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Joe Flacco ranks highly on NFL’s 50 most fascinating people list from ESPN

NFL: Pro Hall of Fame Game-Chicago Bears at Baltimore Ravens Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN’s Bill Barnwell rates Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco highly on his list of the NFL’s 50 most fascinating people in 2018. Ranking the former Super Bowl MVP at number five on the list in the “now-or-nevers” category, Barnwell seems especially intrigued by the idea of Flacco being motivated by the presence of Lamar Jackson:

“Since 1970, 318 quarterbacks have thrown 500 or more passes in a season. Of those quarterbacks, just three have posted a worse yards per attempt index (Y/A+) than Flacco did last season, when the Super Bowl XLVII MVP averaged 5.8 yards per attempt in a league in which the average pass went for 6.6 yards per throw. Flacco hasn’t posted a Y/A+ above the league average of 100 since the 2012 season. Since winning the Super Bowl in the 2012 season, Flacco has been one of 19 passers to throw 2,000 or more pass attempts. He’s a middling 13th in completion percentage, and that’s the bright spot. Flacco ranks last in yards per attempt, last in adjusted net yards per attempt, 16th in interception rate, last in touchdown percentage, 18th in passer rating and 15th in Total QBR. If a productive preseason is a sign that Flacco is responding to the challenge of first-round pick Lamar Jackson, that’s great. Just one question, though: What has he been waiting for?”

Barnwell dishes out some harsh truths here. Outside of 2014, arguably his best year, it is clear Flacco has not been the same since winning the Super Bowl. However, the question “what has he been waiting for?” is a bit ignorant of context.

Since 2012, Flacco’s top receivers have been a third year Torrey Smith, an aging Steve Smith Sr. and a strange combination of Mike Wallace and Jeremy Maclin. This is all without mentioning the revolving door at running back since the Ray Rice debacle and a lack of stability at offensive coordinator and QB coach.

Furthermore, Flacco has not had the benefit of being fully healthy over the past few seasons. Now, he appears fresh and rejuvenated, bringing a renewed focus to his role thanks in part to a lot of offensive pieces falling into place around him this offseason.

With improved personnel and health, there is no reason why Flacco cannot bounce back as many are predicting he will this season. A storyline like that should indeed be very fascinating.