Joe Flacco had been the MVP of Super Bowl XLVII two seasons earlier when then-Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome made C.J. Mosley the 17th pick of the 2014 draft.
So for much of the next five seasons, Flacco was the quarterback of the Ravens’ offense, and Mosley was the quarterback of the Ravens’ defense.
Déjà vu all over again Sunday at MetLife Stadium, when Flacco replaces Mike White as quarterback of the Jets’ offense and Mosley tries to call an audible as quarterback on a free-falling Jets defense.
“I feel that he’s ready more now than ever,” Mosley said.
He recalled his rookie days with Flacco as his quarterback.
“I had high expectations from hearing his name, from being a football fan, from growing up being a Ravens fan, so I was very familiar with his play,” Mosley said.
Flacco led the Ravens to a wild-card win over the Steelers that 2014 season before falling to the Patriots. By the time the Ravens returned to the playoffs in 2018, Flacco had been benched in favor of rookie Lamar Jackson. Then he was traded to the Broncos. Then he was 0-4 as Jets starter in 2020. Then he signed a one-year, $3.5 million guaranteed deal with the Eagles. Then the Jets reversed course on their veteran backup quarterback philosophy and traded a conditional sixth-round pick for him on Oct. 26. Then Mike White happened. Then Mike White un-happened.
“Honestly, I feel like not too much has changed as far as the way he approaches the game,” Mosley said. “Obviously he’s older and wiser. He was a vet when I came in the league, but the experiences that he had as a football player the past few years from being a starting quarterback to losing his job to going to a new team, all that plays a part in your leadership and the way you approach the game. … I’m expecting to see the same Joe Flacco that I saw in the past.”
Mosley marveled at a dime Flacco threw in Thursday’s practice.
“You can’t coach that arm talent,” Mosley said. “With the things that he’s seen, you just can’t take that away no matter what happened in the past few years.”
They called Flacco “Joe Cool” because of the ice water in his veins as a rookie out of Delaware who led the 2008 Ravens to the AFC Championship game. Mosley happens to be the same type of leader.
“He’s not gonna be doing all the pregame speeches and giving all the hoorah speeches” Mosley said, “but you don’t have to be the loudest one in the room to be a good leader.”
Flacco, because of his experience and demeanor, provides a comfort level to the offense. It was a stunning decision to turn to him, and it pulled the rug out from under White, formerly known as Zach Wilson’s backup, but suddenly Flacco’s backup.
“I heard the coach [Robert Saleh] said the decision was based on experience,” Mosley said. “I don’t think he got benched because of a bad game. He brought Joe Flacco for a situation like this, and it’s his time. That’s pretty much the end of the story on that one.”
His younger Jets defensive brothers look to Mosley for wisdom and guidance, and he stepped up Tuesday when the players had a sort of therapy session in the absence of the coaches.
When Mosley entered the NFL out of Alabama, he looked around the Ravens’ locker room and gazed at the likes of Ray Lewis and Ed Reed and Terrell Suggs. Now he is Lewis, he is Reed, he is Suggs.
“I was just letting my guys know that despite the position that we’re in, I was kind of explaining how I was in a similar position with Baltimore when I first came in the league, being a young guy and having to learn on the fly, learn from my mistakes,” Mosley said. “But I was saying the difference between what we have now, with the Ravens, we had a lot of vets at each position, that when you mess up, the first thing you’re coming to is not always coaching, you have those vets that have seen that look or that can tell you what to do or tell you how to alter your position a little bit. We don’t have that luxury of having that many guys on our defensive side that have that experience.
“I said we can use that as advantage or we can make that excuse. So that being said, the young guys, they gotta learn from mistakes fast and not keep repeating ’em, and for the older guys, we gotta make sure that we’re doing the right things every day to show them and lead them the right way to be ready for the game. Be mentally prepared and physically prepared. That was pretty much the message from my point of view, not to have an excuse just ’cause we don’t have the star players or all these big-name guys. When you have a bunch of guys that are doing things the right way, come to work every day with the right mindset to do their job, you don’t need a bunch of superstars.”
The session was a success.
“I think that was beneficial for us now, and in the long run,” Mosley said.
The Jets’ defense, humiliated and embarrassed, has allowed 175 points over the past four games, the second-most in a four-game span by any team since 1970. The coaches will not perform surgery on a scheme they believe in, a scheme that would undoubtedly work with a bunch of superstars.
“I think our morale is great,” Mosley said. “We get a chance to really see who we are, how we respond. We really just let everything that we can’t control go and came out with a positive attitude this week.”
Tua Tagovailoa and the RPO threat may be real, but he’s not Josh Allen, and the Dolphins are not the Bills. Mosley will continue to serve as an invaluable player-coach in a system he is closer to mastering than the rest of them.
“I understand my job assignment and I understand my brothers’ job assignment,” he said.
And he understands that Joe Flacco understands his job assignment.
“I’m not concerned about how his play’s gonna be or what he’s gonna do,” Mosley said.
The quarterback on offense will need help from the quarterback on defense. And vice versa. Just like old times.