By Norm Elrod

(CBS Denver/CBS Local) — Football fans sure have some strong opinions about Joe Flacco, the Baltimore Ravens quarterback who will reportedly lead the Denver Broncos next season. Sources say Flacco will be traded for a 2019 fourth-round pick next month, when deals can officially be announced.

Flacco was the center of some spirited discussion in Baltimore, when Lamar Jackson kept the starting job in the Ravens’ playoff run. Their offense sputtered in the Wild Card game, while Flacco looked on from the bench. Could Joe Cool, MVP of Super Bowl XLVII, have elevated the Ravens offense? Would his steady veteran defense have made a difference?

We’ll never know. Or will we?

Broncos fans are now lamenting John Elway’s latest quarterback move. And that’s understandable, given Elway’s suspect history bringing in quarterbacks. Here are the Broncos starters since Peyton Manning: Trevor Siemian, Paxton Lynch, Brock Osweiler and Case Keenum.

None of those names strike fear — or mild concern — in opposing defenses. Under their leadership, the team has missed the playoffs in each of the three seasons since its Super Bowl win, and exceeded a .500 record only once. The Broncos offense during that time has been middling at best, ranking 21st (230.3), 20th (208.3) and 19th (230.9) in passing yards per game,

You’d think one of the NFL’s greatest quarterbacks ever would be a better judge of quality at the position. This time may be a little different, however.

Joe Flacco is no longer a top-tier NFL quarterback, if he ever was elite. But he is a proven veteran leader, with some gas left in the tank. Flacco won a Super Bowl, and authored his share of playoff wins with a career 10-5 postseason record. And assuming there are no lingering health issues, he can still get the ball down the field.

Flacco is used to quarterbacking a team for which offense is secondary to defense. While he won’t win games on his own, he also won’t lose them. That is to say, he’s an improvement on the team’s starting quarterbacks over the last three seasons. All he needs is the proper supporting cast, which is a whole separate issue.

Flacco won’t be the long-term solution at quarterback; that player is probably awaiting the Broncos in the draft. But his contract, while a little excessive, isn’t guaranteed, which means the team has options should the relationship not work out.

So all the over-reactors in Denver and around the NFL should just relax. Joe Flacco may not be the second coming of Peyton Manning, but he is a step up from Case Keenum. Now the team can set about filling other holes in the lineup.


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