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Eisenberg: Championship Won't Change Joe Flacco


Joe Flacco has had plenty of ups in his five years with the Ravens. I think it's fair to characterize his "ups" as "way ups" in this year's playoffs.

But Flacco has also experienced his share of downs, which is why the conversation about his elite status persisted.

Almost invariably, though, just when the radio talk shows and Internet boards have seemed ready to suffocate him in the wake of a bad game, Flacco has rebounded and played well the next week.

After his disastrous pick-six against Denver in December, images of him "Flacco-ing," lying face down, went viral. It was funny stuff. Flacco responded by tearing apart the New York Giants a week later.

Last season, he was shaky enough in a home playoff win over Houston that Ed Reed called him out publicly. He was under intense pressure and scrutiny heading into the AFC title game and responded by out-playing Tom Brady in what ended up as a foreshadowing of his magical playoff ride a year later.

Flacco, who played some baseball in his day, seemingly has borrowed his mental approach from that other sport, where games are played daily. When one game is over, forget about it. It's over. You can't do anything about it now. You just put it in a box somewhere in your head and slam the box shut. The bad memory gets put away, hopefully forgotten.

It's all part of Flacco's even-keeled, low-wattage personality, which has infuriated fans at times and led to endless speculation about his needing to show more emotion, pump his fists and exhort his teammates in Latin. OK, I'm kidding about that last one, but the silly example illustrates my longstanding opinion on the subject, that it was ridiculous all along. Johnny Unitas didn't show much emotion and he did OK.

Thankfully, the debate about Flacco's personality is officially kaput now that he has led the Ravens to a Super Bowl victory. Flacco is Flacco, a ballplayer, not a showman; a steady guy who is pretty much the same every day, no matter what has transpired. And that is fine.

In fact, now, in the wake of his Super triumph, his situation has flipped entirely. The even keel of the Good Ship Flacco is under siege from the sweet trappings of success, as opposed to the sour drumming that follows defeat.

He is on a heady victory tour, starting with a Disney World parade, stopping by Letterman and the morning shows, soaking in applause and acclaim, getting photographed alongside Tommy Hilfiger at New York's Fashion Week. Like the lead character in the "Where's Waldo?" children's books, he has popped up everywhere. Where's Joe? Not where you thought he would ever be.

Meanwhile, his expiring contract and his agent's negotiations with the Ravens have become the NFL's biggest story.

Many plot twists lie ahead, so many that I have read some speculation from reputable sources about his salary soaring so high that the Ravens just let him walk. I'm not buying that, not for a second. Stability at quarterback is the first commandment of enduring success in the NFL, and the Ravens know that as well as anyone, having sorted through many candidates before drafting Flacco. They aren't going to violate that commandment, no matter what it does to their salary cap situation.

One way or another, Flacco will be back. And once this whirlwind dies down and the daily grind of NFL life returns, my prediction is he will be exactly the same guy, low key and unaffected and unchanged from week to week, no matter what unfolds on Sundays.

Just as he put his disappointing performances in a mental box and shut the door, enabling him to move on, he will put his soaring triumphs away, forget about them and focus on the next game.

That's just how he is wired, to remain steady rather than fluctuate up and down.

I do think he will continue to emerge as a leader, more vocal than before, but let's not get carried away. Flacco's father called him "dull" in the New York Times. It's almost funny to envision him as some sort of celebrity. He's a Joe, Joe the Joe, the same guy in good times as well as bad.

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