Ravens Watch

Once Upon a Quarterback

Lamar Jackson and our old friend Joe Flacco are both having storybook seasons.

Let’s start with Joe Flacco, as his is the more traditional fairy tale. You all know Joe: Perennially underrated QB with a gun for an arm and a name that sounds like a Hasbro water toy. He became a bit of a meme with the “Is Flacco elite?” business (yes he is…next question?) and is adored in Baltimore, where we saw him win a Super Bowl against the 49ers and dismantle Tom Brady’s Patriots on more than one occasion. (Indeed, were it not for He Who Must Not Be Named—okay, Billy Cundiff—his record against the Pats would likely be even more glittering.)

He got older, got injured, turned the Ravens over to that young whippersnapper Lamar Jackson, and bounced around a bit, as aging QBs are wont to do—first Denver, then the Jets, then the Eagles, then back to the Jets, and finally to the Ravens’ AFC North rival, the Cleveland Browns.

At 38, he was supposed to be a benchwarmer, a garbage time guy, a back up to the back up. But when Cleveland starter Deshaun Watson got injured (oops, against the Ravens) he was made the starter and he never looked back, leading the Browns to the postseason and putting up prodigious passing yards and TD numbers along the way. (Okay, the number of INTs is slightly less than elite, but you can’t argue with the results.)

And the best part is that Flacco himself seems a bit dazed and abashed by his success—some say that as the father of five kids, he always has that look on his face—and his opponents are amused by how quickly he went from Baltimore’s guy to a legend in Cleveland.

“Who would’ve thought the Browns would be screaming your name,” former Raven (and current Jets) linebacker C.J. Mosley joked with him on the sidelines last Sunday. “That shit’s crazy.”

Ravens fans will always love and root for Flacco—unless he’s playing the Ravens, of course. The only question now is: Who’s going to play Flacco in the movie? Remember, they will have to be very, very hot.

But Flacco isn’t the only QB having a fairy tale season. Closer to home, Lamar Jackson is crafting a different kind of fairy tale—the best kind, for an athlete—one where he proves all the doubters and the haters wrong.

We’ve come a long way from the off season, where Lamar was mired in stalled contract negotiations with the Ravens and got so frustrated he requested a trade. Here’s the nutty part: Lots of teams needed QBs, including the Washington Commanders (current record: 4-12), the Carolina Panthers (2-14), and the New York Jets (6-10). They all passed. Here we had a former MVP-winning quarterback, a proven winner (all-time record: 62-24), and one of the best athletes, if not the best athlete, in the NFL. But these teams—and the many others that considered him—were all like, “Nah, we’re good.”

There are many reasons for this, mostly the kinds of whispers and doubts that have unfairly dogged Jackson his entire career. He’s a glorified running back. He’ll never be a pocket passer. He’s not “quarterbacky,” whatever that means. His style of game is too risky—he’s likely to get hurt (or at the very least slow down as he gets older).

Thankfully, GM Eric DeCosta and the Ravens did believe in him. They signed Jackson to a five year, $260-million contract. And he has rewarded that confidence with his best season yet, leading the Ravens to a 13-3 record, atop the AFC. On Sunday, against the Dolphins, he threw five touchdown passes. Not bad for a running back, as the joke goes.

And yet, even with his incredible performance this season, the man still has haters. Two weeks ago, when the Ravens played the 49ers on Christmas evening, some would-be expert from “Pro Football Talk” named Mike Florio insisted that the 49ers would “kick the shit” out of the Ravens. Well, we all know how that went. The Ravens embarrassed the 49ers, 33-19, and Jackson was the best player on the field. (In fact, like some sort of elite bowler, Lamar managed to knock out his MVP rivals—49ers QB Brock Purdy and running back Christian McCaffrey—with one strike.) Afterwards, Jackson said of Florio: “I guess he wanted more views for his little channel.” Ooooh, ya burnt.

At this point, the Ravens are top seed in the AFC and Lamar Jackson has all but locked up his second MVP. I’m no expert, but that seems good, right?

And yet there is still one knock on Jackson that is slightly legit. He hasn’t done that well in the post-season, where his record is 1-3.

But all good fairy tales deserve a fairy tale ending. So that means either Flacco or Jackson is winning the Super Bowl this year.

We love you, Joe, but our money is on #8 in purple, gold, and black.