Joe Flacco is one of the most mind-blowing stories of the past several decades in the NFL. To literally get off the couch and join a team when nobody else in the NFL wanted you, and to play this well? It makes no sense.
Then again, maybe most of us judged Flacco too harshly. Those cheeky, unserious “elite” jokes seemed funny at the time. Now? Flacco is playing like an actual elite quarterback for the Cleveland Browns, who are going to the playoffs for only the second time in 21 years thanks to Flacco, of all people. This is the man who delivered a Super Bowl for the AFC North rival Baltimore Ravens. You know, the franchise that used to be the Browns until Art Modell stole them from Cleveland.
It’s poetic football justice in a way. I still believe Flacco’s legacy and Super Bowl run in Baltimore were boosted by pretty much heave-and-hoping 50/50 balls to Anquan Boldin. AND. And. I can acknowledge that he’s playing better now than I’ve ever seen him play and it’s not close. We’re talking about a guy with an 84.0 career passer rating.
Now, with Kevin Stefanski dialing up the plays in Cleveland, Flacco is flourishing. The Browns pummeled the Jets 37-20 on Thursday Night Football.
Flacco was so bored of the lack of challenge New York’s defense presented that he took his foot off the gas after throwing for 296 yards in the first half. Joe Cool was so chill that he was legit falling asleep on the sidelines. His explanation afterwards confirms that my assessment of his nodding off is inaccurate. I don’t care. It’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
Yes, Cleveland has a No. 1 defense, but outside of Amari Cooper — who was out on Thursday night! — the only other super dangerous weapon Flacco has at his disposal is tight end David Njoku. In fact, Njoku has always kind of underachieved given his ball skills and athleticism.
Suddenly, with a savvy vet in Flacco under center, Njoku is going absolutely nuts.
In the first quarter alone, @Browns tight end David Njoku hauled in 4 receptions for 113 yards, 86 after the catch.
On the season, Njoku has accumulated +166 YAC over expected, 3rd-most by a tight end in a season since 2018.
If you look at the last several years of Flacco’s time in the NFL with 20/20 hindsight, it’s very interesting. He was understandably booted out of Baltimore in favor of future MVP Lamar Jackson. Then, his offensive coordinators were as follows: Rich Scangarello and Mike LaFleur. Between those stops with the Broncos and Jets respectively, Flacco was in Philly, where he didn’t throw a single pass. Won’t count that.
I don’t care who is in his ear with the call sheet in hand, though. In all my years of watching the NFL, I never remember Flacco doing sh*t like this:
He turns 39 on January 16. I’ve never seen him more limber, either! Was he not on the couch!? Or was he working out like a maniac, getting cut like an Olympic athlete so he could sandbag the whole league as vengeance for not flooding him with job offers? Flacco is on a one-man mission to stick it to everyone who stopped believing in him.
Jets linebacker C.J. Mosley summed it all up rather well after the game:
"Who would have thought the Browns would be screaming your name?" –@TreyDeuce32RTR
Sure seems like the Jets could’ve hit up Flacco when Aaron Rodgers went down with a torn Achilles. They, too, have a pretty good defense and a premier weapons like Garrett Wilson and Breece Hall. No guarantee Flacco would go off so hard behind that porous Gang Green offensive line. Still, it’s the principle of the thing.
The Jets had Flacco in the building the previous two seasons. They know him! Didn’t even occur to them to give him a call.