11:34 AM PST, March 6, 2013
Joe Flacco will need every bit of his Joe Cool persona next season.
By getting that $120.6 million mega-deal from the Ravens, he's made himself a huge target for criticism every time the Ravens don't play well.
Sure, he was always a favorite target of angry fans. It comes with the territory when you're an NFL quarterback. But this new contract will ratchet the pressure a hundred times more.
The minute he has a bad game, the Flacco haters — and there are still a ton of them — will come out of the woodwork. And they'll be even louder than before.
Oh, it'll be brutal. At a time when hundreds of thousands of people are out of work or terrified of losing their jobs, at a time of budget woes and automatic spending cuts, unloading on rich-guy quarterbacks is a favorite pastime of football fans.
And it won't just be the fans ripping Flacco when he doesn't play well. No, the media will be all over him, too.
It's human nature, unfortunately. The very worst of human nature, if you want to know the truth. We build up athletes and entertainers and politicians, only to tear them down at the slightest hint that they're not perfect, that they're flawed human beings like the rest of us.
So that's the bad news about Flacco's monster new deal — if anything about signing a multi-million dollar contract can truly be considered bad.
The good news is that Flacco, maybe better than almost any big-name athlete you can think of right now, can handle the pressure.
In his five seasons with the Ravens, he's been absolutely unflappable. And this is a guy who's been criticized more than any other winning quarterback in recent memory not named Eli Manning.
Think about it: Flacco's been ripped for holding onto the ball too long, for having no pocket awareness, for not being able to throw on the run, for being afraid to throw into tight windows.
He's been ripped for showing no emotion, for being boring, for failing to stand up to former offensive coordinator Cam Cameron and demand changes to the offense.
Maybe the better question is: what hasn't Flacco been ripped for? In fact, he was still getting hammered on sports talk radio and message boards right before he signed his new deal.
Here the guy had just had a playoff run for the ages, with huge games in wins over Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos, Tom Brady and the New England Patriots and Colin Kaepernick and the San Francisco 49ers.
Here he was coming off a sparkling three-touchdown, MVP performance in the Super Bowl.
Didn't matter. Right up until he signed on the dotted line, some were saying the Ravens were making a big mistake because he'd never been to the Pro Bowl and never passed for 4,000 yards.
By locking Flacco up with this big deal, the Ravens are betting on a few things here.
They're betting Flacco continues to get better and better as a quarterback and that those three magical postseason games were no fluke. They're betting that, at age 28, he has plenty of good years left.
They're betting the money won't change him as a person, either.
Did it surprise anyone that he showed up Monday in a zip-up sweater rather than a pricey suit to sign his new contract and meet with the media?
Could anybody who's followed Flacco's career be shocked that he stopped at that McDonald's drive-thru in Aberdeen for a 10-piece McNuggets and fries after signing that big deal?
Where did you think he'd go: the Four Seasons downtown? That wouldn't be Flacco. I'm surprised he didn't get a Coke and a bag of chips out of a vending machine on I-95 on the way home to New Jersey.
Finally, the Ravens are betting all that loot won't change Flacco's preparation and his workout habits, either.
He remains, by all accounts, a classic gym rat. He'd rather hang out at the Castle and throw the football around and study film than do almost anything else, the Ravens say.
Know what he's looking forward to now that he's signed that big contract?
A fancy cruise of the Mediterranean? An expensive trip to Paris?
No, offseason workouts.
"It's good to be around your guys and just have that locker room camaraderie and get out there and run a couple of routes and get everybody going," he said Monday before bolting out the door for those McNuggets.
Enjoy it while you can, Joe. Because next season, it'll be "what have you done for me lately?" all over again in this town.
Only this time, they'll be saying it much, much louder.
Listen to Kevin Cowherd on Tuesdays at 7:20 a.m. on 105.7 The Fan's "The Norris and Davis Show."
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