The initial response fell somewhere between dumbfounded and shocked. In other words, people had no idea what to think.
Six months later, not much has changed.
All fans know is the new starting quarterback for the Denver Broncos is Joe Flacco. Which Flacco Broncos Country will see remains one of the key, if not the key, questions in 2019. Since news broke the Broncos would acquire Flacco from the Baltimore Ravens, that same question has been asked and remains unanswered.
Throughout organized team activities and minicamp, we’ve heard how the chemistry and timing continues to improve and how great this system is for Flacco (more on that later). But we still don’t know, and the impatience has reached boiling point. The good news is we’re closer to an answer to that key question.
Which Flacco will the Broncos get in 2019?
Joe Flacco profile
Weight: 245 pounds
Experience: 12 years, Delaware
When Flacco is on, and healthy, he’s shown he’s one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. Or in Flacco’s words, “elite.” This shirt from BreakingT is also “elite.” Broncos Country needs no reminder given the scars from a certain playoff loss he helped produce in Jan. 2013 are still visible. Flacco and the Ravens would go on to the win the Super Bowl, with Flacco being named Super Bowl MVP.
What gives John Elway and Denver hope Flacco is the quarterback to end two-straight years of historic futility is what he did in 2014. That was the season Flacco had Gary Kubiak as his offensive coordinator and it was his best statistical season in the NFL. That was also a season Baltimore was on the cusp of beating Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in the divisional round of the AFC Playoffs.
As mentioned earlier, that’s the Flacco the Broncos want to recreate in 2019. The system that Rich Scangarello runs is similar to Kubiak’s. That’s due to Scangarello working with Kyle Shanahan with the Atlanta Falcons and San Francisco 49ers, and the connections Shanahan has to Kubiak. So while Flacco is with a new franchise in a new city, the confidence from knowing this offense is immeasurable — for himself but also the rest of the offense. That commonality makes the difficult transition a little bit easier — for himself and the rest of the offense.
“There are a lot of similarities,” Flacco told the media at OTAs in May. “The good thing about that is there is a lot of similarities with how the plays are called and the lingo. I think it’s obviously a little bit different, but I think at the core there are a lot of similarities and a lot of things that carry over.”
That also helps with Scangarello.
“I think, honestly, it’s a lot me talking and a lot of him seeing what I’ve done throughout my career and how that fits into this offense,” Flacco said. “And then going through clips and seeing the timing of things and how it works out because he has plenty of film on all of these plays these guys have run. Obviously the quarterback is the quarterback. They take ownership of it and the plays. This guy didn’t hit this route a ton, but this guy has the ability to hit this route a lot more than that guy.
“Obviously things get catered to the quarterback a little bit. Right now, it’s just trying to learn the rhythm of the offense, the timing of your feet with your arm and the guys getting out of their breaks. When you hear Rich talk about that and you watch it get done on film and you’re able to take it out here on the practice field, you can start putting it together in your brain and walk yourself through it, and it gets really comfortable.”
Needless to say if Denver is able to get that version of Flacco, the last two years will become a forgotten memory.
“Joe has been great,” Scangarello told the media after the second day of minicamp. “We’re excited about everything he brings. He’s a veteran. He’s a great student in the room. He’s competitive, he’s savvy and he’s an elite arm-talent. He just has feel for the game. I’m excited to work with him, and we’ll see where we can take it.”
The problem one gets “hoping” for that Flacco is the reality of the last four years. That season with Kubiak was five years ago, and while Flacco wasn’t terrible over that four-year stretch, he wasn’t “elite” either.
So you’re left to wonder if the Broncos are trying to capture lightning in a bottle.
The other issue with Flacco over that span is health. In a possible 64 games over four years, he started 45. For Denver to right the ship, Flacco needs to stay on the field. That’s not just on him, but his rhythm and timing in the pocket must improve. He must avoid the big hits, and with it the interceptions. Over that four years, Flacco threw 46 picks. He also threw 64 touchdowns, but he can’t have a double-digit interception total in 2019.
What will help Flacco is an improved offensive line under the tutelage of Mike Munchak and Chris Kuper. The emergence of a tight end who can go over the middle and stretch the defense (we know how much Flacco loves to throw to the tight end) also helps. If those aspects are in play, that allows the running game to become a big threat, which makes the passing game a bigger threat.
At this point, that’s a lot of “ifs” and needs. Flacco would be the first to say he needs to control his play, and if he does that, it will help those other areas.
The question still remains, will he?
Tight end Jeff Heuerman at OTAs in May:
“I wouldn’t say he’s a step ahead, he’s probably six years ahead. He’s been around. He’s seen a lot of football and played a lot of football. Like I was saying, his experience factor is huge for us. To have a guy calling plays that’s been around — what year is he on? Twelve?
“Yeah, he’s got a lot of experience on a lot of guys. That’s huge at the quarterback position. There are a lot of us that really appreciate that and it helps kind of the flow of the offense and getting everybody where they need to be and what they need to do.”
Joe Flacco highlights
Joe Flacco’s roster status with the Broncos
There’s no doubt Flacco is the starter for 2019. For how long beyond this season is a question that will get answered in the next few months.
If Flacco returns to the quarterback he was five years ago and one that was a Super Bowl MVP, he’s the starter for the foreseeable future. If he’s the quarterback we’ve seen the last four years, Elway and the Broncos could stick with Flacco or roll with recent second-round pick Drew Lock. In other words, more confusion and no resolution.
However it plays out, at least we’re closer to an answer to one of the key, if not the key, questions for the 2019 Broncos.