'Timing is everything:' Why Joe Flacco fits the Cleveland Browns
Bob McGinn traces the steps of Flacco — from Delaware Blue Hen to Super Bowl champ to the graying quarterback of a playoff contender one month from his 39th birthday.
This is the 10th part of Bob McGinn’s series examining an active player and his current situation vis a vis what it was entering the National Football League draft. The comments from personnel men were made in the months leading up to the draft for McGinn’s annual NFL Draft Series, which dates to 1985. Scouting football prospects is an inexact science, especially when it comes to off-the-field factors. It has been said that no two evaluators view a player exactly the same way.
A season ago, the NFL forgotten (er, comeback) player of the year award went to quarterback Geno Smith of the Seattle Seahawks.
This season, Mr. Forgotten has got to be Joe Flacco, quarterback, Cleveland Browns.
Flacco, father of four and a month removed from his 39th birthday, has played only two games since emerging from mothballs. His performance was so unexpectedly capable that Browns coach Kevin Stefanski anointed him as the club’s starter the rest of the way as it pursues what would be a hard-won playoff berth in the rough-and-tumble AFC.
The Browns are 1-1 under Flacco’s steely direction. A Super Bowl hero for the Baltimore Ravens a decade ago, Flacco has been an upgrade over rookie Dorian Thompson-Robinson and free agent P.J. Walker, the first two in during Deshaun Watson’s season of injuries.
“Whatever little rust he had looked like it’s knocked off now and he’s playing at a high level again,” Browns offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt said Thursday. “Like the way he’s seeing the field. His ability again to be accurate at all three levels has been impressive.
“I mean, he’s fresh as a daisy right now and feeling great. There aren’t many players in the league right now that are feeling great at this time of the year.”
Living in football exile with his family outside Philadelphia, Flacco finished last season with the New York Jets and then waited and waited for another invitation that never came. Hoping to once more play the game he adores, Flacco stayed ready and in shape.
With Watson out for the year after nine games because of a shoulder injury, the Browns saw flashes from Thompson-Robinson and mediocrity from Walker. Watson went 5-1, Thompson-Robinson 1-2 and Walker 1-1.
The Browns signed Flacco to the practice squad Nov. 20. When he picked up their offense as quick as could be, he started three weeks later against the Rams (36-19 loss) and against the Jaguars (31-27 win) Sunday.
“Timing is everything — right place at the right time,” said Bobby DePaul, an NFL executive in personnel (primarily for the Bears) and assistant coach for 25 years who now scouts the AFC North and South divisions for SumerSports. “They have a great defense and enough talent to be balanced on offense.
“His arm still looks the part. He looks healthy running around. Very good command of the offense — being a veteran, taking what the defense gives him, not trying to be a hero.
“Turnovers are a problem. Had (some) last week and one game-changer in his first start against the Rams. If he just stays within himself he will be fine, but he may not be able to help himself.”