Football author and historian Howard Balzer is one of our favorite O.G. encyclopedic resources for all things and perspective on the history of the National Football League. He joins Nestor here to discuss the Ravens’ path to Super Bowl and Lamar’s path to quarterback immortality.
play, win, lamar, defense, flacco, week, baltimore, year, postseason, team, put, game, super bowl, rams, quarterback, happen, louis, balls, stafford, ravens
Nestor J. Aparicio, Howard Balzer
Nestor J. Aparicio 00:01
wn st Towson, Baltimore and Baltimore positive I happy Festivus to everybody out there celebrating, we’re putting together the biggest charitable effort that we’ve ever put together. We’re calling a crab cake row. It’s gonna happen Super Bowl week, a couple of Super Bowl we’re gonna be doing for our friends at the Maryland Food Bank. I’ll have some more information on that our friends at the Maryland lottery giving away a whole bunch of scratch offs instead of the crabcake tour this month. We’re chilling out letting Lamar bake and win a Super Bowl. And we’re gonna be doing this beginning February 5 all over Baltimore. You’re gonna be hearing more and more about it. This guy has been with me from the beginning of time. I read his work as a young lad I’m sure I was sitting there watching the draft back in 1983 when he was screwing around with John Elway and we were losing our franchise. He is from the fighting city of Philadelphia and the City of Brotherly Love but spent a really long time out St. Louis chasing around the for meal rams and the greatest show on turf. He’s a longtime Hall of Fame voter I promised everybody this week because I haven’t done a ton of football I do a lot of football but not a ton the way I used to that I would be going to some of my favorite people that I always had on during radio row and certainly during my esteemed 32 year career as a sports media representative our Bowser is out in in the sunshine where he deserves to be after that you know it’s it keeps going west pretty soon he’ll this alien California put his feet in the water. He’s been out in Arizona now and I see him running around with the Cardinals from time to time out there and doing all sorts of things. No one knows more about the history of the game than my friend Howard balls are what’s up ah balls or what’s well what’s life like out there in the desert these days.
Howard Balzer 01:43
Life is awesome. In a desert there’s no doubt about it. Even at this time of the year when you get a stretch of weather where the highs and the mid the mid to upper 50s And everybody who’s a native is going around going oh my god I can’t believe how cold it is. And I’m saying you don’t know cold you don’t know cold but it’s still sunny virtually every day. So it’s it’s a nice life in a big city certainly.
Nestor J. Aparicio 02:09
Well it’s not sunny here but I’ll tell you what the sunshine and it’s been a hell of a year for Baltimore. Right like the Orioles first place sort of door to door. They get whacked right away by the rangers and it’ll disappointment. And then the Lamar train starts right with the Detroit blowout and just all the way through and do there’s a level of your sports guy and sports towns, this level of expectation and you’re familiar with with the Rams when they won and then last year beginning of the Tom Brady dominance and all that really the end of the franchise there and I’ve had my high court judge on earlier and Sam Cabarrus you guys have bought I had my Baltimore Colts belt buckle out still so you know and the Oilers. Yeah, the Addams Family keeps rubbing salt the wounds of anybody that really loved the Oilers, like me and people in Houston by wearing those those jerseys. Were at a weird time, right? I mean, you’re moving franchises, and then chase the other owner back there to get to Phoenix. And but we’re here on the cusp of maybe our third parade, like literally, since St. Louis had the one right. And in this era, and but it’s treacherous, right. I mean, these couple of weeks and winning these games. These are the ones that put you in Hall of Fame conversation when you get together and vote out. No doubt,
no doubt about it. And it’s, you know, it is a team thing, obviously. And I always argue that we shouldn’t always judge players, quarterbacks coaches are the ones who are judged the most on winning championships. Because like you said, this time of the year is, it’s, it’s brutal, because you’re the best or playing the best. And that’s just the way it is. I think sometimes sometimes it’s unfortunate how we sometimes maybe downgrade or not respect those that lost, but most of the time you’re losing to a darn good football team. But there’s no doubt that when the discussions occur, and players are being compared a lot of times championships or things like that can be a tiebreaker or at least be a separator, if you will. And that’s you know that that’s where legacies are built. There’s no question about I mean, let’s be honest, Tom Brady is considered quote the goat and the greatest of all time, not not all, not only because of what he did as a quarterback but because the teams he was on won all those championships, and yet the paid Peyton Manning, want, you know, he was he was on two winning teams, but the second one was because of the defense and he wasn’t really playing that well. So even some of the great quarterbacks ever don’t, a ton of them, don’t win, don’t even win Super Bowls don’t even get there. But then if they do, you know, you’re fortunate to win one or two. And it’s few and far between, especially in this day, where where you’re going to put multiple championships together and that’s how you’re right that’s how A lot of people are judged. I think sometimes that’s a little bit unfair, but it’s unfortunately the way it is
Nestor J. Aparicio 05:07
our boss or is our guest. He is a longtime friend. And so love is watching the game very, very closely and the look putting Lamar in historical perspective for two MVPs. At this point in his career for all the contract stuff last year for all of the is he going to sign nobody wants him all that the Shawn Watson nonsense that went on and now Flacco and we’ll get to him in a couple of minutes as well, because we’ll paint some history with him from a guy who was at the beginning of Kurt Warner and Flacco has an opportunity, three hours away from going to another Super Bowl against all odds and with the defense to do it, and some some pieces to do it. But Lamar and where Lamar sits in all of this for for the next month, and for what he’s really done. The first five, six years of a career. This is the illusive part for it. It was for Peyton Manning for a long time. And and you know, you still don’t want to bring it up with Dan Marino. Right?
