Joe Flacco says he didn't come to Eagles just to be a backup

Martin Frank
Delaware News Journal
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Joe Flacco wasn't about to mince words after signing with the Eagles, the team he grew up rooting for as a kid in South Jersey and while leading the University of Delaware to the FCS national championship game in 2007.

Sure, Flacco said Thursday, it's great playing close to home in front of his family and friends, but that's not the only reason he signed a one-year deal worth $3.5 million on Tuesday, with the possibility of earning another $4 million in incentives.

Flacco was quick to clear up the perception that he signed as a 36-year-old quarterback wanting to end his long career close to home while mentoring a young quarterback in Jalen Hurts.

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"The thing I’ve said so far is that I think competition in any room and on any team is something that brings out the best, and that’s really what I’m here to do," Flacco said. "I think it’s that simple."

That led to a follow up question as to whether he sees himself competing for the starting job with Hurts, the Eagles' second-round draft pick in 2020 who played the final 4½ games last season in place of Carson Wentz.

Flacco wouldn't go that far.

"I’m not looking at it that way at this point," Flacco said. "Your goal as a football player is to always show people around you that you can play football ... My job is to prove to these guys that I deserve some respect and I can play this game at a high level."

Playing close to home for Flacco was a bonus. He stressed that "I really didn’t want to bring in the location as a factor in my decision." 

After agreeing to a contract Tuesday, Flacco posted a picture on Instagram of himself as a kid wearing an Eagles' T-shirt, with the caption: "Rooting for the home team again ... Hope I can find this shirt."

Former Delaware quarterback Joe Flacco during a March 2 visit to the Whitney Athletic Center's Joe and Dana Flacco Family Strength and Conditioning Center.

He mentioned growing up pretending he was Fred Barnett and Keith Byars, the Eagles wide receiver and running back, respectively, in the 1990s, and rooting for legendary defensive end Reggie White.

That extended into his high school years at Audubon High School, when he rooted for Donovan McNabb and the Eagles teams that reached four straight NFC Championship games in the early 2000s, going to the Super Bowl once.

And as recently as March 2, he was at Delaware, touring the Whitney Athletic Center's Joe and Dana Flacco Family Strength and Conditioning Center.

"I've definitely been getting a lot of attention from all my buddies back home recently," Flacco said. "But listen, I grew up in this town, and I know what it’s like. There can be a lot of positives. There can be a lot of negatives about that, just knowing what (fans) are like around here. I just anticipate it being a lot of fun. I’m just really excited about it. "

New York Jets quarterback Joe Flacco warms up before an NFL football game against the Miami Dolphins, Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

Flacco's excitement has more to do with what he sees from the Eagles under new head coach Nick Sirianni and his staff that includes offensive coordinator Shane Steichen and quarterbacks coach Brian Johnson.

Flacco is older than both Steichen and Johnson, while Sirianni is only three years older than Flacco. And the Eagles are coming off a 4-11-1 season in which head coach Doug Pederson was fired, along with most of his staff, and Wentz was traded to the Colts.

"I love that Nick and Shane and all the guys on that offensive side of the ball are guys that want to make a name for themselves, and (they can) do that by winning in Philadelphia," Flacco said "So I think that’s a pretty cool opportunity to be a part of."

For Flacco, winning has been the crux of his entire career. That began when the Ravens drafted him in the first round in 2008 after he set 20 school records in his two seasons at Delaware. 

Flacco started Week 1 as a rookie with Baltimore, and led the Ravens to the playoffs in six of his first seven seasons. That included the Super Bowl in the 2012-13 season, when the Ravens won and he was named game MVP.

In all, Flacco has thrown for 40,931 yards, which ranks 19th in NFL history.

He lost his job late in the 2018 season to Lamar Jackson, the Ravens' first-round pick that season.

After the season, he was traded to the Broncos, who had just drafted Drew Lock in the second round. Flacco said then he was coming to Denver with the intention of starting, and not to mentor Lock.

Flacco did start, until a neck injury midway through the season led to offseason surgery. Flacco then signed with the Jets for $1.5 million as a backup to Sam Darnold.

Flacco embraced that role, mainly because he wasn't fully healed in time for the start of the 2020 season. He ended up starting four games in place of Darnold, throwing 6 TD passes against 3 interceptions.

Flacco said he proved that he was healthy last season, and he proved that he can still play. That's why he said he intends to compete, even if it seems all but assured that Hurts will be the starter.

Flacco said he sees competition as the only way to make himself better, while at the same time making Hurts better.

Flacco said Hurts texted him after hearing about the signing and they both expressed their excitement about being teammates.

"I still believe in myself and believe in all the things I can do," Flacco said. "I think that’s the only way you can get to where you want to and do the things you want to do. What I learned about myself last year was I love football."

That he has the chance to play close to home, on the team he rooted for as a kid, only makes him love it more.

Contact Martin Frank at mfrank@delawareonline.com. Follow on Twitter @Mfranknfl.

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