When asked about those comments, Baltimore coach John Harbaugh never said Flacco was the best quarterback in the NFL but he made it clear he wants to help his quarterback reach that level.
"I will stand behind him and I think I understood what he was saying but sometimes you shrug your shoulders and you just have to laugh and say ‘all right let’s go prove it then,'" Harbaugh told a Baltimore radio station, via SportsRadioInterviews.com. "If that’s how we feel about it, then let’s go prove it. Let’s make them acknowledge that. We have not obviously done that yet and I think that’s what Joe is saying so I’m going to work as hard as I can so that a year or two or three from now the rest of the world can actually say ‘you know what maybe he was right, maybe he is the best quarterback out there.’ That’s our job, that’s Joe’s job and that’s what we need to work on doing.”
I think everyone can agree Flacco isn't the best quarterback in the NFL. But I think everyone can also agree Flacco will have a tough time reaching that elite status in the Ravens' current system. The best quarterbacks in the NFL -- Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning and Ben Roethlisberger -- carry their teams week after week and to Super Bowls. They win games with their arms and rarely have to share the spotlight with a running back.
The Ravens don't consistently have to rely on Flacco that same way because they have Ray Rice. Last season, Rice accounted for 38 percent of the team's offense, leading Baltimore in rushing (1,364 yards) and catches (76, which is 19 more than any other Raven). If the Ravens really wanted to help Flacco, they could loosen the reins on him a little bit. Of course, Flacco has to earn that right by becoming more consistent and avoid dud games like the ones against the Jets and Jaguars last season.
Like I wrote on the blog last week, Flacco said these words and it's up to him to back them up. And there are ways Flacco can elevate himself into the conversation of being a top quarterback. He beat the Steelers in Pittsburgh last year with a last-minute touchdown throw. He nearly led the Ravens to the Super Bowl if Lee Evans didn't have the ball stripped away in the end zone.
So, Flacco can distinguish himself when he comes through in the clutch and in the playoffs. That's where quarterbacks shine. But there's an increased level of difficulty to reach the top tier of quarterbacks when you play with a top-tier running back.
Harbaugh, though, admires Flacco's self-confidence and honesty.
"He’s not really interested in I don’t think in finessing an answer in a way that we all, we know what he was saying but then they parse it and take the part and say ‘Joe Flacco thinks he’s the best quarterback in football,'" Harbaugh said. "Joe Flacco is working to be the best quarterback in football and in his mind he’s capable of being that. That’s what he is saying. I don’t know. Joe is Joe, we do talk to him about that, but you have to love Joe, you have to love his mindset, his attitude, he’s a fierce competitor, I’ve always said that and he’s our quarterback and I love the guy."
Here are other topics covered by Harbaugh in the interview:
Ravens safety Ed Reed, who is entering the final year of his contract, said he has been unable to get a new deal from the Ravens. Harbaugh said he isn't concerned about Reed's future in Baltimore. “Obviously we have utmost respect for Ed, he and I have a tremendous relationship," Harbaugh said. "We’ve been texting back and forth, it’s been really positive, I know he is working really hard because he always does and last year I thought he was in the best shape of his whole career, at least the career I’ve seen, the last four years let me say that. He was in tremendous shape, he played very, very well, and I agree with him, I think he has plenty of years left to play and the rest of it is part of the business part of it and that’s part of the way it goes. That stuff has a way of working itself out so I’m not worried about it that way.”
The Ravens are also in talks on a long-term deal with Rice, who received the franchise tag. Asked whether he would be surprised if a new deal doesn't get worked out with Rice, Harbaugh said, “I’d be surprised, not be surprised and you get to the point where you’re not surprised by anything. It’s the business part of it and you just don’t know which way it’s going to turn. Ray’s got to do and his agents and his representatives have to try to do the best they can for Ray. That’s got to fit within what is smart for us to put the best team together in the end because the team, the team, the team does apply to your salary cap situation. You have to build the strongest team that you possibly can for the resources that they give you. Obviously you have to pay your best players, your most productive guys as well as you possibly can. We want everybody to make as much money as they can, that’s the American way but there are limitations and parameters there and hopefully we can come out to the best possible answer.”