The detractors were always on the quarterback's case. They said he would make a big play, then infuriate them with a bad one. Said he was a nice guy but didn't have enough fire. Said he had a big arm and all the skills but the question was always whether he could lead his team to a title.
Wonder what Ravens fans are saying now about Joe Flacco?
The narrative for the Baltimore quarterback is a familiar one around these parts. Landry Jones spent his entire Oklahoma career facing the same type of criticism. It's hard to say how big the disapproving chorus is — it's definitely a minority of Sooner fans — but it's definitely been vocal.
Now, on the day Jones launches his NFL dream and plays in the Senior Bowl, you have to wonder if the questions will follow him. A month or so ago, one NFL guru pegged him the biggest enigma of this draft's quarterback class.
Just maybe, though, Flacco's story provides some much-needed perspective on Jones.
In The Oklahoman sports department, we know more about Flacco and his story than we should. That's because The Boss is a Maryland native and a Ravens fan.
He's forever talking about Flacco, and these past few weeks as the Ravens have plowed their way through the AFC and into the Super Bowl, it's only gotten worse.
Yet, what Flacco has done has been impressive. He led Baltimore to a beatdown of Indianapolis, then an overtime win at Denver, then a dismantling of Brady and the Patriots at New England. Those are three big-time wins by a guy who Ravens fans have long believed was hindering their team.
The Boss once bought his son a Flacco T-shirt.
The lad's initial response: “What am I going to do with it when the Ravens trade him?”
Now, he wears that Flacco shirt all the time.
The truth is, Flacco didn't have a full complement of offensive weapons around him until the last two seasons. Now, he's got a great tailback in Ray Rice, a full complement of receivers led by Torrey Smith and Anquan Boldin, and seam-finding tight ends in Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson. Individually, none of those guys will set the world on fire, but collectively, they provide quite an arsenal to a capable quarterback.
And Flacco has proved to be more than capable.
Which brings us back to Jones.
You can make the argument that Jones is the most talented quarterback available in this year's draft. More talented than Matt Barkley or Geno Smith or Tyler Wilson or Mike Glennon or ...
Those other quarterbacks might be familiar to you, but the North Carolina State quarterback is probably unknown to many a college football fan. (He is playing in the Senior Bowl on Saturday afternoon if you want to check him out.) According to some NFL mock draft types, Glennon is one of the quarterbacks who will be picked ahead of Jones — and maybe way, way ahead of him.
It seems crazy. Jones has fantastic arm strength paired with great touch. He can make every throw. He is a solid yet fluid 6-foot-4, 221 pounds. He can check off pretty much every box you want on a quarterback.
But we all know that playing quarterback is about more than measurables. It's about having that “it” factor.
Does Jones have “it”?
There were plenty among the Ravens faithful who were sure that Flacco didn't. Much like Jones, Flacco is a quiet, reserved guy. He isn't a rah-rah leader, and some mistook that as a bad thing.
Now, Baltimore loves its steely, steady leader.
Could Landry Jones be the next Joe Flacco?
It doesn't seem entirely kooky. Flacco was much-less heralded in college. He transferred to Delaware from Pittsburgh, where he couldn't beat out Tyler Palko. But he became a first-round pick because he impressed the scouts and because quarterbacks generally tend to rise through the pre-draft process.
Jones will likely rise, too.
He can be successful as an NFL quarterback if a team will surround him with the right players and ask him to do what he does well. Of course, that's a big if, since plenty of NFL teams lack good players and ask their quarterback to do too much.
The situation, as is often the case, will have to be right for Jones. But who says it can't be?
Beyond Saturday's Senior Bowl, no one has any way of knowing where this journey will lead Jones. But Flacco is a reminder that regardless of what detractors might say, the path might just lead somewhere great.
Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at (405) 475-4125. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK, follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok or view her personality page at newsok.com/jennicarlson.