With the news coming down on Wednesday that all-time franchise passer Joe Flacco would be traded from Baltimore to the Denver Broncos, fans are understandably in a bittersweet mood. It’s great to see the front office find a solid landing spot for the fan favorite (and recoup some draft capital in the process), but they’re also now forced to officially say goodbye to a longtime team icon.
We’ve decided to do so by looking back at the former Super Bowl MVP’s top five moments in a Ravens uniform:
5. “Look at the big man run!”
Flacco entered Baltimore as an underdog in many different respects. He was considered a bit of a draft reach in the middle of the first round in a 2008 class that was headlined by Boston College standout Matt Ryan, and he entered Ravens training camp as the third stringer behind incumbents Kyle Boller and Troy Smith.
An injury to the former and an illness to the latter thrust the would-be redshirt Flacco into the spotlight, and he responded by leading the team to the 2008 AFC Championship game. While that may be a bit of an oversimplification (Flacco’s rookie stats are pretty underwhelming in retrospect), there’s something to be said for the belief that a talented young quarterback gave to a previously underachieving team that had Super Bowl level potential.
It of course all started in week 1 of that season when the rookie showcased the physical ability that in fact had made him a first round pick. Rumbling and stumbling toward a 38 yard rushing touchdown on his debut was a solid way of doing so, and gave Baltimore fans hope that they may have finally found that elusive franchise QB they so desperately wanted.
4. Five flings from number Five
2014 will probably be remembered as Flacco’s best season, and rightfully so. In the middle of it came this gem of a performance against Tampa Bay which is statistically the best individual effort put forward in his 11 years.
He threw five touchdowns in just over a quarter, logging the record for the fastest time to ever hit that mark for a quarterback in a single game. In a low key career not typically known for high volume passing statistics, this performance (almost hilariously) stands out as one of Flacco’s very best.
3. Two minutes on the three rivers
Looking back on Joe’s time with the Ravens, this drive may still stand out as his very best. Down four points with 92 yards to go and two minutes on the clock, it would’ve been hard for anyone to imagine Baltimore getting out of there with the win and the division sweep.
Instead, he overcame a raucous environment, third and long situations, and a few killer drops to put his team back on top with just seconds to play. This is one of the first moments that Flacco began to garner serious national recognition for his steely demeanor during clutch moments and was the springboard for Baltimore capturing their first division title under him and John Harbaugh in 2011.
While the year would end in bitter disappointment, it was moments like this that ultimately started the end to fans legitimately questioning whether Flacco would ever be the guy. However, it was the year after this one in which he cemented himself in NFL history forever...
2. Do you believe in miracles?
The signature game and play of Flacco’s career ironically came against his new team back in the 2012 divisional playoffs. The Ravens entered the game as huge underdogs against Peyton Manning’s top seeded Broncos, and Flacco outplayed the future Hall of Famer on his way to upsetting them in a double overtime thriller.
The play that forced OT is now the stuff of Ravens legend, and Broncos infamy, and is one which sort of encapsulates Flacco’s career. A prayer of a deep toss to a streaking receiver who was able to take advantage of a defensive back who was inconceivably, miraculously out of position.
It showcases the strong arm of Flacco, his willingness to go deep at any point in the game, and ultimately some of the good fortune the Ravens were blessed with on this playoff run. If you had to pick one play to represent Flacco’s career, this would be it; as for a full game...
1. The top of the mountain
In a Super Bowl that will largely be remembered as Ray Lewis’s bon voyage as well as a bizarre post halftime power outage, it’s pretty easy to forget that Flacco was lights out as well. Three touchdown passes before the half and multiple game changing checks and throws to Anquan Boldin were to just enough to keep the 49ers at bay from ever taking the lead.
Four previous years ending in disappointment were washed away by Baltimore seizing their opportunity to send Lewis out a winner, and to put a ring on the finger of the unfairly maligned Flacco. Thanks to a big time stand by the defense and the aforementioned big first half by the quarterback, Baltimore was able to do both, and Ravens fans to this day will defend Flacco through thick and thin because of what he achieved that night and throughout his historic 2012 playoff run.
With that, Baltimore officially says goodbye to their first and only long term franchise quarterback in team history. While the future looks bright under Lamar Jackson, it’s easy to forget how unstable things had been before Flacco came to town, which makes appreciating his run here that much more important.
There’s no telling how he’ll fare beyond Baltimore, but he’ll always have a place in Ravens history and may just come back some day to enter the ring of honor. When that day eventually does come, Ravens fans will have reason to once again go over the many great moments he had in the purple and black.