Right. Yeah, no, exactly. One, you know, one time in the Superbowl. And that was early in his career. And then I think he played 18 years. And his last 16, I think it was not only no Super Bowls, there were a lot of years without even the playoffs. So it just shows that no matter how great a guy is, as a passer, quarterback, whatever it is, you better have the team around. And that is still the most important thing in the ultimate team sport. That there is, and, and but what and so what Lamar Jackson has done is pretty phenomenal. And I think the questions about him were legitimate. And I think mostly, it was It wasn’t centered around as much about what he can do. But how he was injured, the last two seasons at the end of both years. And now. And I don’t have to tell everybody there this. I mean, the last time he was MVP was a pretty quick exit in the postseason. So there’s a lot of obviously a lot of incredible expectations that with this team, the number one the see, we’ll see who they play in the first round. But yeah, it’s gonna take two really good games, no matter who they play, to get there, and they’ve certainly been on a roll at the end of the season. And that even raises, you know, if the San Francisco game had gone a little bit differently than the expectations would be high, but maybe not as high as they are now. But after that game. Oh, my goodness, it’s a people. Some people think it’s automatic. Well, it’s not automatic. They are a hell of a team though. But you better play your best in those games in the postseason. Otherwise, a close win, obviously, the you know, sends you home
Nestor J. Aparicio 07:44
for Lamar and this offense and you keep saying Lamar Lamar, it’s the Ravens right? And you talk about building team around the player, whoever it is, we go back to Archie Manning, not having the guns around him in New Orleans all these years later. But last year with Roman in the in the running game and the philosophy of Lamar running and being a running threat but not a running back according to him. And the criticisms of distributing the ball down the field not being a pocket passer boy, you know, he’s really started to take off all the checks and all the asterisks for the things he couldn’t do. And the things that he wasn’t allowed to do but more than that, the talent around him right like having wide receivers, you can go get the ball having an offensive line having a running game. Last Mark Andrews but likely is filled in nicely, but this is to me as much about Eric d’acosta and building ro Quan Smith, building a defense building an offensive line with veteran players. Finding Odell Beckham even though it hasn’t been the greatest statistical part of this. It was almost like a bait a one year deal because he happened before Lamar, they needed to show Lamar that Lamar can win here to some degree. And all of that darkness of the dark cloud of the offseason and his injury and not being at the playoff game last year when it counted the year ago this week and even shot the beat with his teammates on the silent. So all of that happened. It feels like ancient history now, right? I mean, how quickly the narrative changes when the offense changes, the personnel changes. And it helps a quarterback to have a guy like ro Quan Smith and Kyle Hamilton and Mike McDonald is gonna go get himself a job probably by the end of the week, as well as Harbaugh’s brother. All of this is has played into this, but it really is a lot bigger than Lamar. If you’re explaining it. No
question. No question. I lose that 40 Niners game, and that was about the defense as much as anything that’s the first half was was kind of just okay. For the Ravens offensively, and it was a close game at halftime, but that defense that just stepped up and was lights out and that you know, that’s that just shows, you know what can happen. I mean, you mentioned Kurt Warner earlier. I mean, he had one more Super Bowl if the defense had been able to stop this dealer’s after after the Cardinals went ahead in the Superbowl, but they couldn’t, and Pittsburgh won that Super Bowl. So there’s so many facets of the NFL, but like what I found really interesting what you said next year was where you talked about the narrative, how quickly it changed. Hey, narratives changed in the NFL every week. I mean, you know, there’s so much overreaction and over evaluation by what happens in one game. And one example, a perfect example, is back however many weeks it was when the Steelers were seven and four. And all anybody was saying was might how’s this team seven and four. This is a testimony to what a great coach Mike Tomlin is. This team isn’t that talented. Then they went on a little losing streak, right? And all of a sudden, the topic on all the shows where they just have to fill segments was is it time for Mike Tomlin to move on? Is it time for the Steelers, I
Nestor J. Aparicio 10:52
don’t do that kind of radio. It’s just insane. It’s just insane. I mean, it really is.
