Sports Commentary: Does Jackson’s arrival mean the end of the Flacco era?
MANAGING SPORTS EDITOR
Since he entered the NFL in 2008, Joe Flacco has won more games (102) than only six active NFL quarterbacks: Tom Brady (223), Drew Brees (149), Ben Roethlisberger (148), Eli Manning (119), Philip Rivers (110) and Aaron Rodgers (103).
Flacco, who played two seasons at Delaware, sits second on the all-time Delaware career passing list with 7,046 yards and has multiplied that total by more than five during his 10 years as the Baltimore Ravens starting quarterback. But Flacco’s regression in recent seasons, compounded with the Ravens decision to take former Heisman-winning quarterback Lamar Jackson in the 2018 NFL draft has raised questions on just how much longer Flacco will be the head honcho under center in Baltimore.
Jackson, who won the Heisman Trophy in 2016, accumulated a combined 9,043 passing yards and 4,132 rushing yards with 119 touchdowns in three seasons at Louisville. His Heisman Trophy followed the likes of former Heisman winners turned NFL starters, including Cam Newton, Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota, and preceded the 2017 winner turned No. 1 draft pick, Baker Mayfield.
Yet Jackson was the fifth quarterback selected in this past weekend’s NFL draft, behind Mayfield, USC’s Sam Darnold, Wyoming’s Josh Allen and UCLA’s Josh Rosen. After trading with the Philadelphia Eagles to receive their second pick of the first round, the Ravens selected Jackson with the final pick of the first round, prompting a flurry of questions nationwide about how Jackson’s arrival to Baltimore affects Flacco’s future.
Despite his fall in the first round, Jackson has the talent to be a quality starting quarterback in the NFL. His skill set is reminiscent of Mariota’s in Tennessee –– Jackson has an arm not quite as strong as Newton’s, but the legs and playmaking ability of 2012 rookie of the year Robert Griffin III, who, coincidentally just signed a one-year deal with Baltimore at the beginning of April (How’s Flacco, Jackson and Griffin III for a captivating conglomerate in Baltimore?)
Flacco, meanwhile, who had the luxury to manage the Ravens offense with the Ray Rice – Anquan Boldin – Torrey Smith trio during the potent Ray Lewis – Ed Reed – Haloti Ngata – Terrell Suggs defensive era, no longer has top-notch defensive talent nor offensive playmakers. As a result, his performance has declined in recent seasons, most recently with a 1.3 touchdown to interception ratio over his past three seasons and a 46.0 quarterback rating in 2017, the lowest since his rookie season.
Flacco’s performance is undoubtedly linked to the Ravens struggles in recent seasons, but he’s not their only issue. His deficiencies –– lack of athleticism, accuracy issues and questionable decision-making –– have been further magnified by the Ravens lack of a supporting cast. In the past three seasons, the Ravens have accumulated a combined 22-26 record and missed the playoffs each of the three seasons.
Had the Ravens not won the Super Bowl in 2012, Joe Flacco’s stature among NFL quarterbacks would be significantly lower.
Jackson’s arrival (and, to an extent, RGIII’s as well) signals the Ravens’ desire to potentially change the status quo. Jackson may not start this year, but if Flacco stumbles, the electrifying dual-threat signal caller could see the field in 2018.
Flacco will always be a proud Blue Hen, who brought joy to many in Delaware, but it’s fair to separate his successes in Newark with his future in Baltimore. As Jackson arrives, this may be the beginning of the end of his tenure with the Ravens.