After dropping the ball with Joe Flacco and failing to surround him with the parts to succeed, the Baltimore Ravens tie their fortunes to Lamar Jackson.
To tell this story, we have to rehash an old one.
The 2018 Baltimore Ravens were sitting at a 4-5 record, seemingly on a collision course with another 8-8 or 9-7 type of season. Quarterback Joe Flacco had been given yet another “new arsenal” of receiving help, with rookie tight ends Hayden Hurst and Mark Andrews joining up with newcomer receivers John Brown, Michael Crabtree and Willie Snead.
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Hurst and Andrews both flashed some in that first half of the season, while Snead and Crabtree were pretty much what they’d been the majority of their careers — reliable route-runners who would be where they were supposed to be when they were supposed to be there. Only Brown offered explosion to the offense, but it never quite felt like the Ravens were using Brown’s skills in accordance with Flacco’s strengths to sustain any real kind of success.
The team was, to be kind, middling. To not be kind, they were boring and middling.
It often seemed like that was the pattern the Ravens kept finding themselves in during the latter half of the Flacco regime. They tried to maintain an organization built around a smothering defense (which is nearly impossible to pull off with current rules), stellar special teams, a consistent rushing attack, dependable tight ends and a cast of characters at receiver who fit a certain model of casting, without spending significant resources to get there.
What they never seemed to do was invest in playmakers around Flacco, or design an offense around his unique skill set. The exception to this, in my opinion, was the Gary Kubiak season of 2014. Kubiak utilized Flacco’s ability to throw on the move outside of the pocket — it took advantage of his underrated lateral mobility and lessened the need for Flacco to attempt to read the whole field. Routes were run on levels, causing defenders to make decisions and allowing Flacco to wait for a guy to pop free or launch a pass deep downfield to a streaking Torrey Smith, often resulting in completions or pass-interference calls. It was effective, and Flacco had a nice season.
But that was a rare blip for Flacco during the last several seasons in his Baltimore tenure, and the subsequent cast of characters calling plays for him was, let’s say, lacking.