On Monday night, he was Joe Montana. Six days later, Joe Pisarcik.
Who is this quarterback who wears No. 5 for the Baltimore Ravens? Fans are still trying to figure out the true identity of Joe Flacco. So are his employers as they decide whether to commit big money to the 27-year-old, whose five-year rookie deal expires this season.
In a 44-13 opening game win over the Bengals, Flacco had a rating of 128.4, supporting the offseason claim of agent Joe Linta that his client was among the top five quarterbacks in the NFL.
But in a 24-23 loss at the Eagles on Sunday, Flacco made a case for the bottom five with a rating of 66.8. In the second half he completed eight of 25 passes and failed to deliver in the two-minute drill.
This was a particularly galling loss. The Ravens forced four turnovers, and kicker Justin Tucker boomed field goals of 56, 51 and 48 yards, so the blame fell on Flacco, who had turnovers on the opening possessions of both halves.
There's some though Flacco is beyond reproach. Here's what coach John Harbaugh said after the win over the Bengals:
"Pay him whatever he wants. Pay the man," Harbaugh said. "Of course he is [elite]. He's a winner. He's one of the toughest quarterbacks I have ever been around. He's the best quarterback I've been around."
But then come performances like Sunday's. This is nothing new. Last year Flacco had a 117.6 rating in an opening-game win over the Steelers, then followed with a 51.2 rating in a loss at Tennessee.
While Flacco's supporters point to his 45-21 regular season record and that he is the only quarterback in history to win playoff games in each of his first four years in the league, detractors say the Ravens win despite him.
There's no doubt about the arm. It's the head that's in question. There's also the matter of Flacco's passive demeanor, hardly befitting of a leader for one of the most adrenaline-fueled teams in the NFL.
After four seasons of asking Flacco to manage games, the Ravens have tweaked their offense to take advantage of his ability to go downfield. More is on him this year. He either will prove he deserves to stay or he will get exposed.
- Kevin Dunleavy