Buzzing on Yahoo Sports:

Shutdown Corner

Encore demands: For Joe Flacco, the pressure’s on like never before

Doug Farrar
Shutdown Corner

View photo


Joe Flacco spent the 2012 postseason in rarefied air. (Getty Images)

Coming into his sixth NFL season, Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco is a Super Bowl MVP, the man behind one of the greatest sustained postseason passing performances in NFL history, and the proud owner of a six-year, $120.6 million contract. signed on March 1, which includes $52 million guaranteed, and a $29 million signing bonus. That's a lot to handle for a guy who finished 17th overall in Football Outsiders season-cumulative metrics and sixteenth in per-play efficiency in 2012, but those aren't the stats that matter.

When it comes to Flacco, the stats that matter are the ones he put up after former offensive coordinator Cam Cameron was fired on Dec. 10, and quarterbacks coach Jim Caldwell took the reins. Under Cameron, Flacco was too often tasked to find receivers limited by basic isolation route concepts. The change to Caldwell saw the Ravens use more route combinations, and other methods that allowed open targets. In the seven games Flacco played under Caldwell's auspices, he put up some crazy numbers -- 122 completions in 210 attempts for 1,737 yards, 15 touchdowns, and one interception. That included his 11-touchdown, zero-pick postseason, matched in NFL history by Joe Montana in 1989, and nobody else.

It was the first time in Flacco's career that the fully-developed version of the quarterback was matched by a truly diverse and modern offense, and the late run convinced the Ravens that he was worth the kind of scratch given to the best at his position. Now, with Ray Lewis and Ed Reed gone, and the emphasis put on the offense (specifically the passing offense) more than at any other time in the franchise's history, it's all on Flacco to remain at that mythical "next level."

Flacco seemed to know which questions were coming after Tuesday's practice, which marked the first day of the Ravens' 2013 training camp.

"I think we were a good team, I think we’ve been a good team, and I think our expectations for ourselves are to be a very good team again," he said. "But I don’t think we think about last year at all. Our team is different, just like it is every year. We’ve got a lot of guys that are hungry to get to where we were last year. We have a lot of guys that are hungry to get back to where we were last year. Every season is a new season and you kind of approach it in little different ways and ways you think you can get better. I haven’t really thought about an encore; I’ve just kind of thought about getting the best we can get so that we can go out there and win some more football games.”

That will be easier if Flacco can approximate the Caldwell-era stats all over again, though nobody could realistically expect those stats prorated over a full season. The good news for the Ravens is that Flacco is far more than just another seven-step-drop guy with a big arm -- in 2012, he handled a new emphasis on a no-huddle, quick-tempo offense with aplomb, and he threw on the run far better than expected for a guy who looks somewhat gangly at his most athletic.

Of course, with that new contract on the books, and Lewis and Reed gone, Flacco will be expected to lead in a new way. He is not shying away from the challenge.

“I’m always a leader; I’m not really going to change my role," he said. "We don’t have Ray Lewis here anymore, if that’s what you’re asking. But me and him are probably different in the terms that we lead anyway, and I’m not going to change what I do at all just because I make more money. That has nothing to do with leading a football team. I’m going to go out there, I’m going to play well, I’m going to lead by example, and I’m going to have fun with my guys and get them to trust me. And we’re going to be a good football team because of it.”

Before the end of the 2012 season, the pressure on Flacco was to become one of the league's best quarterbacks. He was considered by many, quite rightly, as a player who amassed a lot of "quarterback wins." but was an innocent bystander in a lot of those victories. There's no better example of this than Baltimore's 33-14 win over the New England Patriots in the 2009 postseason. Flacco completed four of 10 passes for 34 yards, no touchdowns, and an interception, while running backs Ray Rice, Le'Ron McClain, and Willis McGahee combined for 234 rushing yards and four touchdowns. Now, the Ravens go as Flacco goes, and he seems fine with whatever pressure that may entail. One thing's for sure -- if Flacco ever imagined that the microscope would come off after Baltimore's Super Bowl win over the San Francisco 49ers, he's hard into reality now. In 2013, the constant question will be, what does one do for an encore?

