After his franchise signal caller this week criticized the use of the two-quarterback offense, coach John Harbaugh said the Ravens were willing to do whatever it took to move the ball offensively. By saying as much, Harbaugh made it clear that Joe Flacco's concerns about the new scheme wouldn't sway the team from using it in the future.
But Flacco got his way Thursday night against the Pittsburgh Steelers — at least for one week.
After Flacco's comments became national news, and the subject of the two-quarterback offense overshadowed the rivalry game with the Steelers locally, backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor's activity was limited to riding an exercise bike on the sideline during the Ravens' 22-20 victory.
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“It was the flow of the game,” Harbaugh said. “We had it in the game plan and we will continue to have it in the game plan, but the flow of the game dictated the way we were playing. It wasn't in our best interest to put it out there.”
It helped that Flacco got off to a fast start, completing four of five passes on the team's first drive of the game for 74 yards and a touchdown. The key play on the drive was a 54-yard pass to wide receiver Torrey Smith, who was tackled inside Pittsburgh's 1-yard line.
With Flacco and his pass catchers in rhythm throughout the evening despite another sluggish run-game performance, the Ravens chose to attack the Steelers through the air with their three-receiver sets, not the two-quarterback scheme they had debuted four days earlier.
During Sunday's 19-3 win over the New York Jets, Taylor played 12 snaps, including five at quarterback with Flacco lined up at wide receiver. Taylor rushed for 7 yards on four carries, including a 17-yard run that was the team's longest of the game, and threw one pass, which fell incomplete. He also had a 6-yard reception while lined up at wide receiver.
Meanwhile, on the five plays on which Flacco played wide receiver, he stood mostly still near the sideline, showing little interest in blocking a defensive back or running a route.
After that game, Flacco said, “I want to line up behind center,” not wide receiver. On Tuesday, Flacco again criticized the use of the two-quarterback offense, saying: “I just think it makes us look like not an NFL team.”
“I don't care where it's used, I'm just not a huge fan of it,” he added. “I'm the quarterback. I want to be behind the line of scrimmage, I want to be taking the snaps.”
Harbaugh on Wednesday declined to discuss his reaction to Flacco's comments, but he did say he understands that Flacco — or any other “great” player — wants the ball in his hands.
Still, Harbaugh said that if he and the Ravens coaching staff thought it was in the team's best interests to use the two-quarterback offense again, they would not to hesitate to do so.
“We're going to do everything we can do to move the ball offensively,” Harbaugh said. “We've got guys that can play that we'll put on the field in different spots, whenever we feel like we need to, and all of our guys support that.”
Publicly, Flacco's teammates said they understood the reigning Super Bowl Most Valuable Player's frustration. But some also raved about Taylor's athleticism, saying his presence on the field, either at quarterback or wide receiver, could give a struggling offense a spark.
That spark was not needed Thursday. Flacco played efficiently in the pocket, and didn't have to line up out wide with his hands stuffed in his hand warmer. Flacco went 24-for-34 for 251 yards passing and one touchdown. He had a 98.6 quarterback rating.
While Harbaugh said the Ravens will continue to keep the two-quarterback offense in their game plan, it's unclear whether it will reappear in the coming weeks. If Flacco throws the football like he did Thursday night, the Ravens could decide they no longer need it.