In some ways, the 24-hour sports news cycle has been the best thing ever to happen to people who love sports. We can debate, bounce scorching hot takes around on social media and just generally hang out in a virtual version of a sports bar and spicy chicken wing restaurant whether there’s a game on or not.
What gets forgotten in all this is that athletes tend to notice when people are talking about them, and sometimes that can derail the fortunes of entire teams.
On that latter point, Denver Broncos rookie Drew Lock is having none of the artificial controversy that media outlets are trying to stir up between him and the team’s new starting quarterback, former Baltimore Raven Joe Flacco.
At issue is Flacco’s comment earlier in the week that it is “not his job” to mentor Lock. To hear the media tell it, you’d think that it was Flacco’s job merely to keep the seat warm like an office worker being asked to train his replacement after giving two weeks’ notice.
There are just two problems with this.
One, Flacco isn’t in a great position to teach anything. The offense he ran in Baltimore when he led the Ravens to a Super Bowl victory and several playoff appearances has very little to do with the offense that coach Vic Fangio and offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello are installing in Denver.
And two, Lock said Flacco has been a big help so far.
The media blowup was sparked by the veteran’s comments in an interview after practice Monday.
“Rich does such a good job in those meeting rooms,” Flacco said, according to USA Today. “Drew is going to learn from listening to him talk and then us getting the reps on the field and seeing how we all do it as a collective group of quarterbacks. Listen, I hope he does learn from me because that means we’re out there and we’re slinging it around and having a lot of fun.
“Because he’s going to learn by watching us do it and watching us do it well. That is how he is going to learn the timing and all of those things is to be able to see it on film and hear Rich talk about it with me and digest as much of that as possible. Like I said, I hope he does learn from me because that means we’re out there lighting it up.”
Specifically asked about being a mentor, he said, “You have to be careful with how you answer that, but I think that is — like I said — it’s kind of Rich’s job. It’s to be in that quarterback room and watch. That is how you can develop. Listen, I have so many things to worry about. I’m trying to go out there and play good football.
“I’m trying to go out there and play the best football of my life. As far as a time constraint and all of that stuff, I’m not worried about developing guys or any of that. That is what it is. I hope he does it well. I don’t look at that as my job. My job is to go win football games for this football team.”
That sparked a wave of headlines like this one: “Broncos’ Joe Flacco says it’s not his job to mentor rookie QB Drew Lock.”
The lack of context in those stories, in turn, brought an avalanche of Flacco bashing on social media.
Sounds like an insecure me-first glory boy to me. Real first class teammate 🙄. Mentorship is about being secure enough in what you bring to the table to share knowledge. Flacco has to realize he’s a year away from veteran backup status. Being a good mentor will extend his career
— Ƀɍɇʈʈ (@bflippin) May 13, 2019
What a poor, selfish attitude on the part of Joe Flacco.
— Ikedixon (@Ikedixon4) May 14, 2019
I don’t understand all the QBs saying their job isn’t to be a mentor to young QBs coming into org… in what part of life (family, business, sports, etc…) do u enter where u say Im not here to do everything I am capable of to make us better, including helping next generation!?
— Kurt Warner (@kurt13warner) May 13, 2019
“He’s taught me a lot so far,” the second-round pick out of Missouri said. “He’s dealing with winning football games, I’m dealing with trying to learn. … We’re in the same quarterback room. He’s been great to me.”
Lock later spoke to The Associated Press about the Flacco brouhaha.
“Me and Joe talk out on the field, talk over things in the QB room,” he said. “I mean, it’s hard even to think about how couldn’t I learn from the guy when we’re in the same QB room every day and on the same field every day and I get to watch his reps, I get to hear the playcalls he’s running in my head through the helmet.
“I think it was just mainly him stating that, yeah, I do have a young quarterback underneath me right now but don’t forget that I’m here to win football games. And he thinks that he can do that and so do I.”
Fangio, meanwhile, addressed the quarterback non-controversy with words of his own.
“That’s on Drew to soak in and learn,” the coach said. “Joe’s learning a new system himself. As we move along there will be a lot more interaction to get to know each other, but primarily it’s on Drew to learn.”
The 22-year-old Lock, meanwhile, finds himself as a backup for the first time in his organized football life after being the star in high school and college, and he spoke to the nature of that transition.
“It’ll definitely be a little transition, but I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: If I’m going through this transition, I’m glad I can be behind Joe and hear what he has to say and learn from him,” he said Friday. “I’m excited to get to meet him and excited to get in the room with him and learn from a guy that’s won a Super Bowl.”
The media love narratives. One of the oldest sayings in journalism is that nobody ever reports about a house that isn’t on fire on the news.
So when it comes to the Denver Broncos, it’s a very promising sign indeed that the reaction of every principal character in the fictionalized drama of the 24-hour sports news cycle is to look at the mainstream sports media and suggest that maybe they’ve had one too many at the virtual sports bar and the bartender needs to cut them off.
As for the chemistry of the Broncos on the field, we’ll just have to wait until the games start in September to find out if Flacco is truly going to “win football games for this football team.”
If not, Drew Lock might just find himself learning the offense while 300-pound brutes wearing a different color on game day try to plant him in the turf.
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