This is obviously the best we’ve felt about the Ravens’ chances going into NFL divisional playoff weekend in the history of the franchise.
There’s nothing more to debate. Lamar Jackson is the MVP, John Harbaugh is worthy of being Coach of the Year, half of the roster is going to the Pro Bowl, a quarter of the starters were named first-team All-Pro and the fan base is so desperately seeking for any slight amount of “disrespect” that it’s decided to zero in on three out of literally 50 voters who had Russell Wilson ahead of Jackson in their All-Pro voting.
That’s how wildly respected this Ravens team is. In order to have something to scream about, we have to lose our minds about a mildly incorrect decision made by 6 freaking percent of a group of people.
When the Ravens host the Titans Jan. 11, we should absolutely expect a raucous, rabid, sellout crowd at M&T Bank Stadium losing its collective mind from the moment the parking lots open until whenever the result of the football game is clear. There’s rain in the forecast — which actually plays a bit into the hands of what the Titans will be trying to do — but Ravens have proven themselves capable of success in just about any condition during the course of the season.
Despite obviously not needing any additional help in firing up the crowd, the team will almost certainly welcome back a “Legend of the Game” beforehand. And some Ravens fans had a hell of an idea during the past week about who that person should be.
Inspired by a clip of NFL Network host Peter Schrager suggesting that Joe Flacco was the most underappreciated NFL player of the last decade, some Ravens fans (I could not tell you who started the campaign — if it was you and you’re reading this please by all means let me know and I will happily get you credit) tossed out the idea of the team inviting Flacco to be the “Legend of the Game” for the divisional round game or perhaps the AFC championship game.
There’s no way around this. It’s a marvelous idea. My gut tells me it would never happen (and it is so irrelevant in the context of what the Ravens are trying to do right now that I didn’t want to waste their time by asking them about it), but it’s a truly tremendous idea. After a spirited discussion of the topic on Glenn Clark Radio Jan. 3, I thought I’d react to some of the responses I heard from listeners and fans.
A.) Isn’t Flacco still under contract with the Broncos?
Yep. But that doesn’t mean you can’t ask. If Flacco wanted to come out and wave to a crowd in Baltimore and show support to the Ravens, he’d be best to ask the Broncos if they were OK with it first. With the Broncos likely to release him after the Super Bowl, there’s certainly a possibility that they’d say they were OK with it.
We all of course remember how much it bothered us in Baltimore to see Kevin Millar — then a member of the Orioles — rooting for the Red Sox on FOX during the 2007 ALCS. But the truth is that Millar was such an irrelevant footnote in Orioles history, he didn’t really have anything to lose by making O’s fans further dislike him.
Flacco could well say to himself, “Who cares what Broncos fans think, only Ravens fans will care about me at all within five years,” but the Ravens wouldn’t be likely to let Flacco go rogue and potentially disrespect another franchise in the process.
B.) Wouldn’t it be awkward considering how split Ravens fans were about Flacco just a year ago?
Not in the slightest. This is a downright bizarre argument (that I heard from only a few fans). Even Joe Flacco knows the Ravens made the right decision at the end of last season. Jackson is an MVP quarterback. Flacco handled the transition in an incredibly classy way, and if even a single person in Baltimore is still hung up about this, they’re so insane that their opinion isn’t worthy of consideration.
C.) Could there be Ravens fans who aren’t happy to see Flacco back so quickly because they think he was overpaid and his contract hurt the team?
In a group of 70,000 people, you might find someone who genuinely believes they are set to receive $100,000 from a Nigerian prince. Flacco’s name (and more succinctly his large contract) were certainly hot-button topics for some time in Baltimore. But even the people who were the quarterback’s biggest “haters” would admit that they appreciate what he did in guiding the team to a Super Bowl title and being one of the great postseason performers in recent NFL history.
You might believe there is a greater percentage of these people than there are because you’ve seen tweets like “Flacco was a bum” or your drunken friend says something like “he held the team back” when you get into stupid bar arguments. But those are the same internet tough guys who would wait in a 30-minute line to meet the man if they found out he was taking selfies at the Royal Farms where they are pumping gas.
But to be further clear, Kyle freaking Boller wouldn’t be booed if he were introduced at a Ravens playoff game right now. That’s not because Ravens fans don’t still hold a grudge toward the former first-round pick, it’s because life is too good for them to care most about it in the moment. The Red Sox brought Bill friggin’ Buckner back to Fenway Park and he received a standing ovation. It wasn’t because the same fans hadn’t spent a decade and a half cursing his name, it’s because they had won a damn World Series and had nothing to complain about.
But Flacco’s reception wouldn’t just be polite cheers. It would be a wild ovation, likely the largest any honorary captain-type could receive. It’s not because he’s the most popular player in franchise history, it’s because former players only get one chance to return home for the FIRST time. That always generates the biggest response.
D.) Aren’t there other good options?
Sure are! Frankly, there isn’t really a bad one. We’re talking about football games being played in Baltimore in January, you guys. Who the hell wouldn’t we be happy to see come out and smile for the cameras before a game? Bring back Haloti Ngata or Torrey Smith or Ray Lewis or Ed Reed or whoever you want (with the exception of Ray Rice because obviously it would create an unwelcome national perception no matter what your feelings are about how Rice has handled himself in the aftermath of the Atlantic City incident).
E.) So do you honestly think it could happen?
No. Going back to my first point, this just isn’t really like Flacco. I think the Ravens should ask. I think it’s not only a good idea, I think it’s genuinely something they SHOULD do. But I think he’s got bigger fish to fry at the moment. I think he’s too worried about figuring out his own football future to be thinking about anything else.
But it would be an incredibly cool moment if somehow it could be pulled off. And if not, perhaps they could go with former Ravens head coach* Bill Belichick. I hear he’s free.
(*He wasn’t fired by the franchise until a week after they had officially moved to Baltimore.)
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