Four years ago in February, quarterback Joe Flacco hoisted the Lombardi Trophy for the Baltimore Ravens, the team that made him a first round draft pick in 2008. Now, it wouldn’t be surprising if Flacco was inactive against the Cincinnati Bengals due to a back issue that has been bothering him throughout training camp.
The way things have looked since that Super Bowl for the franchise quarterback haven’t been great. Outside of 2014 (which, to be fair, was the best season of his career) he’s posted fairly pedestrian passing numbers and has accumulated as many critics as he has touchdown passes.
That isn’t to say the Ravens are in dire straits with him; he’s shown flashes of brilliance the past few seasons that indicate he can still adequately carry the load for a team. The problem is, he needs to be much more consistent in doing so moving forward as another lackluster season may lead to the front office and coaching staff doubting whether he can do so.
Another issue for him may be health, as was alluded to earlier. Historically, Flacco has been one of the more durable quarterbacks in NFL history, but back problems can be tricky. Phillip Rivers has endured them before and come back fine, but for someone like Tony Romo, they were a career ender.
There is no way to tell if this is the beginning of the end for Flacco, but if he can’t show that he’s still the rock solid franchise leader that can facilitate things competently for the Ravens in 2017, they may want to start looking in a different direction beyond this season. That isn’t to say that Flacco should immediately be ushered out, but it would be wise for them to look to some of the later rounds of the draft to find some more talent at the position.
Last year at this time, Dak Prescott was a rookie fourth round pick that was pressed into action against the wishes of the Cowboys top brass. This year, it wouldn’t be at all shocking if he were an MVP candidate.
This isn’t to say that the Ravens could immediately find someone like that, or that cases like Prescott happen every year. But while it is somewhat rare to find a franchise quarterback beyond the first round of the draft, it does happen more often than people care to admit. Going back to the year 2000, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Tony Romo, Tyrod Taylor, Russell Wilson, Derek Carr, Jimmy Garoppolo, Trevor Siemian and Prescott were all players that were picked or signed beyond the opening round.
That isn’t a ton of names, but it doesn’t include other players such as Jeff Garcia who came out of nowhere to become productive starters. Beyond that, Kurt Warner is perhaps the most famous case of an undrafted quarterback going on to a Hall of Fame career, and players such as Teddy Bridgewater and Aaron Rodgers (the best ever in this humble writer’s opinion) dropped to the bottom of the first round.
This is why the Ravens should absolutely be ready to pull the trigger if a quarterback prospect they like falls in the 2018 draft. Jake Browning and Baker Mayfield are maybe some names to keep an eye on this season in college football as realistic options, and as always there will likely be more.
Either way, it would be smart of Baltimore to be proactive in their search for a future starting passer. As many other teams have shown, it can be well worth the investment.