By Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley, AFRO Sports Desk
With former Louisville signal caller Lamar Jackson in tow, the unofficial stopwatch is on Joe Flacco’s tenure as the Baltimore Ravens starter. After the Ravens’ failed to make the playoffs for the last three seasons, the sizzle on a proud career from Flacco has lost some of its zip. With injuries and incumbent play becoming the norm for the now 33-year-old, the time to start thinking about his replacement started years ago. It developed into an opportunity for Flacco, Ozzie Newsome and the Ravens over the weekend to potentially secure the future when the team selected the electric Jackson with the last pick in the opening round after a savvy trade. Is that future now or later for the Ravens? Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley of the AFRO Sports Desk debate.
Green: The Ravens just picked the quarterback of the future. This young man is going to set the league on fire, and I’m just glad he’ll be doing it for my favorite team. Jackson needs to start from the opening whistle at training camp. I don’t like that “wait and learn for a year” crap. It’s the same thing they tried to do with Flacco during his rookie career. They wanted him to sit behind Troy Smith, but playing real games is the best teaching lesson for a quarterback. Flacco is always going to be one of my favorite Ravens of all time but his current time has expired. He had an outstanding 10-year tenure in Baltimore, setting records and securing Super Bowls along the way. But, it’s officially last call. The team needs to retool and they need to start fresh. Jackson gives them that.
Riley: Last I checked, the Ravens were still a solid and competitive team. They finished 9-7 last season so it’s definitely not the time to retool. Behind Flacco, the team won five out of its last seven games to close 2017. Their two losses came at the hands of bitter divisional rivals Cincinnati and Pittsburgh by a combined five points. We’ve seen quarterbacks perform well into their late 30s and early 40s in recent history, so, I believe the Ravens didn’t need to draft for Flacco’s replacement more than they needed to simply find him some weapons. Jeremy Maclin, Mike Wallace and Alex Collins are the skilled position starters in Baltimore and we’re excited about replacing Flacco? I don’t get it.
Green: When you have a RGIII/Michael Vick crossbreed then you draft him. It’s really that simple. The skilled positions in Baltimore aren’t any less thrilling than those in Philadelphia, New England or Los Angeles, and the Eagles, Patriots and Rams had some of the top offenses in the league last year. Name me a starting receiver in Philly? Who’s the go-to wideout for the Rams? Besides Gronkowski, who’s the top dog in New England? It’s about quarterback play and Flacco’s simply isn’t up to par anymore.
Jackson might not be a finished product, but the Ravens’ offense finished 27th in total yards and 29th in passing yards last season. Behind Jackson, Louisville’s offense finished fifth and fourth the last two seasons in yards gained while Jackson took home the Heisman in 2016 while rushing for over 3,000 yards the last two years. Insert him as starter in Baltimore and watch the Ravens fly again.
Riley: Dual-threat signal callers are all the rage in college now and everybody’s putting up crazy numbers. But it takes time to transition into the NFL. It’s not easy. It’s a perfect setup for Jackson to sit behind Flacco and learn the nuances of becoming a pro NFL quarterback. If Jackson starts the season next year then the Ravens would be lucky to win six games. He’s simply not ready, and the team doesn’t have the weapons around him to mask his rawness. There won’t be a quarterback controversy next season in Baltimore but there will be a countdown. That countdown could continue for multiple seasons, however, so I wouldn’t get your hopes up if you’re a Jackson-backer.