ENGLEWOOD — The benching from Baltimore Ravens’ coach John Harbaugh felt like a kick in the teeth. But it wasn’t nearly as bad as the kind of abuse Joe Flacco was getting from his wife, Dana, once he got home last fall.
“I think she had, for the whole two months or however long I wasn’t playing, she joked about me being the backup quarterback,” Flacco, the Denver Broncos’ new starting quarterback, told reporters Friday after his first news conference at the team headquarters in Dove Valley. “And she thought they were the most hilarious thing in the world.
“They were pretty funny, I have to give her credit. A lot of friends on my team, they thought it was kind of funny, too. I’ll give her credit for those. But I’m happy to be back in a position where I can help the team win and she can shelve those for the time being.”
Broncos general manager John Elway is hoping the joke’s on the Baltimore Ravens, who benched the 34-year-old Flacco down the stretch last fall in favor of rookie Lamar Jackson, then traded him to Denver Wednesday for a fourth-round pick (No. 113) in this April’s draft.
“We’re getting a guy that I believe at 34-years-old, is still very young at the position he’s playing,” Elway said Friday when asked about Flacco, who’s started 163 regular-season games over the last 11 seasons and was named the MVP of Super Bowl XLVII. “He’s got a lot of experience and still has all the tools to make all the throws. So it really turned out to be a perfect situation for us.”
How perfect remains to be seen, but both sides talked at length Friday about getting exactly what they wanted out of the arrangement. For the Broncos, that meant a tall (6-foot-6), veteran, drop-back passer with stellar playoff mileage — 15 postseason starts, 10 of them wins — and a familiarity-slash-comfort with being the public face of a premier NFL franchise. For Flacco, it meant a fresh start in a new market, and a chance for Joe Cool to prove himself all over again. To Broncos fans. To the Ravens. And to doubters throughout the NFL.
“Listen, I’ve been in the league long enough to know that success is nothing but winning football games,” Flacco said. “I don’t care if you’re a young team, if you think you’re rebuilding — if you go win six, seven, eight games, that’s not success. Everybody’s real expectations are to go win games and be in the playoffs. Then from there, see what happens and go win a Super Bowl … and that’s what I’m trying to do the rest of my career: win the Super Bowl.”
The chip on Flacco’s shoulder that Elway likes so much isn’t just real — it’s spectacular. Just ask new Broncos coach Vic Fangio, who invited the quarterback up to his hotel room a few nights ago to talk shop, and admitted before the conversation that he “was a little worried that he wouldn’t be excited to be here, having been out on the East Coast his whole life.
“But I had to kick him out of the room about two hours later. He’s fired up to be here.”
He’s fired up about moving from the AFC’s most black-and-blue division, the North, to its most wide-open in the West, where Patrick Mahomes, Philip Rivers, and Derek Carr reside, and shootouts are the rule.
“It’s a high-flying division right now, and I’m excited to be a part of that,” said Flacco, who’s completed 61.7 percent of his passes with 212 touchdowns and 136 picks. “But at the same time, we’ve got an awesome, defensive-minded head coach that I think we can benefit from a ton.”
Flacco has a .595 career winning percentage in regular-season games (106-72) and a .667 percentage in the postseason (10-5).
“I played in a lot of tight games in Baltimore,” Flacco said. “We relied on our defense a lot. It’s just always been kind of the culture around there and what people see us as. But we played in a lot of hard-fought games. Because of that, I think when that happens, you’re not going to have games that look pretty, but you’re going to be tested a lot. You’re going to be put through the ringer a lot.”
You might get hit a lot, too. Flacco was viewed as expendable by Harbaugh and the Ravens after he’d suffered a hip injury, and his absence opened up a window for Jackson to take the reins.
“I’m as healthy as I’ve ever been, I’m as physical as I’ve been,” assured Flacco, who’s due to make $18.5 million this season; his contract runs through 2021. “And barring anything crazy happening, I’m as healthy as I can be, and as physical and as ready to go as ever.
“I want to play as long as I can. And hopefully they’re dragging me out of this building a long time from now.”