Another Year Of Luxury With Joe Flacco


Sunday is the first day quarterbacks report for Ravens training camp.

And for the seventh straight year, Baltimore has no questions about who their starter is when he walks through the doors of the Under Armour Performance Center.

As numerous other teams shuffle through quarterbacks like a deck of cards, it becomes clearer and clearer that having Joe Flacco is a luxury.

Take for example the AFC North rival Cleveland Browns. The Browns have had a different Week 1 starting quarterback every year except for one since Flacco entered the league in 2008. That's six different starting quarterbacks in seven years, and this year will make eight as Josh McCown and Johnny Manziel are battling for the top job.

The Browns are an extreme case, but turnover is common league-wide. Since Flacco came into the league, only eight other teams have kept the same starting quarterback throughout that time (Patriots, Steelers, Chargers, Cowboys, Giants, Packers, Falcons and Saints).

The Ravens never had this kind of security at the quarterback position before. Previously, Kyle Boller was the only quarterback in franchise history to start Week 1 in three consecutive years.

Before this year's draft, General Manager Ozzie Newsome was asked about the ease it gives him to know he has Flacco under center. Oddly enough, Newsome and Head Coach John Harbaugh had discussed the same topic earlier that day on the treadmill.

"It's hard to win in this league without a quarterback, and we were able to do it through the first Super Bowl because of Tony [Banks] and Trent [Dilfer], but it's hard," Newsome said.

"As I told John, it's probably at least a quarter, maybe half of the league that's looking for a quarterback right now to help their franchise. We got fortunate in Joe, and Joe continues to get better. Joe continues to mature. So, I'm glad to have Joe Flacco as a part of our organization as our quarterback."

Flacco is coming off perhaps his best season to date. He posted a 91.0 quarterback rating, up from a 73.1 rating in 2013 and his second-highest career mark behind the 93.6 rating he logged in 2010. Flacco threw 27 touchdowns to 12 interceptions and threw for a career-high 3,986 yards.

He once again sparkled in the playoffs, where he had a quarterback rating of 100.7, tossed six touchdowns to two interceptions, and threw for 551 yards. He beat the Steelers and built two 14-point leads against the Patriots.

Perhaps it's for that reason that Flacco has seemingly received less criticism this offseason. Sure, there are still debates about whether he's elite.

As usual, Flacco seemed at ease during Organized Team Activities and minicamp, and he had one of his strongest summers yet.

He lost starting wide receiver Torrey Smith, but he's seen many starters go elsewhere over his years. He's got his fourth offensive coordinator in four years, so that's also not new. He's entering Year 2 in the West Coast offensive scheme.

"He's been through so much, he's had so many experiences, he's been in so many big games. Big games in our division, big games in the playoffs, obviously the Super Bowl part of it," Harbaugh said after minicamp ended.

"He's had great moments, he's had disappointing moments. He's been through it all. I think he's forged."

It's going to take a lot to faze Flacco, and Harbaugh notices a quarterback that's on the cusp of more greatness.

"I really believe that this is Joe's time," Harbaugh continued. "We're all in this together and it's a team effort, and Joe's going to hit the peak of his career right now. I couldn't be more excited about it. I'm looking forward to not just this year, but the next few years with Joe Flacco."

With quarterbacks reporting to training camp Sunday, take a look back on previous Ravens' signal callers.

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