Jets backup QB Joe Flacco connects with Post columnist Steve Serby for some Q&A ahead of his fourth start of the season, with Sam Darnold sidelined with a shoulder injury.
Q: What was the feeling like holding the Lombardi Trophy after you won Super Bowl XLVII MVP by beating the 49ers in February 2013?
A: I don’t know if I was on this planet. My wife, my mom were down on the field, and I just remember looking back at them. It’s tough to look back on that ’cause I don’t know exactly what memories are real and what I’m just kind of making up. It was definitely otherworldly.
Q: Describe your on-field mentality.
A: I try to stay as in the moment as I can. My on-field mentality is, to a certain extent, how I am off the field. I’m probably a little bit more reserved on the field. I don’t like to let my emotions get the best of me, I like to try to stay in the moment as much as possible. I’m confident, but I don’t like to showboat, and I tend to view a lot of the things other than your normal celebrations or sitting on the bench and not crying and not doing a bunch of antics. I kind of view a lot of those things as, “Look at me,” or you’re looking to pass blame on others, so I just try to stay as even as I can and not let my emotions get the best of me, no matter what might be going on mentally. Stay in the moment and try to persevere no matter what.
Q: Didn’t that result in criticism that you didn’t care enough?
A: I think I’ve probably, to some extent, gotten that my whole life. People don’t know what to make of it, I guess. It’s tough to say. I definitely have gotten criticized for it. But it’s who I am (chuckle). I grew up in a family [where] that’s not what was rewarded — showboating, celebrating. It wasn’t like you couldn’t show emotion, it was nothing like that, but those things didn’t matter. What mattered was playing well, and doing the right things and carrying yourself like a professional just in a respectful way. It’s not in my personality to do that. I’d be embarrassed to start dancing around in my bedroom by myself, let alone in front of a billion people. I played sports because I loved playing the sports, not because of the attention that necessarily you get from ’em, it’s just kind of part of it.
Q: Describe Ray Lewis.
A: First of all, he’s the best linebacker to ever play. Unbelievable leader. It wasn’t even all the stuff that everybody saw. It wasn’t all the speeches … those things are cool, don’t get me wrong. When you sit in front of Ray Lewis and hear him give a speech, it’s tough not to be like, “Holy s–t, man, this is unbelievable.” When you see him come out of the tunnel, it’s one of the best experiences you’ll ever go through on a football field, especially when you’re on his side. And I remember looking over my shoulder and watching the other team just stopping and staring and looking at him. But there was something more to him, there’s something about him. When he was around, when he was on the field with you, there was always a sense of calm and a sense of control. It just seemed like we were going to control this game. And it seemed like, no matter what the situation, he was able to make everybody feel good about whatever the situation we were in was, and then turned it into an advantage for us. He’s a unique person, and a unique football player.
Q: Ed Reed.
A: I swear to God, it seems like every game I played with Ed, he had an interception. He just knew how to find the football. And when he got to the football, he never missed, he made the play every single time. You get spoiled.
Q: Describe Ray Rice, and his controversy — charged with simple assault of his wife Janay on an elevator in 2014.
A: I think ever since the controversy, Ray’s proven to be a pretty damn good guy. I have nothing but good things to say about Ray. Obviously, it was unfortunate what he went through, and I think he’s probably learned from that, and I think he handled that situation well, I think his wife handled it well. But Ray was a fun, young kid, awesome personality, great to be around, really hard worker. I think Ray Lewis had a really good influence on him.
Q: Describe the 34-minute Super Bowl brownout, which seemed to ruin the Ravens’ momentum.
A: I guess you could say that for sure just because of the way it ended up working out and the fact that they kind of built a little bit of momentum after that, but who knows if that would have happened anyway, you know?
Q: Colin Kaepernick led the 49ers comeback.
A: I don’t think he had a ton of rushing yards against us, which was probably a big part of us beating them. They definitely got in a groove there in the second half, it was more him to Vernon Davis, him to [Michael] Crabtree. They were able to actually start moving the ball through the air a little bit.
Q: How neat was it beating Peyton Manning’s Broncos and Tom Brady’s Patriots on your way to Super Bowl XLVII?
A: It was cool, man. I don’t think you really think about it when you’re in that moment, especially since I’d played ’em a couple of times at that point.
