When John Harbaugh was hired as head coach of the Baltimore Ravens in 2008, he immediately implemented a philosophy that has served as the team's core principle over the past several seasons.
"At the heart of football are three foundations. First is the TEAM, second is the TEAM, and third is the TEAM. We'll stick with that from beginning to end."
As the Ravens' all-time leading passer, Joe Flacco has established himself on a team filled with stars. Never missing a start in his career, Baltimore's first-round pick in the 2008 NFL Draft holds the NFL record for wins by a starting quarterback in his first four years with 44. The always-poised Flacco has grown from a quiet rookie into a veteran leader – both on and off the field.
What has John Harbaugh done to build a successful TEAM mindset in Baltimore?
"I think just his mindset and the way that he has approached things have built the foundation of our team. The fact that over the years he has relied and actually allowed us to have some input on how we work throughout the week and things like that have helped tremendously. He does a lot of things. His physical mindset and the way that he wants us to be physical is part of that. The way we come together as a team, I think a lot of that has to do with how he really relies on our opinion and creates the atmosphere around here that we come into and work every day. When you have a leader who creates the atmosphere that he has created, it goes a long way."
What will make the 2012 Ravens a successful TEAM down the stretch?
"I think coming in here every week and working as a team to work hard when we're here, but at the same time keep ourselves fresh, so that on Sunday, we can go out there and play like we would have in the beginning of the season. No matter what you say, as the season goes on, you have to make sure you take care of your body. That's one of the things that we do so well. Coach Harbaugh allows us to come in here and work efficiently, but at the same time, take care of our body and that allows us to go out and play well on Sunday."
What is the best TEAM you've ever been on?
"I would say the teams I have been on here are the best teams I've been on. I can't pick a specific year, but the last couple of years – and this year included – these are certainly the best teams I've been on. It's not just the play on the field, it's the guys in the locker room and camaraderie we share as well that makes it that way."
What will you teach your son about the importance of being a good TEAMmate?
"I think when you grow up and you play sports when you are younger, you all hope that you have a kid who is athletic and can do everything that you hope he can do. At the same time, you can't get too involved in those kind of things. You have to make sure that he is going out there and playing the game the right way and having respect for everybody, stand up for sportsmanship. The way you do that is raising them up the right way and making sure he is a respectable kid inside of your home. I think that translates onto the field. A lot of times you get an understanding for having a respect for the kids out there by going out there and having fun. When you have fun, you work towards one goal because you enjoy playing."
How have you grown into the leader of this TEAM?
"I think when you come in as a rookie, and you're a young guy, the last thing I want to do is come in here and act like some crazy man who is trying to overtake everybody running the show. I think you come off as a jerk when you do those kinds of things. I think early on in my career, I was quiet enough to not step on anybody's toes, but as the years go on, and as we get some young guys on our offense, your role expands. I think the first thing a leader has to do is play well and lead by example. As you get some young guys on the team, you have to kind of groom those guys and make sure they have confidence come Sunday. I think my biggest job is to get everybody feeling excited about our game plan and feeling confident heading into the game."
What does it mean to you do be one of the leaders of this TEAM?
"It's pretty cool. When you look at it, there are only 32 quarterbacks in the league that get a chance to do what we do. Not all of them are guys that start every week. So it means a lot to be a leader in the league generally, but especially on this team with all the great guys that we've had here in the past and continue to have, like Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs, Ed Reed and all the guys that have been here before. To be on a team that has very good leaders, it's definitely very special to be grouped in with them in any way."
Running Back Ray Rice
What qualities does Joe have that makes him a good leader?
"He leads by example. That's one quality that is good. Joe Flacco works very hard. We first got here together as rookies, and they threw a lot at him. Quarterback is the toughest position in the game, and the way he was able to take everything that was thrown at him and go out there and do it was pretty amazing."
In what particular areas have you seen Joe's growth and maturity?
