Last season with the Baltimore Ravens, Joe Flacco went through the process that almost every starting quarterback at this stage of his career does: seeing his team draft his potential replacement in the first round. And he might be going through a similar scenario again with his new team.
When the Denver Broncos traded for Flacco, it was viewed as a short-term upgrade at quarterback, but it in no way meant they weren’t going to look for a younger QB to groom while Flacco starts. Although Missouri QB Drew Lock surprisingly slipped to the early second round, the Broncos felt compelled to draft Flacco’s understudy after doing a lot of pre-draft work on Lock.
Flacco, 34, was asked about Lock’s presence with the Broncos and whether it was the veteran’s job to mentor the young QB. Flacco’s responses were ... interesting.
Joe Flacco addressed the media for the first time since the Broncos drafted Drew Lock. Attached are his responses to questions if it's his job to mentor Lock.— James Palmer (@JamesPalmerTV) May 13, 2019
"I hope he does develop. But I don’t look at that as my job. My job is to go win football games for this football team." pic.twitter.com/Sw8bKdEOzW
Is this what you might diplomatically call leadership by example?
If anything, Flacco’s answers were a bit more measured than they were with similar questions about Lamar Jackson being drafted in what would be Flacco’s final year with the Ravens. A year ago, the Flacco-Jackson relationship appeared to get off to a slow start, as Yahoo’s Shalise Manza Young wrote then, and many reports late in the 2018 season seemed to suggest that Robert Griffin III — and not Flacco — ended up being the more impressionable mentor for Jackson after he replaced an injured Flacco and led the Ravens to the playoffs.
Did Joe Flacco say anything bad here?
The debate about quarterbacks being mentors for their young understudies is a tricky one.
Brett Favre was notoriously icy to Aaron Rodgers in their early years together, setting forth a strange relationship. Ben Roethlisberger publicly questioned the Pittsburgh Steelers drafting Mason Rudolph in 2018, citing the team’s need for immediate help.
But just last week Cam Newton said he had no issue with the Carolina Panthers drafting Will Grier in Round 3.
Different quarterbacks respond to these types of moves differently. Tom Brady won multiple Super Bowls after the New England Patriots used Day 2 draft picks on quarterbacks Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett, both of whom are on other teams while Brady is gearing up to try to win a seventh ring in New England.
Flacco is right here in the sense that he’s trying to master a new offensive system, although he’s the unquestioned starter according to new head coach Vic Fangio. And Flacco must know that he needs to play well in order to maintain his starting gig, with no guaranteed money beyond this season on his contract, which runs through the 2021 season.
But at the same time, Flacco probably needs to be a good teammate while being the right kind of “selfish.” Lock — or any other quarterback on the team’s roster, for that matter — can only learn so much by sitting and watching others run the offense. So if Flacco asks to hog all the reps or refuses to help the other quarterbacks on the field or in meeting rooms, it’s safe to say that it would be deemed more than just him trying to hold down a job.
It’s worth noting, too, that Fangio was asked about Flacco potentially being a mentor, and the head coach pretty much backed his veteran up on this one.
Just as telling as Joe Flacco admitting he's not here to serve as a mentor to Drew Lock was Vic Fangio saying the same. If Lock wants to truly learn from Flacco, Fangio said it's on Lock to make it happen. Not Joe.— Lindsay Jones (@bylindsayhjones) May 13, 2019
The Broncos have an interesting QB situation
It will be interesting to see what the timetable for Lock will be, and it certainly will depend on Flacco’s play. If he goes out and has a great first season in Denver, perhaps the Broncos can afford to wait a bit on Lock. But if he struggles to regain his former Super Bowl-winning form, or close to it, then the franchise might try to fit Lock into its late-season plans.
There’s a new head coach and offensive coordinator. Every quarterback on the roster (save for Kevin Hogan, who was claimed on waivers early last season) is new to the franchise. Flacco has been beset by injuries each of the past three seasons.
And it’s not as if John Elway has had great success picking quarterbacks since Peytoin Lock was a second-round pick, not a first, which might buy them some time. He also struggled as a freshman at Mizzou after the team was forced to start him early in his tumultuous freshman season there, although Lock has said it served as tremendous preparation for the NFL in time.
Most teams would love to do what the Kansas City Chiefs did with Alex Smith and Patrick Mahomes, where Smith was the unquestioned starter for a year and Mahomes received a Week 17 baptism before receiving the job full time the following year. On top of that, Smith’s leadership and mentorship for Mahomes during that potentially awkward transition period was roundly praised.
Will the Broncos have a similarly seamless handoff from Flacco to Lock, whenever that goes down? Ideally, yes, but you know what they say about best laid plans and all that.
In the NFL, it seldom goes that smoothly.
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