Q: Where does your last-minute, 70-yard touchdown bomb to Jacoby Jones to force overtime in the double-OT divisional round win over the Broncos rank?
A: It’s pretty up there. I just remember being in the locker room after that game. I remember getting on the bus after that game — probably an hour, or an hour-and-a-half after the game was over — and I was still on Cloud 9. I was still hootin’ and hollerin’ at the top of my lungs. I was still seeing guys on the bus making phone calls and just screaming into the phone. I’ve never been in a more emotional locker room after a game, never. I don’t anticipate I ever will be. And that throw obviously had a lot to do with that.
Q: What is your most bitter defeat?
A: Oh, for sure it was going up to New England in a 2011 AFC Championship game [Jan. 22, 2012], the year before we went up there and beat ’em in it. We were driving down with like 20 seconds left, and we had a chance to score a touchdown, we didn’t score a touchdown. We ended up lining up to kick a field goal to tie the game, and we missed it. You’re literally inches away from going to a Super Bowl, and then the game’s over and you lost, and now you gotta stare a whole new season in the face and get back on and try to do it all over again.
Q: You got grief after saying, “I think I’m the best” quarterback in the NFL in 2012.
Q: I was doing a radio show and somebody asked me basically, “Who do you think is the best?” Whether you say you are or whether you say you aren’t, you’re gonna get a little something because of that.
Q: Define what “Jersey Guy” means.
A: (Laugh) Well, I just think they got a certain attitude to ’em. Honestly, it depends on where you’re from. You’re a New Yorker or you’re basically from Philadelphia. I think both of those cities have a certain attitude to ’em, that’s kind of like — you don’t want to say it — but it’s kind of like an F-U mindset. You grew up around a few wiseguys, you probably grew up with a pretty blue-collar working class background, and it molds you into who you are today, you know?
Q: What do you remember about Jets GM Joe Douglas scouting you at Delaware for the Ravens?
A: (Laugh) If I was to think back at Delaware, I don’t exactly know what I remember from Joe. You don’t necessarily know too much about what they think of you, but it wasn’t ’til I got to Baltimore, and there he is, you see him again, and you realize that he had a big hand in bringing you there. Joe has a presence about him though, man. He’s a big guy that looks like he can be out there with us. So he’s tough to forget.
Q: If you could challenge any cornerback in NFL history who would it be?
A: Deion [Sanders].
Q: Who was your boyhood idol?
A: I liked watching NFL Films and Barry Sanders, and by the time I got to high school, I loved watching Randy Moss.
Q: Who are athletes in other sports you admire?
A: Ken Griffey Jr.
Q: Did you consider switching to baseball after your junior year at Delaware?
A: The story kind of gets blown out of proportion a little bit. When I got recruited out of high school, that was one of the things that I thought I might want to do at some point, if I could. I brought it up to [Delaware football coach K.C. Keeler], but not really, like, I wasn’t really too serious about it at that point.
Q: How good of a basketball player were you?
A: I was a ball hog. You passed the ball to me, you weren’t getting it back. I had the Kobe [Bryant] mentality: If I got the ball, it was going up. Was I the most polished basketball player? Probably not.
Q: What drives you?
A: It’s always been to be the best, and to win. I think that in order to get to this level, you have to have a certain motivation within you, and in order to stay at this level, you definitely have to have something that drives you personally, and that’s to be the best. I want to prove to myself that I’m the best. I want to prove to everybody that I’m the best. I get motivation from my family still to this day. I talk to my dad a bunch, I talk to my wife, I talk to my siblings, at this point my kids. All of those things drive me to be better, and there’s still lessons to be learned from all of those people that help me to be best that I can be.
Q: What was your best moment at Delaware?
A: We were on a [FCS] playoff run my senior year there, we went all the way to the national championship. We ended up getting blown out by Appalachian State. But that was a ton of fun. Just staying in little hotels with your college buddies, hanging out, going to play in the football games — it was such a cool time, such a cool experience to be able to play four playoff games in college. All the Division I-A teams were kind of in their little month-long break before their bowl games, so it felt like we were kind of like the main show in town on Saturday nights, whoever we were playing.
Q: What was your best moment at Audubon High School in New Jersey?
