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Late For Work 1/11: Is Joe Flacco Holding Ravens Back? Steve Smith Vehemently Defends His QB


Is Joe Flacco Holding Ravens Back? Steve Smith Vehemently Defends His QB

If you ever come under fire, it sure would be nice to have an advocate like Steve Smith Sr. in your corner.

The now-retired receiver was pelted with tough questions from three panelists on Fox Sports 1's "Speak for Yourself" about his former quarterback, Joe Flacco, and Smith swatted each away like it was a mosquito.

Is Joe Flacco holding the Ravens back? Is he a leader? Does he have enough confidence and transfer it to the rest of the offense?

"No, I don't think Joe is holding the team back," Smith confidently declared.

Before we get to his answers, it's important to point out that people can take Smith's responses in one of two ways: as excuses, or legitimate factors that caused a Super Bowl MVP to take a step back.

Based on the decisions Owner Steve Bisciotti and his front office are making this offseason, the reasons for Flacco's shortcomings are real and can be solved.

To be clear, *nobody *is saying Flacco is excused. In fact, Smith, Bisciotti and Flacco himself expect much, much more. Head Coach John Harbaugh said last week that Flacco needs to play up to his contract.

But according to Smith, there were other factors involved, and people aren't giving enough credence to them. Here are three:

*1) Flacco was not 100 percent after a serious ACL injury, and a banged-up offensive line didn't help.

*"Here's the thing that I think is not put into account," Smith said. "He's coming off a severe ACL injury. And I think personally, he was not 100 percent because I was injured and I know I wasn't 100 percent. Soon as I started feeling good, whoop, I hurt my ankle. So he is playing behind, which it takes a full 13, 14 months for you to really feel comfortable. Then we had some injuries on the line. So all of a sudden, now you're getting a little pressure. You've got a bad knee. All of a sudden you start thinking. You're thinking, 'Hey, my knee! Oh, the guy is open! Hey, my knee!' You got to make a financial decision. The decision of, do I get bent over? Or do I take the check down? So he was trying to play smart."

2) Flacco has had five coordinators in five years, causing him to think too much and not allowing him to master a specific system.

"Here's the one thing that nobody is throwing in there," Smith said. "How many offensive coordinators has he had in the last four or five years? He's thinking all the time. Even for myself, I was thinking, 'Well, 'Colt' means this in this offense, in the other offense 'Colt' was that. And in the other offense 'Colt' was this. 'Colt' means three different things now."

Added panelist and former NFL player Cris Carter: "His mind is fried. He's never been a master of a system because he hasn't played in one long enough."

3) People around Flacco let him down too.

"There's times we let Joe down as an offense," Smith said. "We did not play up to par. … It isn't just on Joe, and I'm not saying we don't need more out of him. We need more out of everybody because we had a lot of changes that was not beneficial to Joe Flacco."

Based on Smith's answers, it's no coincidence that the Ravens are keeping Marty Mornhinweg as the offensive coordinator. It's no coincidence that the Ravens have great optimism that Flacco will benefit from a full offseason practicing with his weapons and mastering the system instead of rehabbing. And, it's no coincidence that one of the offseason personnel priorities is to beef up the offensive line.

Watch the full video below:

"There's times we let Joe down as an offense." — @89SteveSmith defends Joe Flacco's production to @WhitlockJason — Speak For Yourself (@SFY) January 10, 2017

Smith To Bisciotti: 'Man, I'm Retired'

He was half joking, but Bisciotti said he hasn't completely ruled out Smith returning to his football team for the 2017 season.

"I haven't given up hope that Steve Smith is going to come walking in here in September," Bisciotti said. "We'll see about that character. I wouldn't count him out."

Smith was asked if there was a chance he could appease his former owner, and, at first, he dodged the question … twice. But he finally made it clear.

"Man, I'm retired," Smith said. "I sent that paperwork to Roger Goodell January 2."

Yes, he did, and it may have been the best retirement letter in NFL history.

Most-Cited Quotes From Season-Review Press Conference

If you missed the nearly 70-minute, 30-question press conference with Bisciotti and his leadership, I've got your back.

Here's the summary: Bisciotti was calm, thoughtful and transparent. He hasn't been afraid in the past to put his staff on the proverbial "hot seat," including former Head Coach Brian Billick and Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron. But he did no such thing Tuesday.

Looking around the web at the stories to come out of the presser, I've pulled the most-cited quotes based on my own eyeball test.

1) On why he's not cleaning house and rebuilding after missing the playoffs in three of the past four years:

"The pitchforks are out, and they know it. … I didn't get where I was by just firing people. I think it's a bad model, especially in this business. I don't have as much to fall back on except to then say, 'Trust me, this is the right way to run a business.' That's not good enough for probably a quarter of our fans. Then, you're over the hill and you're an idiot. That's fine with me. I'll be more than happy to take the blame for that. I guarantee you, if I fire John, a lot of people would be happy, except me and Ozzie and Dick. Who am I ultimately here for? I have to trust my instincts.

"The only negative things I hear about me is I care more about continuity than winning. I can't change that opinion of people. I can't tell them that firing people is my way of showing my disappointment with our results. That's just not the way I'm built. My optimism starts sooner than anybody else's optimism."

*2) While he's sticking with his partners, he knows they can do better. *

"The one thing, I guess I want my fans to know is that I think John can coach better, I think [General Manager] Ozzie [Newsome] and [Assistant General Manager Eric DeCosta] can draft better, I think Joe can play better, and I think if all of them do it — and I think they're capable and determined to be better — then I think next year, we're sitting here with a playoff-caliber team, and I really believe that. … If you get improvement from quality people, then I believe that they can collectively bring this team back to prominence. I understand that nothing I say today is going to change opinions."

3) On why the Ravens are sticking with Mornhinweg when fans are against the decision.

"My quarterback seems happy with it." 

4) In a word, his feelings about the 2016 season.

"Bewilderment. I thought our offense started playing better, and then our defense collapsed in the last four weeks."

5) On the Ravens getting away from their identity and becoming too pass-happy:

"I was really disappointed in the lack of a running game, a lack of a commitment to the running game. I don't think that we're going to be successful putting the ball in the air 600-some times. It's just not our identity. I think it's bad, and I think that we'll change it."

If you have an hour to spare, check out the press conference in its entirety

Quick Hits

.@89SteveSmith has a message for @OBJ3 and young players in the NFL. — UNDISPUTED (@undisputed) January 10, 2017

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