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Eisenberg: Calls for Lamar Jackson Will Get Loud, But Ravens Must Continue With Faith in Joe Flacco


I don't believe Ravens team officials were blowing smoke or following some mysterious, hidden agenda over the weekend when they repeatedly said Joe Flacco was still their starting quarterback.

That's a fact, one that probably bears emphasizing now that the franchise has begun a succession plan at Flacco's position that has some fans hyperventilating over what lies ahead.

Sure, it's also a fact that the drafting of Lamar Jackson made a definitive statement about the Ravens' future under center. Jackson likely will take over at some point.

But that future hasn't arrived yet.

GM Ozzie Newsome made the point soon after his daring Jackson pick at the end of the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft Thursday night.

"We're trying to win this year. In order for us to win this year, we need Joe Flacco," Newsome said. "That's why we went and got the receivers. That's why we went and got the tight end – to give Joe some help. So we want to win this year."

I believe every word of that.

Yes, the Ravens do want to win, really want to win in 2018 after missing the playoffs for three straight years.

Yes, to take their best shot, they "need" to stick with Flacco, the Super Bowl-winning veteran who is only 33, with plenty of good football quite possibly still ahead of him.

Finally, yes, the front office rebuilt the cast of playmakers around Flacco this offseason believing that was the missing piece of a playoff puzzle. With new veteran receivers now in place, it would be a mistake – in the front office's opinion, and I agree – to abruptly change course and hand the offense to a rookie quarterback who is arriving with a ton of hype but who, by all accounts, still needs seasoning before he's ready to be a No. 1.

The better option is to keep Flacco on the job, hopes he's healthier than in recent years, and hope the new targets and the challenge the Jackson pick represents somehow help him raise his game.

That's not only the right option for the Ravens, it's also the right option for Jackson. Pro football is a lot more complex than the college game he dominated. He'll be better in the long run if he sits and watches now and starts learning the ropes before he has to produce.

I'm old school on this. You can ruin a young quarterback by rushing him onto the field too soon. Why do it if you don't have to?

That's not what some fans and analysts want to hear, of course. The selection of Jackson, the most exciting talent in this year's draft, has re-energized a Baltimore fan base that was starting to yawn. The whole football world can't wait to see what he can do in the pros.

The calls for him to play as soon as possible have already started, and they're only going to get louder.

That adage about the backup quarterback being the most popular guy in town played out here in recent years when Josh Woodrum and Bryn Renner fared well in the preseason. Imagine the crescendo when the backup isn't a fringe guy with no future in Baltimore, but rather, a first-round pick anointed as Flacco's replacement.

What I'm saying is it's about to get loud in here, folks, loud and chaotic and oh-so interesting, regardless of what happens on the field.

In the face of what I'm sure will be constant calls for them to make THE change, the Ravens will need to be disciplined and patient, staying firm in their belief that Flacco gives them the best chance to win in 2018.

There's no telling when, or if, the transition eventually will take place. It might happen this fall or not for a couple of years, depending on how well Flacco performs and how quickly Jackson develops. There's even a chance it won't happen at all. At this point, I don't think you should rule out any possibilities or timetables.

In the short term, though, there's no guesswork. The right call is for the Ravens to show the same faith in Flacco that they've shown for the past decade.

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