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There may be questions about quarterback Joe Flacco outside of the team’s facility in Owings Mills.
But inside it – starting at the top with Owner Steve Bisciotti down through the rest of the front office, coaches and teammates – there isn’t any wavering.
It was confirmed on Wednesdaythat the Ravens see Flacco as their quarterback for a long, long time. And they picture him holding the Lombardi Trophy too.
Bisciotti said the Ravens and Flacco, who will enter the final year of his rookie contract in 2012, will be working on a contract extension. They did not specify when or for how long.
“We’re just going to sit down and start grinding out contract terms,” Bisciotti said. “That’s something that I trust Ozzie [Newsome] and Pat [Moriarty] to do well.”
Those contract terms may be shaped by Bisciotti’s belief in the big things Flacco can accomplish.
“He’s trending up,” Bisciotti said. “This is the sweet spot for him, years five through 10.”
Flacco was a lightning rod for criticism this year, especially as he entered the playoffs and even after winning a divisional playoff game against Houston.
That criticism – more than anything else this entire season – frustrated Bisciotti.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a guy as maligned as him,” Bisciotti said. “I think he’s going to be extremely successful. I think he’s going to have rings. I think he’s got 10 years of his prime to show it.”
Bisciotti pointing to the bad breaks Flacco has had over the years that have prevented him from getting his due credit.
Bisciotti feels it started in Atlanta last season, when Flacco marched the Ravens back from a 13-point fourth-quarter deficit to take the lead with one minute and five seconds remaining. Then Atlanta zoomed right back down the field for a 26-20 final-minute victory.
Then there was the divisional playoff game in Pittsburgh last year, when wide receiver Anquan Boldin dropped the potential game-winning pass as he went to the ground in the end zone.,Then, T.J. Houshmandzadeh had a final comeback attempt bounce off his hands.
This year’s playoff loss was perhaps the most glaring.
Flacco outdueled New England’s Tom Brady, throwing for 306 yards and two touchdowns, and would have gone to the Super Bowl had Lee Evans held onto a touchdown pass with 22 seconds remaining.
“If [Evans] catches that and Joe goes in and slays New England and we’re in the Super Bowl, then [critics] would have said, ‘Wow, he really did play well,’” Bisciotti said.
“He really did play well. Everybody knows that. But we’re sitting here with you all instead of being in Indianapolis. A couple bad breaks like that for him.”
Critics have also questioned whether Flacco took a step backwards this season.
If only looking at surface level, he threw for 12 fewer yards (3,610), tossed five fewer touchdowns (20) and two more interceptions (12) compared to last season. His quarterback rating dropped nearly 13 points to 80.9.
But the Ravens’ front office saw improvement when looking at the larger picture.
“Did Joe improve? Yes,” Newsome emphatically said.
“And he improved after we took away some weapons that he was accustomed to in [Derrick] Mason and Todd Heap. So he was able to improve with two young tight ends, two young receivers, another receiver that got traded to him in the middle of training camp and a second year with Anquan. There’s no doubt Joe improved.”
Flacco had a bounty of young pieces around him, yet still won 12 regular-season games and one in the playoffs.
He became the first starting quarterback in NFL history (since the 1970 merger) to go to the playoffs in his first four years in the league, and his 44 career wins during that time is also an all-time NFL record.
“The thing I like about Joe, in the end, in this business, you get judged on one thing – winning,” Newsome said. “Joe wins. If he continues to win, if one pass is caught, he’d be in the Super Bowl. And I think he’s going to win Super Bowls – a lot of them – and I hope to be a part of it.”