While some NFL observers and more than a few fans inside M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday were calling for veteran Joe Flacco to play and Lamar Jackson to be benched, Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh was steadfast, staying with the rookie quarterback.
Harbaugh’s faith was rewarded, as Jackson played well in the fourth quarter, bringing Baltimore to within six points of the Chargers, despite the offensive line playing poorly (Jackson was sacked seven times and hit nine). But the Ravens had dug a pretty sizable hole and weren’t able to come all the way back.
And after the game, Harbaugh made it pretty clear: Flacco has played his last game with the Ravens.
Flacco wouldn’t have played better
There were a couple of points when Flacco had his helmet on on the sideline, indicating that he might be headed onto the field. Harbaugh acknowledged that there was consideration given to playing the 33-year-old, and that everyone was on the same page about what might or might not happen (he declined to give more details).
But Harbaugh also said that Flacco wouldn’t have played any better in the fourth quarter than Jackson did.
Flacco said he wasn’t frustrated to not get the chance to play.
“We made the decision on what was going to happen here weeks ago. I really wanted to see the guys turn it up a little bit and make a play, which they did,” he said.
‘Joe’s going to have a market’
Harbaugh, who is currently only signed through 2019 but is expected to sign an extension, was asked further about Flacco.
“Joe can still play,” Harbaugh said. “Joe’s going to have a market, a lot of teams are going to want Joe. Joe Flacco is a great talent, he’s a better person, he’s the best quarterback in the history of the Ravens … He’s going to be just fine.”
Flacco suffered a hip injury in Week 9 against the Pittsburgh Steelers, opening the door for Jackson to start in his stead.
But Jackson played so well that Harbaugh stuck with him even after Flacco was healthy and able to return to practice.
“I love the people of Baltimore, man,” Flacco said. “To be honest, I can’t imagine a better 11 years. This place becoming my home and my children’s home. Definitely a group of fans and a community that I loved being around for 11 years.”
As for what happens next, Flacco admitted it’s not really up to him, and “we’ll see what happens.”
Flacco, Harbaugh won together
The 18th overall pick in the 2008 draft out of Delaware, Flacco has never been named to a Pro Bowl but he and the Ravens won plenty of games.
He was the starter immediately as a rookie, and the Ravens went 11-5 that year — it was also Harbaugh’s rookie year as head coach — advancing to the AFC title game, where they lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Baltimore made it to the playoffs in each of Flacco and Harbaugh’s first five seasons together, winning Super Bowl XLVII over the 49ers at the end of the 2012 season. The Ravens also made the postseason in 2014.
If Flacco has played his last game with Baltimore, he finishes with a 96-67 career record as its quarterback.
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