And Head Coach John Harbaugh knows it.
“Pay him whatever he asks for,” Harbaugh said with his quarterback, who is set to become a free agent after this season, standing just a few feet away. The assembled media burst into laughter.
“Pay the man. Hear that [Owner] Steve [Bisciotti]?”
After an offseason and preseason in which critics finally started to sing Flacco’s praises, the fifth-year quarterback delivered on the hype on a national stage.
He went 21-for-29 for 299 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. That added up to a 128.4 quarterback rating and it could have been more. After spearheading the rout, Flacco was yanked midway through the fourth quarter.
Harbaugh didn’t stop with the praise. Asked how “scary” good Flacco can be, Harbaugh agreed with the notion.
“Scary good. That’s probably the word right there,” Harbaugh said. “We know what we’ve got in this guy. … Joe Flacco is going to be a great player. Joe Flacco is a great player. Joe Flacco has been a great player.”
But is he an elite player, as has been debated ad nauseam for the past couple years?
“Sure he is. Of course he is,” Harbaugh said. “He is a winner. He is one of the toughest quarterbacks I have ever been around. He is the best quarterback I’ve been around.”
Harbaugh likes what he’s seeing from Flacco – a lot.
Flacco started the game with a 52-yard bomb to wide receiver
The Ravens weren’t exactly in a hurry-up, but they only loosely gathered instead of huddling. That put Flacco at the line of scrimmage earlier and allowed him more time to read the Bengals defense and change the play if needed.
Flacco seemed to pull all the right levers. He zipped passes into tight spaces, found wide open receivers occasionally, and read blitzes precisely. His 10-yard lofted touchdown pass to
Flacco said the up-tempo pace helped the Ravens out offensively and defensively. Tacking on so many points allowed the defense to play with a lead, which made the unit more dangerous.
“It was a lot of fun. I can’t lie about that,” Flacco said. “I think it says we’ve got talent out there. We have some things to work on, but it’s obviously what we’re good at.”
When Harbaugh gushed about Flacco at the post-game podium, the quarterback simply leaned against a wall and lowered his head.
When Harbaugh said to “pay the man,” Flacco grinned and grabbed the attention of some team employees around him.
“You all hear that,” he said, joking about it later.
But Flacco once again stated he’s not thinking about his contract this year. And while some pundits may be surprised by that, or by how Flacco performed in the Week 1 blowout, the quarterback isn’t.
“I feel like I always go out there and put it all out on the field and play pretty damn good every week,” he said. “The stats might not always say 299 yards or 300 yards or 450 yards, whatever it is, but the bottom line is I go out there and I play hard, I play tough, and we win a lot of football games around here.”
Flacco’s 50 career victories (including the playoffs) rank as the NFL’s most by a starting quarterback since 2008. His teammates also aren’t taken aback by what they saw Monday night.
“This is what we’ve seen all camp with Joe,” safety Ed Reed said. “Those [offensive] guys trust him and want to make plays for him.”
“Coming into this year, it was Joe Flacco’s offense,” running back Ray Rice said. “He did a great job today. It starts with him and we just follow his lead.”