“I don’t know. I just really don’t know," he said, when asked if there's more pressure to perform now. "I think if we didn’t win, you all would still be saying that we suck, and if did [win], you all would still say the same – well, I don’t know about you guys here [in Baltimore] – but a lot of people [would]. I don’t think it really matters either way. All we can do is go out there and keep winning – just like we’ve been doing every year we’ve been here – and not really worry about what people say or what our expectations are and what the pressure is going to be. Who really cares? I can’t really complain at this point.

"We won last year. I have a lot of money – or I’m going to get a lot of money – and we’re going to win football games. That’s the way it is around here. That’s what we’re going to get used to and that’s what we want to be used to, is winning football games. We’re not going to apologize for acting like a good football team. Our expectations are high, and we don’t care if that comes with pressure or it’s not pressure – whatever it is. We expect to win.”

It's a good thing he does, because like never before, it will be on Flacco to make that happen.

Fantasy Football video from Yahoo! Sports:

Related coverage on Yahoo! Sports:
Titans rookie helps save family from burning car
Buccaneers give Mike Williams a five-year extension
Report: Prosecutors zeroing in on Aaron Hernandez for 2012 killings
Watch: Who are the top 10 players in the NFL?

Sign up for Yahoo Fantasy Hockey
View Comments (45)

Recommended for You

  • Mark Cuban made comments about the NFL six months ago and he was right

    Peter King of Sports Illustrated looks back at the comments from Maverick owner Mark Cuban about the future of the NFL. ESPN's Marc Stein has a great write up about the premiere of the Berlin Tall's new movie.

    SB Nation
  • Former CB Brian Baucham Sues USC and Lane Kiffin

    Former USC Trojans' cornerback Brian Baucham is suing the university and ex-coach Lane Kiffin, according to an Associated Press report. In the September 2012 game, Brian Baucham collapsed during the second half and was taken to the hospital by an ambulance. Baucham hadn't played in USC's previous…

    SB Nation
  • DeSean Jackson doesn't realize the Washington Redskins lost to the Eagles

    Apparently Washington Redskins wide receiver DeSean Jackson did not realize his team lost to the Philadelphia Eagles yesterday. Yeah, Jackson scored, he taunted Eagles players and fans, and he got his 'revenge' on this play. Check the scoreboard, DeSean.

    SB Nation
    Sun, Sep 21
    Washington34 - 37Philadelphia
    Game Recap
  • GIF: Brock Lesnar Curb Stomped by Seth Rollins at WWE Night of Champions 2014

    At some point or another it was decided that the finish to the Brock Lesnar vs. John Cena rematch at Night of Champions on Sept. 21, 2014, in Nashville, Tennessee would feature a run-in from Seth Rollins. It was also decided that Lesnar, vulnerable thanks to Cena spamming finishers for the last 10…

    SB Nation
  • View

    Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti faces the media (11 photos)

    All of the parties involved in the Ray Rice elevator-assault scandal are being called to account for their actions, or inactions, and the Baltimore Ravens, Rice's now-former team, are now in the spotlight. Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti held a press conference

    Yahoo Sports
    Sun, Sep 21
    Baltimore23 - 21Cleveland
    Game Recap
  • Report: Steelers signing James Harrison after losing Ryan Shazier and Jarvis Jones

    In order to bolster their linebacking depth, the Pittsburgh Steelers are signing former NFL Defensive Player of the Year James Harrison. The Pittsburgh Steelers had a convincing 37-19 win over the Carolina Panther on Sunday, but it was costly. Jarvis Jones was placed on IR-Recall after suffering a…

    SB Nation
    Sun, Sep 21
    Tennessee7 - 33Cincinnati
    Game Recap
  • Diamondbacks to name new GM Thursday

