It wasn’t a surprise when Head Coach John Harbaugh announced earlier this week that Lamar Jackson would remain the Ravens’ starting quarterback even though Joe Flacco is healthy again.
The Ravens have gone 3-1 with Jackson starting, losing only an overtime road contest against the AFC’s top-seeded team. They’re playing too well to tinker with what’s working, especially in the middle of a push for the playoffs.
Flacco acknowledged as much to reporters after Harbaugh’s announcement. Jackson “is playing well,” he said, “so we just need to keep getting some wins and see what happens.”
Flacco’s adult response to the change in his job status was as unsurprising as Harbaugh’s announcement. Flacco has always been a total pro, loyal to teammates, a team-first guy.
He acknowledged he was “disappointed” to be the No. 2 after 11 years of starting, but who wouldn’t be?
He surely still believes he could be the No. 1, win games and take the Ravens far, but he kept those thoughts to himself for the sake of the team, displaying admirable selflessness.
“This is my situation right now,” Flacco said, “and I’m going to do my best to handle it the right way.”
I’m not ready to suggest he has taken his last snap for the Ravens. Jackson absorbs a lot of punishment and has already left two games because of injury concerns. Flacco might have to step in for that reason or if Jackson really struggles. Hey, they could take the field together.
It’s just too soon to know for sure what will happen, and meanwhile, Flacco was among the league leaders in passing yardage when he injured his hip. There’s no doubt he can still play.
But regardless of what happens in the coming weeks, it does appear a regime change is unfolding. With that in mind, Flacco’s comments to reporters this week amounted to his exit statement, and no doubt, the session offered valuable lessons in how to be a pro.
I’d even suggest his sentiments belong on a poster or whiteboard in the locker room, giving future Ravens the chance to consider them. Let’s call them Joe’s Commandments – what he didn’t literally say, but what he meant.
Pouting is selfish.
Players lose starting jobs and suffer career setbacks every day. If you mope about it, you’re letting your teammates down.
“We’re right in the middle of a really good playoff run,” Flacco said. “We have a lot of important playoff games ahead of us. I’d firstly be doing my team a big disservice by not preparing the same way I always do, and after that, I’d be doing myself a big disservice, too, because you never know what’s going to happen or when you’re going to have to be called on.”
You aren’t as important as you think.
“Just because I’m not playing doesn’t mean the season comes to a halt and ends,” Flacco said. “There are times that I may feel like that, but everything keeps going. It may move on in a little bit different way, but it moves on without you. At some point, you realize that.”
Whatever happens, don’t take it personally.
Flacco just smiled when asked if his teammates had offered support or understanding.
“They move on, man. It is what it is. Listen, I have a great relationship with all those guys,” he said.
Winning is the only thing that matters.
Asked about Jackson’s play, Flacco took the highest of roads: “He’s done a great job. I’m really happy for what he’s been able to go out there and do. We’re winning football games. He and this team have put themselves, and ourselves, in position to go out there and do some big things for the rest of the year, and that’s definitely exciting.”
You can’t handle a delicate situation any better.
Jackson, 21, is already exhibiting similarly right-minded tendencies as a leader. He is humble, focusing far more on what he does wrong than right. He is confident but not cocky. He never passes the buck. Asked if the Ravens are now “his” team, he said, “It’s our team.”
That intimates that the locker room may be in good hands going forward. With Flacco, it’s been in great hands for a long time.