We’ve seen how this story plays out.
A team drafts a quarterback in the first round. The head coach explains the rookie won’t be the starter. Then that player ends up starting a few weeks later. Contrary to what the rookie says. Contrary to what the coaches and general manager say. Contrary to what the incumbent starter says.
But, Joe, they are not going to stop.
Jackson is a major story at the Baltimore Ravens’ training camp after the team drafted Jackson 32nd overall as a succession plan for Flacco, who might be the most sneakily bad quarterback in the NFL. (The argument over whether he is “elite” can only be made with fingers crossed and tongue in cheek.)
At training camp on Friday, Flacco insisted he’s going to put Jackson out of everyone’s minds by winning games in 2018. The questions about Jackson will stop when he starts to win games, Flacco reasoned.
He shouldn’t be so sure.
Flacco could certainly pull an Alex Smith or a Matt Hasselbeck. Smith had Patrick Mahomes, a developmental talent, nipping at his heels in 2017, but managed to hold the starting job amid some in-season rumblings for Mahomes. Jake Locker, a 2011 eighth-overall pick, failed to take the starting role in his rookie season. He couldn’t get past Hasselbeck, who finished that season with a Flacco-esque 3,571 passing yards, 18 touchdowns, 14 interceptions and a litany of injuries.
So the rumblings will always be there, as long as Jackson is healthy. Worse still, Jackson won’t be out of sight or out of mind. The Ravens intend to get Jackson, an outrageously good athlete, on the field in tailored-to-Jackson packages, even if he’s not the starting quarterback. The mere sight of him should beg the question of whether he should be on the field more often.
Questions from the media shouldn’t concern Flacco. He’s got bigger problems.
Mahomes and Locker were exceptions to the rule. Historically, first-round quarterbacks start in their first year. They are the only two of the last 17 first-round quarterbacks who failed to start in his rookie year. Over the last five years, it’s only been Mahomes in 2017 and Locker in 2012.
Deshaun Watson and Mitch Trubisky started in their first year. Jared Goff, who looked like a baby deer trying to walk in his rookie year, got past Case Keenum. Carson Wentz got past Sam Bradford. The list goes on: Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota, Blake Bortles, Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater, Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Ryan Tannehill, Brandon Weeden. Yes, Weeden, who threw four interceptions in his debut for the Cleveland Browns.
Should I go on?
Let’s finish it off: E.J. Manuel, Cam Newton and Blaine Gabbert. That gets us to Locker. Even in the cases of Mahomes and Locker, they got the job for Week 1 of their sophomore season. (Mahomes is slated to start after the Chiefs traded Smith this offseason.)
Few incumbent quarterbacks have been as solid as Flacco in terms of competency. Flacco, after all, can hang his reputation on his playoff performances and his victory in Super Bowl XLVII. But we’re five Super Bowls removed of Flacco’s win.
Flacco may keep his job — maybe. The Ravens may be able to win games — maybe. But the questions about Jackson will never stop, not until after Flacco is no longer the Ravens starter. If history serves as a guide, that’s likely to occur in the next 12 months and even the next few weeks.
The questions may be annoying, but he better brace himself for something much worse. He may soon be out of a job.