There are very few examples where greatness, leadership, and humility can all be found in one person. The Ravens were blessed to find an exemplar of these qualities in Joe Flacco. The Ravens drafted Flacco in 2008, with hopes that he could bring stability to a position that never saw it. Baltimore gambled on an unflashy quarterback from a small, Division 1 FCS school to lead a team forward. A team in turmoil, with roster turnover and with a new inexperienced head coach at the helm. To draft Flacco in 2008 was a bold move. The Ravens put all confidence in Flacco and hedged their bets on a future with this young quarterback. 11 years later, it is now safe to say, that this gamble’s reward was unbelievably high.
Confidence without arrogance, failure, without doubt, success without satisfaction. Joe Flacco was a competitor at the highest level. For 11 straight years, through thick and thin, injury and health, success and failure, Flacco retained the highest level of confidence in himself, without ever falling into the pit of arrogance. In failure, Flacco never lost hope, in success he never felt appeased. It is these qualities that gave him his persona in Baltimore. “Joe Cool” was never rattled. The bright lights of a Sunday night never disturbed him. Tough situations never shook him. Whether the Ravens were up by 20, or down by 20, Joe Flacco came out with the same mentality and a belief that he would lead the team to victory.
“He needs to be more passionate! He needs to be more animated! He needs to be more vocal!” These are criticisms that Joe Flacco heard at nearly every turn. As other superstars commanded the spotlight with a vocal passion, Flacco stayed mute. He let his performance and his wins speak for him.
And win he did. Joe Flacco’s tenure in Baltimore gave the Ravens a period of success paralleled by few. In 11 years, Flacco became the 15th winningest quarterback in NFL history. He won 106 of 178 games throughout the regular and postseason. The stability he brought to the most important position on the field and the show-by-example leadership he gave to his team pushed a franchise stuck in quarterback limbo to greatness.
On a bad day, the fault always landed on him. On a good day, the credit always fell to his teammates. Joe Flacco’s humility never allowed himself to bask in the credit he deserved. To Flacco, the team was of absolute importance. Individual credit was of no importance. He took none of it, but he always assured that the fault of a loss fell on himself. Never did he push others out of the spotlight to push himself in, nor did he ever lay blame on anyone else, even if it was deserved.
Joe Flacco’s finest moment as a player came in 2013. The Ravens had just wrapped up a tumultuous season, Ray Lewis announced his retirement and Joe Flacco was without a contract entering the next year. Flacco turned down a contract in July of 2012, as he believed that he could earn a greater salary than what the Ravens offered. He bet on himself, and he cashed in. Flacco’s performance in the 2012-2013 playoffs was the greatest postseason performance by any quarterback in the history of the NFL. He went on a rampage. Four games, 11 touchdowns, 1140 yards, 0 interceptions, 1 Lombardi Trophy. Flacco gave the Ravens the chance to win every game that postseason. He defended home turf in Ray Lewis’ final game in Baltimore, orchestrated a Miracle in Denver, knocked off the unbeatable Patriots in Foxboro, and slashed the 49ers in the Super Bowl. His efforts in the final game of the postseason earned him the Super Bowl MVP title, but his entire body of work that postseason deserves its own recognition.
Joe Flacco’s unforgettable moments as a player are highlighted and well known, but one must dig to uncover Flacco’s best moments as a human being. Joe Flacco will never tout his charity work or boast his generosity, but his actions deserve recognition. During his time in Baltimore, Flacco quietly gave his time to charities. He hosted events for Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital, took the Polar Bear Plunge, supported Special Olympics Maryland, the Baltimore Humane Society, Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, and Take a Hike Foundation, while giving to and participating in the charities of his teammates, like Torrey Smith’s annual charity basketball game and Lardarius Webb’s charity softball game.
Joe Flacco is not only the greatest quarterback to play in a Ravens uniform, but he is also one of the greatest men to ever step foot in the city of Baltimore. He is a humble leader, that expected nothing but the best of himself at all times. Flacco’s contributions to the Ravens, the city of Baltimore, and the greater good will never be forgotten. I look forward to the day Flacco returns to Baltimore, to rejoin the Ravens, and be enshrined in the team’s Ring of Honor. Until that day and beyond, Baltimore will always remember Joe Flacco for the amazing 11 years he gave this town. And to that, I say…
Thank you, Joe Flacco.