Joe Flacco joining Eagles to 'help' Jalen Hurts but also 'prove' he can still play

Joe Flacco is with his fourth team in as many years, and while he didn't specifically admit it Thursday, he's walking into a situation in which he's expected to serve as a veteran backup.

Flacco brings value to the Eagles, of course, carrying with him years of starting experience and a Super Bowl ring that included him winning Super Bowl XLVII MVP. But the Eagles aren't exactly positioned to seriously contend in 2021, and they have a younger signal-caller in Jalen Hurts, who is widely expected to be Philadelphia's starter this fall.

That would mean Flacco's greatest value to the Eagles would be through mentorship, or at the very least, serving as a reliable backup with enough wisdom to help Hurts improve as a professional. Just don't ask Flacco to explicitly admit it.

"Well, like I said, I think every quarterback room, guys help each other," Flacco explained when asked if he'd mentor Hurts. "That's what we're here for. That's what the whole team does. So, I'm going to do my part, and we're going to win a lot of football games. And part of that is getting in the QB room, grinding and helping each other out."

Flacco mentioned the importance of competing on multiple occasions Thursday, leading some to believe he thinks he might be joining the Eagles with a chance to battle for the starting job. That would go against Philadelphia's presumed plans to see what the franchise has in Hurts, and would indicate the Eagles are more about putting their best possible option out on the field instead of building a team for the long term.

Such an approach essentially landed the Eagles in their current position, at which they've traded away the quarterback they once identified as their franchise guy, and have seen a significant roster turnover that would suggest they're not quite in position to fight for a division title. Crazier things have happened in the NFC East, especially, but envisioning Flacco as the Week 1 starter just seems like a dream held by few, not a likely reality.

Flacco wouldn't deny that he'd like to start, of course -- what player wouldn't? -- but he also explained his use of "competing" at length when repeatedly pressed on the topic.

"I'm not even really looking at it at that way at this point," Flacco said when asked if he believed he'd be battling for the starting job. "Like I said, I really just want to come in and -- your goal as a football player is always to show people around you that you can play football. I don't care what level of playing that is, whether you're the first string, second string, third string guy on the team, you still want to prove to everybody on the football team that you can play football and you deserve a spot on this team in some capacity. And that's really what my job is.

"Once I meet the guys and dive into this offense, it's going out on the field and proving to everybody that I'm not just some old guy that's been around the league and is coming to a new team. My job is to prove to these guys that I deserve some respect and I can play this game at a high level. That's really what I mean by being competitive and competing is just showing guys that I know how to do this and I'm gonna show you I know how to do this. You don't have to look at what I've done in the past in a positive way or a negative way. Just take it for what it is, what you see today, and that's what I'm here to do."

Flacco's brief appearances included an outing against New England that nearly produced an upset victory for the woeful Jets, and as a whole, his 80.6 passer rating recorded in five games wasn't too shabby. But you'd be hard pressed to find a realistic follower of the NFL who identifies Flacco as a viable starter in 2021, a far cry from where he was when he left Baltimore for Denver in 2019.

A neck injury shortened his time in the Mile High City, and it wasn't until he was cleared from that ailment that he was able to find work last season. He proved he can be a reliable backup, but at 36 years old, that's about his ceiling at this point.

It is and should be full steam ahead with Hurts as QB1 in Philadelphia, provided the Eagles don't draft another quarterback next month. In case of emergency, the Eagles will turn to Flacco. But thinking otherwise is simply unrealistic at this point.

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