Courtesy: USA Today Sports Images
OWINGS MILLS (WUSA9) -- Joe Flacco towered above the podium stationed in the auditorium at the Baltimore Ravens training facility in Owings Mills and uttered these words: "The priority of mine was to get that respect that I feel now from this organization."
He had just inked the richest contract in NFL history: $120 million over six years.
That's a lot of Benjamins, greenbacks, dollars, or if you're looking for street cred, chedda. The day was the culmination of a breathtaking run by the quarterback everyone loved to bash. In my opinion, the criticism was warranted.
Prior to the 2012 playoffs, Flacco resembled nothing close to the highest paid player in the league. He was a solid quarterback, but certainly not elite. In fact, he was rather ho-hum. During a month-long stretch from November 18th to December 9th, NFL weeks 11-14, he threw for over 200 yards once. That's once!
But numbers are a surface level analysis of any player. The eyeball test, or watching game film, is often more revealing and in Flacco's case it offered this verdict. He was pedestrian. I remember watching him up close during this season's Redskins game. Moments before halftime, when the Ravens and Flacco could have pressed the ball down the field and possibly gotten in field goal range, they didn't. I remember thinking this guy (Flacco) has no killer instinct. I was wrong. His regular season mediocrity made his run to New Orleans, the Super Bowl, and an MVP performance all the more remarkable. It defied logic.
Defying logic is something Flacco seems adept at. Take for instance his athletic lineage. Delaware. Yeah, The University of Delaware. Compare that to the breeding grounds of the last 13 Super Bowl winning QBs prior to him: Ole Miss (Eli 2x), Cal (Rodgers), Purdue (Brees), Miami of Ohio (Big Ben 2x), Tennessee (Peyton), Michigan (Brady 3x), Fresno St. (Dilfer), Florida St. (Brad Johnson), and Northern Iowa (Warner). Probably only Kurt Warner and his Northern Iowa background compares to Delaware.
That's not all. When the first lump sum of Flacco's colossal contract gets deposited into his direct deposit account, it'll also represent something different than the norm. A quarterback getting paid after demonstrating he actually deserves it. Not before.
NFL teams are so desperate for success at the most critical position; they often leap into marriages with mates before kicking the tires thoroughly. The result, a Kim Kardashian/Kris Humphries situation: brief success, troubled waters and then an abridged relationship.
Two seasons ago, The Arizona Cardinals cast their hopes into Kevin Kolb. It was a decision based on a few specks of success he experienced during brief starts and mop up duty in Philadelphia. There were highlights-back-to-back 300 yard performances in 2009-but enough to give the guy $21million guaranteed dollars? No. Kolb, the guy who essentially played significant minutes in less than 10 games with Philly got paid! It has been an Arizona nightmare since. He's missed 17 games, been replaced and an opponent once questioned his nerve.
"He is skittish. He is scared back there," said Raiders defensive lineman Tommy Kelly after a preseason game last August. "Anytime anybody gets close to him he starts looking at the refs."
The list of quarterbacks that turned flash in the pan performances into mad bucks is long. Recently, Matt Cassel ($28 million), Matt Flynn ($10 million), and Mike Vick ($40 million). Some might scoff at the Vick comparison but ask yourself, was there truly enough evidence after his athletic resurrection to convince you he had learned how to protect the football and himself? Enough games to give him a $100 million dollar deal? Not in my opinion. Today all three quarterbacks are looking for work, benched or facing unclear futures.
The Joe Flacco story is the antithesis of those. Despite playing longer, better and more consistent than any of the quarterbacks mentioned above, he had to wait for his big payday. Eighty regular season games worth of waiting. That's a long walk to Mecca.
Not surprising, however, when you consider the Ravens methodical, low profile approach to doing business. General Manager Ozzie Newsome has crafted a first class organization and yet he is relatively invisible compared to some of his peers. If the Dallas Cowboys are the flashy sports cars of the NFL (pretty on the outside, but bad gas mileage), the Ravens are the Honda Civic.
Non-descript, good gas mileage and they just keep purring along. It's no wonder the Flacco story has turned out this way thus far.