Joe Flacco’s performance in the AFC championship game might not have silenced all his critics, but in the minds of owner Steve Bisciotti and general manager Ozzie Newsome, there is no question the 27-year-old quarterback is the man to lead the Ravens back to the Super Bowl.
“The thing that I like about Joe — and I think in the end, in this business, you get judged on one thing: winning — Joe wins. He continues to win. If one pass was caught, he’d be in the Super Bowl,” Newsome said. “I think he’ll win Super Bowls, and I hope to be a part of them. The thing you cannot knock about Joe is he’s a winner.”
The previous two winters, the team’s top decision-makers used the annual “State of the Ravens” address, also attended by team president Dick Cass and coach John Harbaugh, to publicly but politely request that Flacco elevate his game in the coming season. Not this year.
Newsome praised Flacco for getting better in his fourth season even though the team released two of his favorite targets, wide receiver Derrick Mason and tight end Todd Heap, before the season. And Bisciotti defended Flacco’s laid-back demeanor and said the perception of his quarterback would have changed had Lee Evans caught what would’ve been a touchdown pass late in the loss to the Patriots on Jan. 22.
“That’s how unfair it is,” Bisciotti said. “If [Evans] catches that and Joe goes in and slays New England, we’re in the Super Bowl. Then they would have said, ‘Wow. He really played well.’ So he really did play well. Everybody knows that. But we’re sitting here with you all instead of in Indianapolis.”
In 2011, Flacco completed a career-low 57.6 percent of his passes for 3,610 yards and 20 touchdowns. He threw 12 interceptions and lost six fumbles. In two postseason games, he turned the ball over once and tossed four touchdown passes. His passer rating in the playoffs was 96.1.
With 44 regular-season wins, Flacco has the most by a quarterback in his first four seasons in NFL history. He is the first quarterback to lead his team to the playoffs in his first four seasons — and he won at least one playoff game in each of those seasons. But Flacco is still criticized by some Ravens fans. Bisciotti said he thinks “a lot of it” is because of his personality.
“We had John Unitas here, and he didn’t scream and yell at people either,” Bisciotti said. “A lot of people take offense that Joe doesn’t get mad at wide receivers — like, literally, while the TV cameras are on him — when they drop balls. ... People want to see fire in their athletes, and we know Joe has it. Should we get him a coach and tell him to fake it and be a rah-rah guy? And next thing you know he’s focused on something other than what we want him to focus on.
“So there’s no doubt about it. I’m a type-A [personality], and I have a brother that’s a type-B, so he frustrated the hell out of me my entire life. I think that most people in sports want to see type-As, and Joe is solid in the type-B camp. And I think he is going to be extremely successful and I think he’s going to have rings and I think he has 10 years of his prime to show it and I think that he will be rewarded for his personality in the long run. And hopefully our fans will be, too.”
Flacco receives praise from Ravens' Bisciotti, Newsome