In the watch-closely duel between Peyton Manning (Denver Broncos) and Joe Flacco (Baltimore Ravens) for pride (and bragging rights), Manning came out way on top Thursday night’s opening game (September 5, 2013) and set the bar out of reach for Mighty Joe, probably forever. All Manning did was throw seven touchdowns, becoming the first quarterback to achieve that stratosphere since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger, and the sixth to accomplish that feat in the history of the game. Flacco, the highest paid player in the NFL, has his work cut out for him this season. Let the comparisons begin.
But we are ahead of the story we asked Eric Erhmann to write for us before the game. Here is his story.
Sportswriters were agog when the Baltimore Ravens picked University of Delaware signal caller Joe Flacco as their quarterback of the future on Draft Day back in 2008.
He put up great stats for two years at the University of Delaware. But he didn’t have the glamour aura that surrounds the classic National Football League (NFL) quarterback.
Unlike the gilt edge Mannings or Tom Brady the tall New Jersey-born Flacco lacked the pedigree. He started playing college ball at the University of Pittsburgh and transferrred to small market Delaware when head coach Dave Wannstedt didn’t give him a shot at the starting QB job.
Wannstedt, once a lackluster head coach with the NFL Chicago Bears, wouldn’t even give Flacco a scholarship release so “Joe Cool” had to pay his own expenses to visit Delaware where he did a tryout with the coaches.
The Ravens have lacked a marquee quarterback ever since owner Art Model moved his Cleveland Browns franchise to Baltimore in 1996. Under coach Brian Billick the Ravens won Superbowl XXXV in 2000 with a strong defense led by Ray Lewis stopping the New York Giants and journeyman quarterbacking from Trent Dilfer.
When owner Steve Bisciotti from Philly acquired the Ravens from Model the team still lacked a quarterback. Ironically Jim “Captain Comeback” Harbaugh even did a stint for the Ravens during the great quarterback drought before Bisciotti fired Brian Billick and Jim’s older brother John to coach the team.
Enter John Harbaugh’s number one draft pick in 2008, Joe Flacco, and the rest is history.
So what is it that makes Joe Flacco run? The NFL’s $120 million man is the first to admit that his team wins in spite of themselves. That they win ugly.
There is something about NFL quarterbacks who play in blue collar towns that is unselfish, not without human defects. Four-time Super Bowl winning Pittsburgh Steeler quarterback Terry Bradshaw doesn’t feel right unless he throws a couple of intereptions. Announcers and analysts amp up Peyton Manning’s “hurry up”offense. But Flacco quietly makes plays, correcting mistakes on the fly, earning respect from his teammates.
There’s a big difference between “Broadway Joe”Namath and “Joe Cool” Flacco. Maybe it goes back to the old Baltimore Colts and quarterback Johnny Unitas, who couldn’t get a shot at the NFL coming out of the University of Louisville and played sandlot ball. Like Unitas, Flacco played through adversity and believed in himself enough to get to the top of his game.
In an NFL where four teams compete in a market radius of 150 miles (Ravens, Redskins, Eagles, Giants), the Ravens $120 million man is considered “one of us” by Baltimore’s blue collar fans. Flacco provides quiet , cool leadership you can believe in.
Tyler Palko, the man Wannstedt picked over Flacco at Pitt, is currently pitching financial services for an insurance company in Pittsburgh. Go figure.