ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Broncos quarterback Joe Flacco changed the expiration date on his career when the Ravens traded him to Denver. He was positioned to start again after losing his job in Baltimore. Then came the edit of the perfect script. The Broncos drafted Drew Lock with the 42nd pick overall, labeling him as the quarterback of the future.
Excuse Flacco if he wanted to experience vuja de — like this whole thing never happened.
Flacco spent last season talking about and eventually losing his spot to rookie Lamar Jackson. He preferred the Broncos not take a quarterback in the early rounds. Monday, he spoke for the first time since the Draft. He offered a candid assessment of his role regarding Lock. Simply put, he is not channeling Mr. Miyagi.
“It’s kind of (offensive coordinator) Rich (Scangarello’s) job. It’s to be in that quarterback room and watch. And that’s how you can develop. Listen, I’ve got so many things to worry about. I am trying to go out there and play good football, to play the best football of my life,” Flacco said. “So, I am not worried about developing guys. I don’t look at that as my job. My job is to go out and win games for this football team.”
It sounds rigid, but he is right. Flacco knows if he is not successful, he will not have this job after this season. The Broncos are dating, not married to him. Only this season of his contract is guaranteed. To write a second chapter to his NFL career, it begins with his first season in Denver as a leader, not a teacher. There are not many $18 million-per-year jobs where workers willingly train their replacement.
And know this about Flacco: He has been consistent in his message. He believes he is in his prime at age 34. He wants to prove to his teammates he can be the lighthouse in the storm. That process began to shake out Monday as he fired darts around the field, looking well ahead, as expected, of Lock, Kevin Hogan and Brett Rypien.
There remains no crime in leading by example. Flacco made a strong impression as much as can happen in a voluntary OTA practice in May. As a receiver told me after the workout, “he throws a (expletive) phenomenal ball.”
Flacco and Scangarello are charged with reviving a sleepy offense that ranked 24th in points (20.6), 19th in passing (230.9) and red zone percentage (56.8) and 28th in third-down conversions (33.3 percent). Flacco admitted there are similarities to this scheme and the one he ran in 2014 with Gary Kubiak. The lingo is familiar, while this is an updated version of the attack. That offers hope to fans given that Flacco excelled in 2014, notching his last playoff appearance. He posted 27 touchdowns and 12 picks that season.
“I feel like I pick up offenses well,” Flacco said.
Coach Vic Fangio seems confident in Flacco, not only in his skillset, but his mindset. Flacco received all the first-team reps Monday, which is the plan as the new quarterback acclimates himself. Flacco insisted going against the Broncos defense — most notably Von Miller and Bradley Chubb — can help.
“I experienced that before (in Baltimore). It’s definitely an advantage,” Flacco said.
The onus is not on Flacco alone. For him to stand tall statistically, he must remain upright. He worked with a revamped offensive line Monday with Garett Bolles at left tackle, rookie Dalton Risner at left guard, Connor McGovern at center, right guard Ron Leary (he was impressive in his return from Achilles surgery), and right tackle Elijah Wilkinson, who was in for Ja’Wuan James who had a previous commitment that the team knew about for a month.
Flacco moved well out of the pocket, and showed no issues with a hip injury that led to Jackson unseating him.
“I forget all about it when they asked me. I am 100 percent healthy,” Flacco said. “I feel great.”
Flacco’s focus is real. As were his answers on Monday. He understands the fascination with young quarterbacks. However, he remains bent on proving he’s the Flacco of old, not just an old Flacco.
“I don’t think I am a selfish person,” Flacco said. “(Lock) is going to learn from watching us and watching us doing it well. I hope he does learn from me because that means we are out there lighting it up.”