Sports columnist Mike Preston gives his take of the State of the Ravens press conference with owner Steve Bisciotti, Ozzie Newsomes, Dick Cass and John Harbaugh. (Kevin Richardson/Baltmore Sun video)
Hours after the "State of the Ravens" address Tuesday, Steve Smith Sr., recently retired Ravens wide receiver and aspiring fedora-wearing media personality, went on Fox Sports 1 talk show "Speak For Yourself" to discuss the NFL with hosts Colin Cowherd and Jason Whitlock and analyst Cris Carter.
Before long, the four were engaged in Baltimore's favorite round-table discussion: Is Joe Flacco really that good? (Credit to the "Speak For Yourself" crew, who mentioned the word "elite" just once in four-plus minutes.) Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti had said earlier, "I certainly don't think we saw the Joe Flacco [in 2016] that he's capable of being," and Smith was asked whether his former quarterback was holding the team back.
Smith: No, I don't think Joe's holding the team back, just like Odell [Beckham Jr.] didn't hold the Giants back. It's a team sport. It is collectively three phases of the game, win or lose the game. And so when you look at the Baltimore Ravens and what has happened, you look at the "Monday Night Football" where we got mollywhopped against New England. We lost. Offensively, we didn't perform very well. Special teams, we got embarrassed. And in defense—
Smith: OK, when you say passion and you put it up there with Ray Lewis, everybody compared to Ray Lewis is a little sparkler. It's a bad comparison. Joe operates and goes about things differently because here's the thing: Ray Lewis can cuss, he can go all those things, and all he has to do is hit someone. Joe Flacco, if he does what Ray does, and then all of a sudden, try to remember what the offensive coordinator is telling you, you don't want [that].
Cowherd: I don't want my quarterback to be that emotional.
Carter: And you can't make someone into who they're not. But the story about Flacco in '13, '14, '15 and '16 is, three of the last four years, they've missed the playoffs. He's not an elite passer short and intermediate. Those are the things that Bisciotti should be talking about. As a passer, a pure passer, at this point in this league, given all the experience he's got, he should be completing more than 62 percent of his passes. [Editor's note: Flacco completed 64.9 percent of his passes this season and has completed 61.5 percent for his career.]
Smith: But I think here's the thing that is not put into account. Not put into account: He's coming off a severe ACL injury, and I think, personally, he was not 100 percent, because I was injured and I know I wasn't 100 percent. As soon as I started feeling good, whoop, I hurt my ankle. So he is playing behind, and which it takes a full 13, 14 months for you to really feel comfortable.
Then we had some injuries on the line, so all of a sudden, now you're getting a little pressure, you got a bad knee. All of a sudden, you start thinking. You're thinking, "Ey, my knee. Oh, the guy's open! Ey, my knee." You've got to make a financial decision, a decision of: Do I get bent over or do I kind of take the checkdown? So he was trying to play smart. And there's times we let Joe down as an offense. We did not play up to par. We also had an offensive coordinator change in the middle of the season. That accounts to all those things. It isn't just on Joe, and I'm not saying that we don't need more out of him. We need more out of everyone because we had a lot of of changes that was not beneficial to Joe Flacco.
Cowherd: [Quarterback guru] Steve [Clarkson] was on earlier and said the quarterbacks that succeed are authentic. ... So Joe's personality — I've met him once, twice — I'm fine with it. My knock on Flacco has always been he doesn't — I can't say "committed" 'cause I don't know his offseason — he doesn't play with the same urgency that maybe a [Tom] Brady does. Again, I'm comparing Brady, whose urgency is ridiculous.
Cowherd: Sometimes I feel with Flacco, with you, is, what's the second pitch? I know you're big and strong and throw over the top. I don't sense that his layering, there's limitations. Where I think Brady literally four years ago said, "I'm hurting my team, I have to be more mobile." And he added sliding to the pocket. Matt Ryan added it. I feel like with Flacco, where's my second pitch? You're big, strong, with a cannon. Where's the intermediate throws?
Whitlock: I want to translate what Colin says or take it in a little bit of a different direction. We've got to be quick here. Does he play with enough confidence? Does he transfer his confidence to the rest of the offensive team? That's what I see from great quarterbacks.
Smith: He does transfer his confidence. But here's the one thing that nobody's throwing in there: How many offensive coordinators has he had in the last four or five years? He's thinking all the time. Even for myself, I was thinking, "Well, Colt in this offense, Colt is this. In our other offense, Colt was that, and in our other offense, Colt was this. Colt means three different things now."