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Harbaugh keeps feelings about Flacco's wildcat criticism close to the vest

The Baltimore Sun

A day after quarterback Joe Flacco called the two-quarterback offense the Ravens unveiled Sunday a “high school offense” and said he didn’t think the team would utilize it going forward, coach John Harbaugh said Flacco’s feelings on the matter won’t keep the Ravens from using the scheme if they feel it gives them the best chance to win.

“We're going to do everything we can do to move the ball offensively,” Harbaugh said Wednesday. “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.”

During the 19-3 win over the New York Jets, backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor played 12 snaps, including five at quarterback with Flacco lined up at wide receiver. Flacco made it clear after the game that he was not a fan of the two-quarterback offense. He spoke at length about the topic Tuesday, saying “I just think it makes us look like not an NFL team.”

Harbaugh said Wednesday that he was aware of Flacco’s comments, which made national headlines, and acknowledged that he likes that Flacco has strong convictions and is not afraid to voice them publicly.

But a day before an AFC North showdown against the Pittsburgh Steelers, he declined to go into details about how he felt about Flacco’s critical comments.

“My reaction would be my reaction,” Harbaugh said. “I'll just leave it at that. One thing about Joe — and I think any great player — is they want the ball in their hands. He's always been that way. He’s always felt that way. I want him to have the ball in his hands.”

But on the five plays with Taylor behind center Sunday, Flacco’s hands were stuffed in his handwarmer as he stood near the sideline and did not factor in the play. The Ravens ran read-option plays or standard runs that did not go in Flacco’s direction.

Flacco has been criticized for his seeming indifference when lined up at wide receiver, but Harbaugh said that the Ravens must consider keeping their starter out of harm’s way.

“That’s always part of it, so that’s something you have to think about, certainly,” Harbaugh said. “We weigh against the effectiveness of moving the ball and scoring points and all those different kinds of things against the negatives.”

Taylor had a 17-yard run on his first carry. But the scheme became less effective as the game went on and Taylor finished with just seven yards on four carries. He also threw an incomplete pass and when he was lined up as a receiver caught a 6-yard pass from Flacco.

“I don’t care where it’s used, I’m just not a huge fan of it,” Flacco said Tuesday. “I’m the quarterback. I want to be behind the line of scrimmage, I want to be taking the snaps. That’s really the only thing. I don’t necessarily take it personally either in terms of our offense trying to get better. I just think it makes us look like not an NFL team.”

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, who has put quarterback Ben Roethlisberger out at wide receiver in the similar Wildcat offense, said he understood why Harbaugh used Taylor.

“He’s a talented, sharp young man,” he said. “It’s a weapon that’s at their disposal. Why not use him?”

In 2008, Flacco’s rookie year, the Ravens occasionally ran a two-quarterback offense with Flacco and backup Troy Smith that Harbaugh dubbed “the Suggs package” after rush linebacker Terrell Suggs publicly said that Smith should be the team’s quarterback.

Asked Wednesday if he had come up with a clever name for this two-quarterback scheme, Harbaugh said he had not and playfully asked reporters for suggestions.

“The Joe Hates This Package,” a reporter replied.

Harbaugh laughed. “I caught myself before I repeated that on camera,” he said. “I like it, though. I like it. It works.”


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