It's been a tough week for some Ravens fans.
For the most part, fans have reveled in the team's 44-20 win against the Detroit Lions Dec. 3, by far their best win of the 2017 season. For at least a few days before the Ravens' Dec. 10 showdown with the Pittsburgh Steelers, the fan base appears to be embracing the excitement of the possibilities that potentially lie ahead for this team.
It's been a tough week for a smaller subset of Ravens fans. You know the ones. In fact, you might count yourself among them. They're the group of Ravens fans that for some inexplicable reason believe the franchise has been held back by quarterback Joe Flacco.
The ones that believe it's Flacco's fault the team isn't battling for the top seed in the AFC right now instead of fighting to hold on to a playoff spot. The ones that think it's time to start preparing for a Flacco exit strategy and to identify Flacco's replacement. The ones that insanely think Flacco's "skills have eroded" or that he "got paid and just doesn't care anymore." It's been a tough week for that group. If you know one, maybe send them a fruitcake or something.
You of course know why. Flacco was fantastic during the win, throwing for 269 yards and two touchdowns on a day when his receivers
still seemed about as interested in catching the football as I am in passing on the sugar cookies my wife left on the counter last night. Pro Football Focus (take it with a grain of salt) gave Flacco its highest-graded performance of any quarterback in the NFL for Week 13.
This isn't an "I told you so" column. I didn't tell you so. Considering how woeful the offense had been for their first 11 games of the season, I had no expectations it would come to life against a decent defense such as Detroit's. Moreover, I can't possibly tell you whether Flacco and the Ravens will be able to replicate their success against anyone else this season whatsoever.
Instead, this column is meant to reinforce what I've suggested with additional analysis. Flacco's performance against the Lions is further evidence of why this team should have spent the past four years building around Flacco, why its strategy for winning games currently should be built entirely around Flacco and why its singular focus for the future should be what it can do to best surround Flacco with as much talent as possible.
The insanity of the Flacco-hating camp has had nothing to do with the results on the field this season. Until the Lions game, there was no argument that Flacco wasn't performing well. The results spoke for themselves. The insanity was the group's suggestions that the results had something to do with Flacco's skills eroding or that somehow after getting paid he no longer cared about performing well.
For some reason, those people continuously chose to ignore the miserable group of offensive weapons surrounding the quarterback, the paper-thin offensive line protecting him and the questionable offensive play-calling the quarterback had to deal with. (More puzzling considering many of the same people would like to see offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg dismissed ... but still think this is all Flacco's fault.)
Did the quarterback who hit receiver Mike Wallace in stride for a 66-yard bomb in the first half against the Lions look like a quarterback whose skills have eroded? Did the quarterback who ran like hell toward the end zone in the closing moments of their Nov. 27 win against the Houston Texans look like one who just doesn't care anymore? Or maybe, just maybe, are the circumstances surrounding Flacco as much if not more to blame for the offense's woes as the former Super Bowl MVP himself?
It's important for me to write this column now because I don't know how much the circumstances have really changed within this season. Perhaps the play-calling will remain aggressive; perhaps the playmakers have gelled with Flacco with the benefit of more time working together; perhaps the offensive line has improved with just some experience. Or perhaps the offense will go right back to looking the way it has for the majority of the season and will slump to the finish line.
But Flacco's performance against the Lions was a reminder that the Ravens invested a boatload of money in him because he has proven to be immensely talented and capable of delivering when given the best opportunities (see "Postseason, 2012 with receivers Anquan Boldin, Torrey Smith and running back Ray Rice" or "entire season, 2014 with receivers Torrey Smith, Steve Smith Sr. and offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak").
For some inexplicable reason the franchise has since instead decided to continuously use its assets on the other side of the ball, almost completely ignoring any need for resources to surround Flacco. No matter what happens the rest of the way, the Ravens should commit to doing everything they possibly can to help their quarterback, not to looking for their next one.
If they make that commitment, they might well get more of what they got against the Lions.
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