    The Diamondbacks' search for a new head honcho seems to be coming to an end. The Arizona Diamondbacks appear to be nearing a decision on who their new general manager will be, as USA Today's Bob Nightengale reports that the club plans to announce their choice on Thursday. Per Nightengale, former…

    SB Nation
    Arizona6 - 2Minnesota
    Follow Game
  • Man Told to Sell Lamborghini Golf Cart or Lose Wife

    RELATED: See photos of another great Lamborghini from 1999 – the Diablo GTR The 36-volt Lamborghini golf cart comes fitted with leather seats, which he confirms he will be sure to fart on as much as possible, as well an auxiliary charger, spare seat, manual, spare parts, and a headrest, which he…

  • Darnell Dockett has tickets for Cardinals fan getting in a brawl with 49ers fans

    Sunday was kind of a wild day at the 49ers-Cardinals game. Aside from just the loss, 49ers and Cardinals fans got into a nasty brawl in the stands. It's a really nasty fight, with quite a bit of blood on the ground as the fight wrapped up. It seemed

    SB Nation
  • Undertaker rumors of poor health seemingly debunked by his wife, Michelle McCool

    Over the weekend, a weird rumor started making the rounds that Undertaker is in poor health or bad shape or whatever other term you want to use to signify someone is not doing well physically. The source for this was, apparently, Limp Bizkit lead singer Fred Durst, who reportedly dedicated a song…

    SB Nation
  • Manning exposed: Seahawks win, Richard Sherman continues his season of subdued dominance

    Not nearly as easy as the Super Bowl, Seattle ended up just being a little better at defense than Denver was. Going into the Seattle Seahawks game against the Denver Broncos on Sunday, we had a very convenient frame of reference as far as what we might expect to see. After all, no other two teams…

    SB Nation
    Sun, Sep 21
    Denver20 - 26Seattle
    Game Recap
  • Gareth Bale kicks the ball at Luka Modric's face

    You know what hurts more than seeing Gareth Bale and Luka Modric scoring amazing goals and winning trophies like we always hoped they would do for Tottenham Hotspur? Watching them turn on each other. GARETH BALE KICKED THE BALL AT LUKA MODRIC'S

    SB Nation
  • View

    Photos of the day - September 21, 2014 (34 photos)

    The Independence Monument is silhouetted against fireworks during City Day celebrations in Almaty, Kazakhstan, Oakland Raiders linebacker Kaluka Maiava tackles New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman in the first half of an NFL game and a boy

    Yahoo News
    Sun, Sep 21
    Oakland9 - 16New England
    Game Recap
  • Watch Yaya Toure give Eden Hazard a playful halftime slap around

    Before Frank Lampard scored the goal that will probably haunt him for the rest of his life, Chelsea and Man City were playing a hard-fought match — the physicality of which apparently carried over into the tunnel at halftime. As the two teams made their way back to the pitch for the second half,…

    Dirty Tackle
  • Derek Jeter as you've never seen him before, Yankees star finally opens up

    Derek Jeter has done an exceptional job of becoming one of the famous athletes in pro sports without ever revealing too much of himself. In the give-and-take that is the modern press, where you have to expose so much of yourself to get noticed anymore, Jeter's always played his own game. As Jeter…

    Big League Stew
  • Two Vikings players body-slammed Drew Brees and he wasn't happy about it

    On the final play of the third quarter, Minnesota Vikings cornerback Captain Munnerlyn and safety Robert Blanton appeared to make a drive-ending sack on the New Orleans Saints' Drew Brees. But Munnerlyn and Blanton added a WWE-esque finishing move with

    Shutdown Corner
    Sun, Sep 21
    Minnesota9 - 20New Orleans
    Game Recap
  • Why The Cleveland Browns' Awesome Fake Play For Johnny Manziel Was Illegal

    CBS Johnny's catch didn't count. The Cleveland Browns have used Johnny Manziel sparingly so far, but on Sunday, they attempted a creative fake play that nearly resulted in a 40-yard gain.  After a failed rush play with Manziel as the quarterback, he ran to the sidelines as quarterback Brian Hoyer…

    Business Insider