Joe Flacco Provides Blueprint For Carson Wentz
When the former FCS quarterback entered the NFL with his first-year head coach, he wasn’t expected to play early on. A veteran quarterback and former first-round pick was in place as the starter, but he suddenly became unavailable shortly before the season began. Then, the third-string quarterback — the team’s top draft pick just several months prior — jumped the backup on the depth chart to start in the regular season opener and never looked back.
Eight years before that became Carson Wentz’s introduction to the NFL, Joe Flacco lived it. The Ravens draft the University of Delaware product with their first-round pick in 2008, which Wentz is well aware of. At the NFL Combine, Wentz noted how Flacco helped pave the wave for him because of the success the New Jersey native had in the NFL, while recently adding that he has followed Flacco’s career “for a while.”
“Having a guy that’s come from that level and to go in the way he did and have the success early, I think it just made people believe that it could be done again,” Wentz recently told Baltimore media. “I think he set the standard for that, at least in recent times. For me, I think that was huge.
“You always look at the I-AA guys and the small-school guys. I feel like you have a little bit of a connection to them. … I have a lot of respect for what he’s done and what he’s continuing to do.”
According to both Wentz’s and Flacco’s head coach, their introductions to the league aren’t the only similarities the two quarterbacks share. While Doug Pederson said their size and arm strength are “very similar,” John Harbaugh added that Wentz reminds him of Flacco because of how “unfazed” the rookie is in the sudden spotlight.
“Man is he impressive,” Harbaugh said of Wentz. “He doesn’t look like a rookie all year from the first week. Heck of a talent. The Eagles pulling that [trade] off and getting him on their team was a coup. He looks good.”
Where the two quarterbacks’ paths diverge, however, is their success in their rookie season. Flacco threw for less than 3,000 yards, had more turnovers (18) than touchdowns (14) and recorded a 80.3 passer rating, but he became the first rookie quarterback to win two playoff games as the Ravens’ third-ranked defense carried them to the AFC Championship.
Wentz, meanwhile, is on a team projected to finish with one of the 10 worst records in the NFL. Still, Wentz has showed significant potential in his first year, and Flacco says he isn’t surprised because too much can be made of the jump from the FCS level to the NFL.
“As long as you have the skillset, the arm and the athleticism, a lot of things are relative. It’s not like (Wentz was) playing with Division 1 wide receivers versus Division 2 defensive backs,” Flacco said. “You’re all playing with the same thing, therefore the windows are pretty similar. Unless you got some freak athlete, it’s not like you got guys getting open by a mile. It’s still football and you still have to play quarterback.
“The biggest thing is most of us come off of a pretty good college football team and in the NFL, no matter how good you are you lose at some point. So just dealing with the emotions of winning and losing football games and how big everything is. It’s not just dealing with winning and losing, it’s all the exterior you have to deal with. It’s all magnified.”
Flacco’s beginning in Baltimore also differed from Wentz’s start in Philadelphia because Flacco attempted just 428 passes, while Wentz is projected to throw 613 passes. However, Flacco believes it will help Wentz that the 24-year-old is on pace to finish the season with the second-most pass attempts among rookies in NFL history.
“It’s good for a young quarterback. It gives him a lot of experience. It will be a good thing moving forward,” Flacco said. “It’s good for your confidence to be relied on to throw the football and I think it will progress him quicker in the long run.”