Gary Williams: Ray Lewis wanted Joe Flacco to come off the bench in Ravens' playoff loss

Former Maryland men’s basketball coach Gary Williams is friends with Steve Bisciotti, which means he gets to do cool things like watch games from the Ravens owner’s box at M&T Bank Stadium.

On Sunday, Bisciotti’s guest list for the Ravens’ AFC wild-card-round playoff game against the Los Angeles Chargers included Williams and Ray Lewis, the “Legend of the Game.” More than a week earlier, Lewis had visited the team’s facility before the crucial Week 17 game against the Cleveland Browns. “Something special is going on in Baltimore,” Lewis said in a short video with quarterback Lamar Jackson. “I had to come pay attention to it.”


But Jackson was nothing special for much of Sunday’s game. The Chargers shut down the Ravens’ reliable running game, and Jackson had a 0.0 quarterback rating midway through the fourth quarter, when the Ravens trailed 23-3. Frustrated fans clamored for backup Joe Flacco, the team’s longtime starter until Week 11, to replace Jackson.

Lewis, apparently, was among them. In an appearance Monday night on “The Tony Kornheiser Show,” Williams was asked early in the podcast about his experience at the game.

“I would’ve gone to Flacco, I think Michael Wilbon would’ve gone to Flacco,” said Kornheiser, the “Pardon the Interruption” co-host and former Washington Post sports columnist. “You’re there — was there any sentiment, Gary, any sentiment in the box to go to Flacco?”

Said Williams: “Well, Ray Lewis was standing right next to Steve Bisciotti, and he had his arm around Steve’s neck, and he says, ‘We got to go to Flacco.’ ” Williams chuckled. “No, really. So I would say, ‘Go to Flacco. Yeah, please.’ ”

Williams indicated that there was nothing personal about Lewis' preference.

“You can see they just wanted to win that game,” he said. “In other words, what do you do to win the game? And the theory behind it is, you got to stay with Jackson. You don’t want to ruin him for next year or whatever. And that’s the decision that was made, to stay with him.”

With the Ravens defense continuing to limit the Chargers, Jackson eventually found a groove, and the Ravens scored 14 unanswered points to come within a touchdown. But Jackson fumbled on a potentially game-winning drive in the final minute, and Flacco walked off the field at M&T Bank Stadium in a Ravens uniform for likely the final time.

Flacco and Lewis, the two faces of the Ravens’ Super Bowl XLVII run, have long expressed mutual admiration for each other while also acknowledging their differences. Flacco has joked that many of Lewis’ fiery pregame speeches didn’t make much sense, and Lewis in 2016 questioned Flacco’s passion for football (not for the first time, either).

Flacco later said the criticism wasn't a big deal.

“I was never really that worried about it,” he said. “I got over it. Listen, Ray is going to be around here. We’re going to have a relationship. We’re both going to be in Baltimore for a long time. I didn’t want to get offended by it. I think, initially, I could have been a little bit, but at the end of the day, I didn’t really worry too much about it.”

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