good enough to win the AFC North but hardly anything to write home about. The offense and Super Bowl most valuable player Joe Flacco were exceptional at times this season but were maddeningly inconsistent as well. A defense regarded as one of the NFL’s finest for more than a decade was far from dominating due to age and a plethora of injuries, taking a significant step back as stars such as Terrell Suggs and Ray Lewis missed significant time.

A three-game losing streak in the month of December that included the firing of offensive coordinator Cam Cameron left the Ravens looking anything but “super” as they desperately searched for answers. Frankly, it was difficult to decide just how good they were — or even if they were at all.

Yet, there they stood on the on-field stage at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome after winning the second NFL title in the 17-year history of the franchise. It wasn’t pretty as the Ravens nearly squandered a 22-point second-half lead, but they prevailed, earning the right to call themselves champions.

“It couldn’t end in a better way,” safety Ed Reed said. “The game was a display of the whole year. Started good, got ugly, ended great. Ended great.”

Perhaps the 35-minute power outage was the appropriate symbol of where the Ravens had been over the last six weeks. Just as a 28-6 lead evaporated as the San Francisco 49ers pulled to within two points with just under 10 minutes remaining in the game, the Ravens appeared to be knocked out in December after suffering their third consecutive loss in a humiliating 34-17 final at home against the Denver Broncos in mid-December. At that point, the Ravens looked more like a team that might not win another game before regrouping to make the incredible run to New Orleans.

A 9-2 record that stood among the best in the NFL — even if many questioned the validity of that mark after several underwhelming wins — had fallen to 9-5, with many wondering if the Ravens were bursting at the seams with dissension. However, they stuck together, insisting all their goals still stood in front of them while fans and media alike wondered if they were finished. They were the truest form of a family, at least as close to one as a professional football team could be as players shared their faith and love for one another openly down the final stretch of the season.

“We had a lot of guys injured,” safety Bernard Pollard said. “But at the same time, the camaraderie within that the locker room — this is the closest team I’ve ever been on in my life. Like I said, we came together and fought the good fight.”

Yes, these Ravens were inspired by a returning Lewis in the postseason, but it was the play of Flacco that took them to new heights as the fifth-year quarterback was the best player in the NFL during the playoffs. His play and the improved offensive line after the reinsertion of Bryant McKinnie at the left tackle position were all new offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell needed to propel the Ravens to new heights on that side of the football.

That offense looked as elite as ever in the first half on Sunday night, but the 49ers regrouped in slowing the Ravens’ passing attack while the running game remained a non-factor. Meanwhile, the Baltimore defense wilted, looking tired and lacking answers for 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick as he led San Francisco to three second-half touchdowns and a field goal.

As they had countless times throughout the season, the Ravens appeared on the ropes with the offense sputtering and Lewis’ once-mighty defense completely exhausted. But as savvy veteran teams often do, the Ravens had enough in them to make a few more plays to finish the job.

With the 49ers having three shots at the end zone from the 5-yard line and trailing 34-29 at the two-minute warning, the old Ravens defense made its final great stand with Lewis at the helm. The unit forced three incompletions to hand the ball back to the Baltimore offense. It was vintage Baltimore defense, even if that idea will take on new meaning beginning next years as the Ravens face life without Lewis leading the way.

The final stand was the end of an era with Lewis retiring and Reed potentially playing his final game with the Ravens. And in the context of this 2012 season, it was the last example of one unit — offense, defense, or special teams — picking up the others in crunch time.

“It wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t perfect, but it was us,” coach John Harbaugh said. “The final series of Ray Lewis’ career was a goal-line stand to win the Lombardi Trophy. As Ray said on the podium, how could it be any better than that?”

Harbaugh’s right. It was the only fitting way to end the perfectly imperfect season that included ups and downs, peaks and valleys, and trials and tribulations. Of course, the Ravens ended the year on the highest note of all in winning their first Super Bowl title since Jan. 28, 2001.

In a season in which we constantly asked the real Baltimore Ravens to stand up, we finally learned who they really were over the course of the last six week as Harbaugh and his team dusted themselves off from a miserable stretch in early December to start anew. They knew something the rest of us didn’t as the Ravens pulled off the unlikeliest of wins in Denver, exorcised the demons from a year ago in New England, and polished off their final act as a postseason underdog by turning the lights out — literally and figuratively — on the 49ers.

On Feb. 3, 2013, we finally figured out the only appropriate way to describe this unique football team after a season of struggling to find the proper words.

They were champions.

 

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