MIKE BURKE

Allegany Communications Sports

Three-and-a-half weeks from now when the Baltimore Ravens visit the New York Jets somewhere in New Jersey for the season-opener, an old friend may well be there to greet them.

Joe Flacco, the one-time Super Bowl Most Valuable Player, who led the Ravens to the title in 2012-13, then would be run out of town for having the audacity to ask for and receive the big contract he had earned, is the likely starting quarterback for the Jets on that day.

Jets starter Zach Wilson is expected to miss four to six weeks after suffering a torn meniscus and bone bruise in the team’s first preseason game last Friday, so Flacco is currently slated to be the starter.

If I weren’t a Ravens fan I would say the irony here is delicious on a couple of fronts, but omen games, “return” games and irony games have a history of not working out well for Baltimore sports teams.

Flacco will square off against Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson, who replaced Flacco as the Ravens starter, has won a league MVP and has recently announced he will become a free agent at the conclusion of this season if he doesn’t have a new contract by the season opener.

Both the Ravens and Jackson (he does not employ an agent) had openly expressed their confidence in a deal being reached all along; but that was prior to Jackson’s recent deadline mandate. In the meantime, every team in the league, beginning with the Ravens, is about to feel the damage of the stupidity of the Cleveland Browns (not Sonny Weaver Jr. this time), who awarded their new quarterback Deshaun Watson a record five-year, $230-million contract.

Funny thing (not so funny, actually), the NFL is doing its best to prevent Watson from even playing this year.

The Watson contract makes the contract Flacco signed with the Ravens in 2013 look like chump change but at the time, it was an NFL record $120.6 million covering six years. And because of it, Baltimore fans blamed Flacco for everything from the razing of the McCormick spice factory, to the Orioles’ rebuild and the Lindbergh baby, and I never understood why.

Why did Baltimore turn on Joe Flacco? Because his salary ate up cap space and prevented other players, most notably receiver Anquan Boldin, from staying in Baltimore? Well just wait to see how much cap space Lamar’s new deal eats up, provided, of course, one ever gets done.

As for the Boldin angle, it doesn’t fly, and head coach John Harbaugh admitted as such, saying last season that the Ravens had the cap space to pay Boldin but merely dropped the ball in not re-signing him. And Boldin took it so personally that when he retired in 2019 he did so as a Raven, even though he spent just three seasons in Baltimore.

No, Flacco never was and never will be demonstrative. Of course, neither was John Unitas, but what do you want from your pro quarterback, Up With People? That certainly worked for Tim Tebow.

Many of his detractors believed Flacco gave the appearance of not caring. They disliked him because he didn’t seem to be Type A enough. Yet that was once deemed to be a strength when he was a rookie in 2008 and would lead the Ravens to the playoffs five seasons in a row, culminated by his being named Super Bowl MVP in the fifth. Believe his nickname around Baltimore then was “Joe Cool?”

This is not to suggest Flacco should be considered a Bawlmer sports icon, but he did deserve better than to have the Ravens allow a second-rate receiver, whom they would eventually trade, wear his No. 5 because he had too good of a run in Baltimore as a winning pro quarterback for that to happen.

Until Lamar Jackson’s MVP season, Flacco had been the only legitimate winning pro quarterback in Ravens history this side of Vinny Testaverde. And don’t say Trent Dilfer, who awoke one morning in Bristol, Conn. to believe he actually created the position. He was so legit he wasn’t offered a contract the season after his team did win the Super Bowl.

Flacco administered 18 comebacks with Baltimore and 24 game-winning drives. In six postseasons he quarterbacked the Ravens to a 10-5 record and 96-67 overall in 11 seasons.

He threw the best deep ball in football. Only problem was he rarely had the opportunity to throw it to anybody who could catch it, which is something Lamar continues to learn about each season.

Also, while in Baltimore, Flacco had as many offensive coordinators as he had seasons with the team, and the only season he had receivers, who were not tight ends, who could get open and who could catch, the Ravens won the Super Bowl.

The Ravens might have had two Super Bowl titles with Flacco in this respect, as they would have had the chance to win one the year before they did when Flacco threw a strike to the end zone for what would have been the winning touchdown over the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game. The thing about that one, though, is the Ravens receiver dropped the ball in the end zone, and then Billy Cundiff was hung out to dry when he was rushed onto the field by Harbaugh without using one of the timeouts the team had to miss a field goal that would have sent the game to overtime.

It’s all water off a duck’s arse now. I just don’t feel Ravens fans should merely chuckle off the notion of Flacco starting the opener against the Ravens. I assure you John Harbaugh isn’t. He knows Flacco, and he knows 0-1 starts can put a team in unwanted catch-up mode for an entire season.

Mike Burke writes about sports and other stuff for Allegany Communications. He began covering sports for the Prince George’s Sentinel in 1981 and joined the Cumberland Times-News sports staff in 1984, serving as sports editor for over 30 years. Contact him at [email protected] and [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBurkeMDT