Flacco Earning Every Penny Of Contract
If I had to bet on it, I would say Joe Flacco doesn't make the Pro Bowl this season.
But that doesn't mean he isn't earning every penny of a contract that puts him among the NFL's highest-paid players.
This is not a new conversation thread. Last year's Super Bowl run notwithstanding, Flacco seldom puts up the kind of eye-popping numbers that generate attention and Pro Bowl invitations. The Ravens don't operate that way. They like to run the ball a lot as well as pass it. And in a nutshell, that's why the "Flacco elite" debate never goes away.
This year, as he adjusts to a new receiving corps in the wake of key injuries and subtractions, his numbers are routine once again. Through three games, he is ranked 20th in the league in passing yardage and 22nd in quarterback rating. Twenty-one guys have thrown more touchdown passes.
That's not how you to build a case for a Pro Bowl invitation, which, by the way, Flacco has never received.
But I would argue that Flacco is showing exactly why the Ravens signed him to a $120.6 million contract.
With his running game stonewalled and a majority of his favorite playmakers sidelined Sunday, Flacco could have been excused for thinking he had to force things and basically beat the Houston Texans by himself. But he was smarter than that.
He didn't force anything, and thus, didn't commit a turnover. He was patient, waiting until after the Ravens' early field position woes turned around to start taking chances. He was tough, never developing a case of happy feet despite taking his licks from Houston's aggressive defensive front. In the end, he led the offense on three point-producing drives after the Ravens had taken the lead, securing a major victory.
He isn't putting up huge numbers, but he also isn't panicking and coughing up games or playing the superstar card and throwing his new receivers under the bus while they struggle to get going.
While the ridiculous "elite" debate goes on, Flacco has his team atop its division yet again, which is precisely why the Ravens wouldn't trade him for anyone else's quarterback.
Time For Ray Lewis Detox
Now that Ray Lewis' Ring of Honor ceremony is over, it's time for Ravenstown to submit to detox – time for the players, coaches and fans to wean themselves off Ray.
He's the greatest and most popular player in the franchise's history. When he surprisingly came through the tunnel during Sunday's pregame introductions, the roar was so loud M&T Bank Stadium literally seemed to shake. And he deserves that acclaim.
But he is retired now. He doesn't play for the Ravens anymore.
You wouldn't know it from the first weeks of the 2013 season. Ray has continued to be in the headlines.
Before the season opener in Denver, there was rampant speculation, started by a former teammate, Ray Rice, that Lewis might come to Colorado and give the team one of his iconic pregame talks. (He didn't.) Before Sunday's game, there was more speculation about whether he would speak to the team (he didn't) or perform his famed Squirrel Dance one more time (he didn't).
All he did Sunday was wear a fancy suit, stand on the sidelines and give a nice halftime speech, yet as I drove home from the game, I heard radio talk-show callers saying they believed he had made the difference in the game because he fired up the crowd and the crowd fired up the players, etc.
The Ravens defeated the Texans on Sunday because Daryl Smith, Lewis' replacement, intercepted a pass and returned it for a touchdown to change the game's momentum; because Tandon Doss ran a punt back 82 yards for a touchdown; and because the Ravens (not the Ray-vens) were deeper, more physical and more resourceful than a talented opponent.
He will always be the franchise's signature player, and it's fair to speculate about last season's Super Bowl run possibly not happening without his "Final Ride" comeback.
But his era is over, and a new one is beginning. Let's give the players ON the roster credit for what they do.
Party Bus A Lightweight Incident
Put in context with the weekend's other headline-making off-field episodes involving the 49ers and Bengals, the Ravens' party-bus affair comes off as a relatively lightweight incident. It's the last thing the Ravens wanted, but no one was arrested and it appears no one will have missed a practice or game because of it. Social media is buzzing with jokes rather than outrage.
It could have been worse.