Four years after transitioning to new Ravens period, QB Lamar Jackson and Jets’ Joe Flacco put together to face off


There was appreciable potential for awkwardness, friction even.

In one nook, with a battered hip, sat probably the most completed quarterback in Ravens historical past — a former Super Bowl Most Valuable Player and one-time proprietor of the richest contract in NFL historical past. In the opposite sat the staff’s most up-to-date first-round choose — a Heisman Trophy winner with dazzling legs and a suspect arm, at the very least for those who listened to his sharpest critics.

Between them lay the destiny of a staff that had not made the playoffs in 4 years. Would coach John Harbaugh stick with the rookie, Lamar Jackson, or return to Joe Flacco, the calm hand who’d received him so many large video games?

Harbaugh texted Flacco on a Tuesday morning to inform him the news he would share with the world the subsequent day: Jackson could be the Ravens’ starter going ahead. “Every decision is based on what makes us the strongest possible team we can be,” Harbaugh advised reporters.

With this blunt assertion on Dec. 12, 2018, he kicked off a brand new period of Ravens soccer, one which has included gaudy regular-season data, innumerable Jackson highlights and fewer playoff success than the staff achieved within the first 5 years of Flacco’s run.

The Ravens will face their former quarterback for the primary time Sunday when he fills in as beginning quarterback for the New York Jets within the 2022 season opener. This units up an inevitable time of reflection on what the staff achieved with Flacco, what it’d obtain with Jackson and on the second of transition from one quarterback to the opposite.

Jackson and Flacco by no means got here off as shut over their 12 months collectively in Baltimore. When the Ravens traded for the final choose within the first spherical to pick Jackson, they set a loudly ticking clock on the rest of Flacco’s time with the franchise. It was simply that nobody knew precisely when the alarm would go off. The two males are 12 years aside in age and practically as far aside in demeanor: Flacco so understated that teammates and coaches make enjoyable of him for it, Jackson easygoing however boisterous. As quarterbacks, they might not be extra completely different: Flacco the thrower of gorgeous balls from a hard and fast place within the pocket, Jackson one of the vital fluid improvisers we’ve got ever seen on a soccer subject.

For all that separated them, nonetheless, Flacco and Jackson dealt with the 2018 season gracefully. The rookie spoke deferentially, at all times reminding us that Flacco had been the place he needed to go. The veteran mentioned he was not able to concede his beginning spot however that he admired the way in which Jackson ran the staff when he needed to step in.

“They both handled it great,” Harbaugh recalled. “If I think back quickly, Lamar was excited to be with Joe and learn from Joe, in terms of what Joe could teach him as a quarterback, and he did a great job, I thought. Joe was great with Lamar; Joe supported him and helped him, and even at the end there — when Joe came back and Lamar was the quarterback — Joe was very supportive of him there.”

This prolonged to the staff’s dwelling playoff loss towards the Los Angeles Chargers, through which Jackson performed poorly and heard loud boos from followers who needed Flacco inserted in aid. “If you remember the story in the playoffs, Joe wanted Lamar to stay in the game there,” Harbaugh mentioned.

The resolution to change quarterbacks started organically. Flacco had began the season effectively, however the Ravens had been about to lose their fourth sport in 5 weeks when Pittsburgh Steelers defensive finish Stephon Tuitt drove him to the bottom and injured his hip. Flacco performed the remainder of that afternoon however was out when the Ravens returned two weeks later towards the Cincinnati Bengals. Jackson was the starter as a result of he needed to be, however the staff reworked with him at its middle, profitable his first three begins and surpassing 200 speeding yards in every of these video games.

By the time Flacco was able to play once more, the Ravens had a transparent path to the playoffs, and Jackson was the obvious cause. Harbaugh made the unsentimental resolution to stay with what was working.

“It’s not easy standing on that sideline, knowing that you have no hand in what’s going on,” Flacco mentioned on the time. “But … you have to be a professional about it.”

Perhaps due to the way in which Flacco and Jackson performed themselves, teammates by no means felt that they had to decide on a camp.

“They were both extreme pros about it,” tight finish Nick Boyle mentioned. “Stuff like that happens all around the NFL, and a lot of times, it’s a huge media thing, a huge turmoil thing within the locker room. But Joe handled it awesomely, Lamar handled it awesomely, and I think they still have a great relationship.”

Cornerback Marlon Humphrey famous that regardless that the transition occurred simply 4 years in the past, it seems like a lifetime in NFL phrases (solely 12 present Ravens had been on the roster in 2018). “I kind of remember it happening seamlessly,” he mentioned. “I think Joe got hurt, so it was kind of an injury thing, and then Lamar started winning all these games and we were just riding behind him. … I just remember it being a little weird, because when I got here, Joe was the QB, Super Bowl MVP, had done a lot. So, it was interesting in that point, but as far as how it went, I thought both guys handled it really well.”

The Ravens haven’t regarded again. They completed with the league’s finest document in Jackson’s first full season because the starter, and he was named Most Valuable Player, a person honor Flacco by no means got here near profitable. They made the playoffs once more in 2020 and held the AFC’s high seed final season earlier than accidents, together with one to Jackson’s ankle, dismantled them.

Flacco didn’t fare as effectively, going 2-6 in a single partial season as a starter for the Denver Broncos earlier than returning to the East Coast as a seasoned backup for the Jets, who’re hoping 2021 first-round choose Zach Wilson is their quarterback of the long run. At 37, with the tip of his profession possible drawing close to, Flacco is identical regular presence.

“He’s been the same since the day I met him,” Jets coach Robert Saleh mentioned on a convention name with Baltimore reporters. “I’m sure you guys are familiar with his personality; he’s very even-keeled, same guy every single day, does a great job in preparation, very likable in the locker room, and he’s just been a very calming force, if you will, just running the offense.”

What do Flacco and Jackson, the principals within the drama (or non-drama) of 2018, consider one another now?

“He meant a lot [to me],” Jackson mentioned. “Playing with a Super Bowl quarterback, seeing what he did on the field, stuff like that, how he took apart the game, took apart practice and stuff like that. Seeing him sling the ball from one side of the field to the next side of the field, from our 20 [-yard line] to the opposite opponent’s 20 [-yard line] … It was ridiculous. It will be great seeing him.”

In a traditional narrative twist, Jackson is now within the place Flacco was coming into the 2012 season, enjoying on the final 12 months of his rookie contract with no extension signed and a doubtlessly elite staff on his shoulders. That situation led to Flacco’s defining achievement: a flawless run via the playoffs capped by his MVP efficiency in Super Bowl XLVII and a document contract quickly after.

Flacco laughed just lately on the Jets’ official podcast when former teammate Bart Scott advised Jackson may “harness his inner Joe Flacco” by betting on himself. But he doesn’t anticipate to speak contract once they see one another Sunday.

“I’m sure that will not come up,” he mentioned. “Lamar’s a good kid, and I’m sure he’ll be worried about just playing the football game.”

Week 1

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