"The biggest area of growth and maturity is him being able to dissect the defense. His vocal communication and his non-verbal communication have grown. Every part of his game that he needs to be a great quarterback has grown and improved. I think the growth and maturity process has to do with having Jim Caldwell. Knowing that he coached Peyton Manning, some of the same tools that he used with Peyton, I think he is instilling in Joe."
Do you see a special bond between you and Joe, coming to this TEAM at the same time and now leading this offense?
"He was the first phone call I got after I got drafted. We went one and two for the Ravens, and I am just hoping to God that we are going to be playing together for a long time. We have a great bond. As an offense, we wanted our respect, and we have it now. When people line up against us, they can't just give Joe Flacco a vanilla defense. We go out there, and we try to dissect defenses together."
Quarterbacks Coach Jim Caldwell
What qualities do you see from Joe that make him such a good TEAMmate?
"Joe is very consistent. Every single day, he comes to work with the kind of attitude that he is trying to find a way to get better. He is a very selfless individual in a sense where he is ready to give his all at a moment's notice for the good of the team. Probably one of the things I would say is that he is an extremely loyal guy, and I think his teammates sense that, but he is also a guy that will speak up. I think often times people perceive him as being very quiet and reserved. Yeah, he may be a bit reserved, but he speaks up, he steps up, and he is a man's man."
What are Joe's best qualities as a leader?
"There is an old adage. It says, 'The mark of a true leader is a man who can lead himself.' When you look at Joe, you can see he is a man that can lead himself. Joe is very settled in terms of his approach to life, his family and the game. He is a real family man, a real family-oriented guy. He does a tremendous job overall of setting a great example to going to work as a true professional. He is not one of the guys that is a big rah-rah guy. It doesn't mean he doesn't get excited about the game. He does. It doesn't mean he doesn't love the game – he has great passion for it. But, he is not one of those guys that is going to jump and yell and scream and all that kind of stuff. He does a great job of leading by example."
Area Scout Joe Douglas
What did you see from Joe in college that made you think he would be a good leader for this TEAM?
"Talking with the coaches at Delaware, they made it known that Joe was different – he wasn't a very vocal guy. He wasn't going to jump in guy's faces and lead the team in the pre-game, but he is a guy that is going to be very poised, very confident, very knowledgeable of what the defenses were going to throw at him, so that when he walks into the huddle, the guys are going to believe in him because of his ability, preparation and poise."
What particular instance shows Joe's toughness?
"I noticed it in the 2007 [Division I FCS] National Championship game when Delaware faced Appalachian State. His offensive line wasn't playing that great, and Appalachian State had a lot of athletes. He was taking hits left and right, but he never flinched. He is just a very mentally- and physically-tough kid. You see him take hard hits, but he just pops right back up, gets back in the huddle and doesn't say anything. That's just the kind of blue collar mentality that he has."
OLB Terrell Suggs
What can you say about Joe's maturity as a TEAMmate since he was drafted in 2008?
"He was very shy. He has matured a lot. He is not afraid to be himself with all of these different personalities on the team, including myself, Ed Reed, Ray Lewis, Haloti Ngata. When you look on the defensive side of the ball, you've got all these marquee guys. We didn't really have the names on offense that we've had on defense, but now we do, and he is part of that. Now, the offense and the defense look similar. The stadium used to be loudest when the defense is being introduced. Now, it's just as loud when the offense is being introduced, and that's awesome."
Why does Joe command such respect from his TEAMmates?
"I don't think he commands it; I think he's earned it. He's the only quarterback in history to win a playoff game in each of his first four seasons. That commands respect. He is a winner. He has never not gotten us to the playoffs. If I'm a head coach, I have confidence in this guy."
What particular game in Joe's career stands out to you where you said, 'This guy is going to take our TEAM to a Super Bowl?'
"Last year up in Pittsburgh. On that last drive, he went 92 yards to lead us to the game-winning touchdown. You always want to have faith in your quarterback. When he did that, in the hostile environment that is Heinz Field, I was like, "He's ready. We've got a Super Bowl quarterback. We're ready as a team."