Joe Flacco is no ‘Average Joe’
BY RICK TELANDER email@example.com January 31, 2013 10:29PM
ADVANCE FOR WEEKEND EDITIONS, JAN. 26-27 - FILE - In this Jan. 12, 2013, file photo, Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco (5) throws a pass against the Denver Broncos during the fourth quarter of an AFC divisional playoff NFL football game in Denver. The Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers meet in Super Bowl XLVII on Sunday, Feb. 3, in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, File)
RAVENS VS. 49ERS
5:30 P.M. Sunday, Ch. 2
Updated: February 1, 2013 12:24PM
Sometimes it seems like there’s only one quarterback in this Super Bowl.
Ever heard of Colin Kaepernick, the amazing, adopted, fleet-footed, strong-armed man-child who appeared on the San Francisco 49ers’ doorstep three months ago, clad in a loincloth with a bazooka under each arm?
Of course you have. The tales about the sophomore star are epic, amazing and at least mostly true.
But how about this other guy, this Joe Flacco of the Ravens?
He’s a quarterback, too, but he seems to melt into the wallpaper behind the smoke and snake-handling bravura of ‘‘The Amazing Ray Lewis Traveling Preach, Dance & Deer Antler Show.’’
That’s all OK with Flacco, the 28-year-old fifth-year helmsman, a man who has the reputation of being boring and thereby somehow unworthy of the most-watched single sports event in America.
But Flacco isn’t boring. And he isn’t nondescript.
The guy, for instance, is huge. He’s 6-6, and . . . ‘‘How much you weighing these days?’’ I ask him during the interview session at the Hilton Hotel where the Ravens are staying.
We had just shaken hands, and his swallowed mine. The mitt was gigantic, maybe one of the main reasons he seldom fumbles and can control the ball so well, throwing exactly zero interceptions this postseason to go with 853 passing yards and eight touchdowns.
‘‘Two thirty-eight,’’ he says. That’s trimmed down from 245. Basically, he’s the size of a lean defensive end from a generation ago.
Flacco created very little flash in college, which has added to his seeming anonymity. He went first to Pittsburgh, where he barely played, and then to Delaware, where he set 20 school records but played in front of 22,000 people per game.
He never spouted off, never played in a huge postseason bowl, never shot, stabbed or strangled anyone, and he just sort of quietly went to the Ravens as the 18th pick in the 2008 draft.
And since? Well, he’s the first quarterback in NFL history to win at least one playoff game in each of his first five seasons. Not only that, he has now played in 13 playoff games, everything but the Super Bowl. He heaved that crazy, 70-yard, last-minute TD pass to force overtime against the Denver Broncos in the divisional playoff round, and, really, what more is there to care about except this guy is great at football and seems to have peaked?
This should amaze you. As we speak now, Flacco sits in his game jersey at a simple lunch table. All around the room, the big-shot Ravens — Lewis, Ed Reed, Torrey Smith, Anquan Boldin, Terrell Suggs and others sit elevated on podiums against the walls.
But the quarterback — the guy — is here. Separated from no one. Want to chat with Joe Flacco? Hey, come on up and sit next to him.
‘‘I don’t care,’’ he says of the less-than-royal treatment. After all, he’ll be in the big, solo interview room soon enough, he knows. But this is fine with him, he says. He talks about having grown up in tiny Audubon, N.J., and having five siblings, one of whom, younger brother Mike, is now a minor-league baseball player who has been pondering an NFL tryout.
‘‘It’s a very small town, very tight-knit group,’’ Flacco says, explaining why you remain low-key and humble if you’re from Audubon.
Lewis calls Flacco ‘‘the General,’’ and that counts for a lot. It may seem funny, but Flacco didn’t make first-team All-East while in college. Then, again, the great Tom Brady never made first-team All-Big Ten while at Michigan.
So you ask him how strong his arm is. (Most experts say it’s the strongest in the league.) And he recounts how he won some college workout throwing contest, heaving the ball 74 yards or something. Then he quickly reminds us that 10-yard out patterns and crossing patterns and all kinds of precision routes are more difficult to perform capably than just slingshotting the ball halfway out of sight.
Flacco doesn’t have an ultra-high completion percentage (62.5) or high passing-yardage-per-game average (220 yards, career), but he gets things done. Like a general.
‘‘I think being in sports like this, I should be a role model,’’ he says, meaning for moral behavior and for kids to observe. He says he never dreamed of putting on airs or acting like something special.
He lets the wild men — Lewis, Suggs, Jacoby Jones, etc. — do their wild rituals and fire folks up. And him? The main man?
‘‘I just kind of sit there and wait for the game to get going.’’
Yes, he was 0-2, career, against New Hampshire. And yes, if you misspell his name, your computer suggests ‘‘flaccid.’’
But this dude is for real. This is a hard man.