There are a lot of mixed emotions for fans and former players of the Baltimore Ravens when it comes to former franchise quarterback Joe Flacco wearing another uniform. He has played for three different teams from 2019-2022 since being traded following the 2018 season, but up until a couple of weeks ago it had never been for another team in the AFC North.
That all changed when the 16-year veteran signed with the Cleveland Browns on November, 20 and in Week 13, he made his first start in place of concussed fifth-round rookie Dorian Thompson-Robinson, who had replaced three-time Pro Bowler Deshaun Watson after he suffered a season-ending shoulder.
While it made countless faithful members of the Ravens flock sick to their collective stomachs to see the former Super Bowl MVP donning orange and brown, one of his fellow franchise legends is just happy it’s not black and yellow according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.
Joe Flacco starts for the #Browns today, a Super Bowl MVP under center for a former rival. An odd sight, to be sure.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) December 3, 2023
But as former #Ravens great Ed Reed tells me, hey, at least it’s not the #Steelers.
My story: https://t.co/OleqJMzstOhttps://t.co/OleqJMzstO
“It’s not like he’s going to the [Pittsburgh] Steelers, man!” Hall of Fame safety Ed Reed said. “He’s somewhere that actually has a connection to Baltimore. But I’m all for it. It might be a Cinderella thing, it might be awesome, if Joe can get them to the playoffs.”
Reed and Flacco were teammates from 2008, when the now 38-year-old signal caller first came into the league, until 2012 when he went on an incredible and historic postseason run. The magical ride culminated in the second Super Bowl title in franchise history and the only championship of Reed’s illustrious career.
“He’s won a Super Bowl, and not many quarterbacks can say they won a Super Bowl,” Reed said. “He played his ass off during those whole playoffs.”
During that aforementioned insanely hot playoff run over a decade ago, Flacco played absolutely off the charts and tore through a gauntlet to prove his detractors wrong. He became the highest-paid player in NFL history that following offseason. In four postseason contests, he threw for 1,140 passing yards and 11 touchdowns to no interceptions as he slayed the top-seeded Denver Broncos, the defending AFC champion New England Patriots, and the red-hot San Francisco 49ers.
“Joe wasn’t even retired,” Reed said. “I can still throw the ball 60, 70 yards on a dime and I’m 45. Joe’s just in his 30s — and he played QB. I think once he gets his feet under him, he’ll be fine.”
Flacco was more than fine in his debut as the fourth Browns’ quarterback to make a start this season and looked like the best of the bunch. Even though the final score wound up being a lopsided 36-19 loss to the Los Angeles Rams, the game was tightly contested until the final minutes and former Raven displayed some of his vintage accuracy, aggressiveness, and arm strength.
Flacco led four scoring drives in what was a back-and-forth game for most of the late afternoon, and finished 23-of-44 for 254 passing yards and two touchdowns to one interception and a passing rating of 75.4. He would’ve had an even better completion percentage and more impressive overall outing had it not been for crucial drops by several of his top targets and untimely lapses in pass protection late in the game, the last of which resulted in a safety.
The Browns’ usually stout defense is banged up at the moment with star players like Pro Bowl cornerback Denzel Ward out and All-Pro pass rusher Myles Garrett dealing with a shoulder injury and it showed this past Sunday. Nevertheless, Reed believes that Cleveland has some of the main ingredients on offense to make a run with Flacco managing the game.
“If they can get on a run and Joe protects the ball the way Joe knows how, the coach is going to put Joe in position to be successful,” Reed said. “We’re going to see how far they can go.”
Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh coached Flacco for the first 11 years of his career and admitted that he was rooting against him on Sunday and will continue doing so for the rest of the season.
John Harbaugh rooted against Joe Flacco and the Browns but thought Flacco played well pic.twitter.com/wPb7FjTQZa— Jamison Hensley (@jamisonhensley) December 4, 2023
“I think Joe’s cool. It’s cool what he did, [and] he looked really good, but I couldn’t root for him yesterday,” Harbaugh said Monday. “You root against all the teams that are in your way.”