"Is Joe Flacco elite?" is so 2013. The hottest debate in the streets is apparently "Is Joe Flacco passionate?"
Ahead of Sunday's clash with the Cowboys, the always soft-spoken quarterback drew the ire of an unlikely source in that regard: his former teammate, linebacker Ray Lewis.
"There is something called talent, right, and you see it a dime a dozen. Then there's something called being passionate about what you do, about really what you do," Lewis explained on FS1's Speak For Yourself on Thursday. "Me being around that... Gifted? Absolutely. Passionate about what he does? I've never seen that. I don't know what that looks like."
Lewis would know a little something about passion; his legendary pregame entrance is oft-imitated and revered as sacred performance art league-wide. Not to mention that the future Hall of Famer also played every snap of football like his life depended on it. While what provoked Lewis' diatribe about his former quarterback's cool demeanor isn't clear -- he was originally asked why Flacco had been inconsistent -- the linebacker clearly had to get something off his chest.
"He's always isolating himself to go sit on the bench, never talking to anybody after a big play, bad play, whatever it is. Teammates figure out how to create this core that we all get along. Then there's a fact, right? Some people will be co-workers, some people will be teammates, some people you may call friends. I call Joe Flacco a teammate; we won a Super Bowl together. What the Ravens have is a Steve Smith, is a Mike Wallace, is different personalities now that can make him rally because that's the only thing that can really bring him out of that.
"I don't know how many times you hear somebody really just go out on a limb to defend, He's the greatest teammate I've ever had. ... Maybe his personality is just not that personality. He's not a ra-ra guy; he won't say much. But still, in the game of football, there has to be some burning fire behind you, there has to be something that speaks that is bigger than me. This is us, this is a core. Whether you understood that I used to do or why I used to do it, sometimes I didn't ra-ra for me. Sometimes I ra-ra because my boys need to ra-ra."
Flacco caught wind of Lewis' comments and went on SiriusXM's Schein on Sports on Friday to read between the lines.
"It's something that I've always dealt with. It's my personality," Flacco said when asked about Lewis' comments. "When things are going well, people are asking why it's a good thing. When things aren't going well, they want to question you and different parts of your game. I'm not going to sit here and talk too much about it. It is what it is. Ray can think what he thinks. I'm here to lead these guys, keep us on top and keep us moving forward."
No one has ever argued that Flacco was an inspiring sideline presence, akin to Tom Brady or Russell Wilson. But it's interesting to hear from someone who knew him well that Flacco's lax attitude is actually a detriment to the team.