A: We always played our rival [Haddon Township High] on Thanksgiving morning every year, and it probably was a little bit extra because the rival high school that we played was where my parents went to high school, and I had some cousins that went to high school there, so it was always a fun game. It either made your Thanksgiving dinner or completely ruined it for the night.
Q: Did you fear your career would be over after your April neck surgery?
A: I would say before the neck surgery. I definitely probably had a little bit of fear that it would be over. I wasn’t sure I wanted to get surgery; I was sure I wanted to play again. I wasn’t sure if I was gonna have to get surgery, and I wasn’t sure I was gonna want to, because I wasn’t sure I was gonna have to. I think once I made the decision to get it, I kind of felt like I was moving in the right direction. So I never really too much thought about not getting signed after I got it, I just kind of felt like if I did get it, then at some point, I’d get a chance to sign somewhere. I don’t know if that was a good thought process by me or not, but bottom line is: I wasn’t ready to be done playing. At some point along the road, it became evident that I was going to need to get the surgery if somebody was going to sign me. And I didn’t care if they weren’t going to, but that was the only chance they were going to. So I got the surgery, and I really never looked back.
Q: What was it like emotionally for you being traded by the Ravens to the Broncos in the 2019 offseason?
A: I obviously saw myself finishing my career there, and playing a long time. But at the same time, I’ve seen a bunch happen in this league. Listen, I love that city, I love their fans, I love the organization. … There’s definitely a part of me that is I wish we could have won more games and won another Super Bowl, but there’s also another part of me that’s a competitor. … Stuff happens, I want to play football at a high level, and I gotta still go out there and prove that, and that’s what this league is. It wasn’t like it was like a sudden thing, like it came out of the blue, like, “Hey Joe, you’re traded now,” and I had no idea that was coming. I don’t think I was too affected by it. I was more excited about the opportunity I was gonna be given in Denver than I was down about getting traded.
Q: Describe the Ravens-Steelers rivalry.
A: The reason that those are such good rivalries is because how intense the fans are about the rivalry in both cities.
Q: How much longer do you want to play, and thoughts on life after football?
A: I haven’t thought about life after football, and I really don’t really think about how much longer I want to play, I just want to keep on playing ’til I can’t, and we’ll see what happens after that.
Q: Favorite movie?
A: “Shawshank Redemption.”
Q: Favorite actor?
A: Christian Bale.
Q: Favorite meal?
A: Homemade lasagna.
Q: Describe the challenge of being a father of five kids during a pandemic.
A: My wife has dealt with the brunt of that. And man, I’m surprised as to how little I’ve heard about it. It’s a shame. My kids, luckily I have a bunch of ’em, so they have built-in friends, but they need the social contact with other kids — just get out of the house and go do things with, not to mention the education part of it. Not to mention my wife’s sanity through all of this. I would say I dealt with a little bit of it when we first shut down in the spring, because I was home at that point. All of a sudden, I become a high schooler, I become a teacher, and it’s like, man, I do not have the patience for this thing. I think I’m a pretty patient person. Out on the football field, I can keep my emotions in check pretty good. I gotta tell you, in the dining room table — where there’s a bunch of papers rolling around, there’s a bunch of spelling and math and reading and writing and all kinds of homework going on — I have the patience of about a 2-year-old. Lots of yelling, lots of crying. I can’t say I was a very good influence as a teacher.
Q: What was it like when all those “Wacko For Flacco” T-shirts started popping up in the early 2010s, and do your kids wear them?
A: I don’t even know if they’ve seen ’em, man, I don’t even know they know what that is. But it was cool. I mean, [Baltimore is] a football town, so to go from being a small-school quarterback to starting in the NFL right away and having all that happen … you’re playing well, you’re winning football games, and people are loving it, it’s definitely a cool environment. I’m sure at some point I’ll have to go back — when my kids are telling me that I stink — I’m sure I’ll have to go back at some point and show them that Dad could do it. In 10 years, I’ll be talking to ’em and they’ll be sitting at the dinner table making fun of me and doing all kinds of things, and I’ll probably have to bring out some old highlights, and then some people cheering and wearing those kind of things.
Q: No one dreamed, maybe except you, of being a Super Bowl MVP coming out of Delaware, correct?
A: I’m sure there’s a certain point where nobody suspected Tom Brady was gonna win as many as he has, and everybody, Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning … Listen, I think the most important thing is that I believed it, and those guys have all believed it.
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