Joe Flacco can have just about anything he wants right now.
The Super Bowl MVP, the leader of the Baltimore Ravens' offense and the man armed with a new contract ($120 million) that he said was more about principle than money is sitting on top of the word right now.
And he should be. The Baltimore Ravens' offense looks like it will be just fine this season (minus Anquan Boldin) while the defense tries to find its identity again. This is either going to be an exciting season for these Ravens as they defend their title, or it will be a long one because of major changes.
The 2008 NFL Draft produced Matt Ryan, who was chosen third by the Atlanta Falcons and Flacco, who was the 18th selection of the Ravens. While it appeared Ryan was on the fast track to success and a Super Bowl ring, Flacco was a game manager and wasn’t asked to do much in a run-first offense of the Ravens.
The 2012 season proved Flacco could play amongst the elite. And after the best postseason performance of any quarterback EVER, it was the much maligned Flacco that has had the last laugh.
For that reason, he might be the most underrated player on this Ravens team this season.
After throwing for 3,800 and 22 touchdowns last season, there is still more to see from the 6’6” former Delaware star. He still needs to show the playoff run was no fluke and that he can shoulder the load of being “the man” in the Ravens' locker room. With the losses of key players like Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, who were vocal leaders on this team, will Flacco step up and take charge off the field as well?
For that reason, he might be the most overrated player on this Ravens team this season.
The quarterback position is the most criticized of any on the field and while Flacco’s stats over his career have been good but not great, he is not a liability. His development might have been a little slower than a Matt Ryan or an Andrew Luck, but he is still an upper echelon passer. Not elite, but great.
The Ravens need him to be great this season.
Jacoby Jones and Torrey Smith need him to be great this season.
The defense needs him to be great this season. John Harbaugh needs him to be great this season.
While it would seem I am criticizing Flacco for work that is not complete, that might be the case. I am always leary of a player who demands more money or gets more money (Tony Romo) and then does not produce. Numbers often dictate performance. Some excel, others fall back on laurels. Flacco needs to excel. If he wins games and gets back to the playoffs (which I think will not happen), then he is praised for his performance.
If he loses games and the team stumbles, like it looks very possible of happening, then the contract and the comments about his performance by himself and the media rear their ugly heads. It’s a slippery slope and for that reason Flacco has a lot to excel at or live up to this coming season.