The other one, and they’re in the postseason, with Mason, Rudolph, you know, you know, playing solid coming down the stretch, and they’re in the postseason again. And all of a sudden, it’s quiet about Mike Tomlin so that the narratives are always going to change tremendously. Like I said, they change from week to week, month to month, year to year, whatever it is, and but when you talk about Hall of Fame legacy, that’s why we that’s why we don’t look at it until way down the road, not only when a player’s finished his career, but then after he after he’s out of the game for five years. And then you start really considering and some guys, you know, are headed there. Others, you know, there’s going to be an interesting discussion. And it’d be very, very interesting to see what what Lamar does what he does the rest of this season and the rest of his career. But what he’s done, especially this year, if you’re losing Andrews, as you alluded to, that, you know, there was a lot more people Oh, my goodness, what’s going to happen to this offense now, and they still played winning football, that we’ll see. We’ll see if they can do it for for another three games.
Nestor J. Aparicio 11:57
The Kurt Warner story different than the Joe Flacco story, but Flacco five years of playoffs through the past to take him to the Super Bowl that Lee Evans drop comes guarantees, then guaranteed it’s that he’s the best quarterback believe that goes out and wins the Super Bowl, gets his contract. And it’s amazing Howard in this town, I don’t know what the legacy will be for Nick Foles. And your hometown. Certainly not the same as it is for Kelsey or some other guys that have made sort of a legend in Philly. But Flacco is a Philly kid, you know, and he comes down here and wins and gets jettisoned. And they bring them all in and it’s like it never missed a beat. And Flacco went off to, you know, the jets and Philadelphia and looked old and tired and all that. I talked to him in August, he said to me, I still want to play. And then he gets signed, late by Cleveland on a Friday afternoon flies, and we’re like, Well, what are we going to see? And we clearly see this guy that took three, four or five months from the summer on getting ready to be in this position, and maybe believe that that he added we would have a chance to play again, but maybe just as a backup, this is one hell of a movie, if he can win a game or two. And a game or two would mean beating Baltimore, right. I mean, where are you on the Flacco thing and seeing this and maybe some shades is something that reminds you of Kurt Warner a little bit.
Well, this this one is, I mean, maybe there’s other situations like this. But it’s unprecedented, I think, to come to a team that late, you know, it’s one thing if you weren’t playing and then all of a sudden, you start playing and you were just there as the backup. It’s another thing that come to a team as late as he did. I mean, you know, Kurt Warner was was just, you know, over the top, but, you know, he he got the job as the season was beginning. Certainly no one expected it to happen. But also that team behind them around him was was it was incredible. You know, the browns. They have talent on offense. Don’t get me wrong, but it’s not a great offensive team like those rams teams were and peck that you know, they lost Nick Chubb that running back way early in the season. So what they’ve been able to do, and granted, it’s on it’s on the that defense you know, we talked about the Ravens in the defense, you know, the brown stayed in the hunt with all these different quarterbacks because of their defense, led by mile miles Garrett and that’s they’ve done a tremendous job. And so when the defense is stopping, you know, it doesn’t put as much pressure on the offense to make those plays at critical times. It’s second long clips third and long quarter. Don’t worry about there’s no there’s no crime and putting will get the ball back, right because the defense is going to stop and that makes it a lot different to call plays on offense when you have that complimentary piece on the other side of the ball on defense and so the Browns have that. That’s what makes us intriguing you look at the Texans who they’re playing this week in Houston, and offensive Rookie of the Year probably and CJ Stroud incredible job that tomato Ryan’s has done as as the head coach, and that their defense is pretty darn good too. So that that could be, I think that’ll be that should be a heck of a game to kick off the weekend. But we’ll see. We’ll see what Flacco can do in the postseason. Now that they’re playing against some some darn good teams that are that have really good momentum. Spend
Nestor J. Aparicio 15:23
some unlikely stuff, man, I was there the day you lost your franchise, they’re gonna go play in LA, they’re going to build in Carson. They’re going to do all this. Now they have their television network out there. It’s been a minute, they’ve won a Super Bowl, the Rams. And now they’re going to take Stafford back to Detroit. And of all the things you can wreck screwing up things for Cleveland or Detroit almost feels unholy at this point, because they’ve been so awful for so long. They’re here. I mean, even the bills have never won, right? But the lions rams thing and your long history with the rams and all that they’ve done there. This, this is an unlikely story and certainly one that the NFL wants on primetime without a peacock designation. Exactly.
No, you’re right on that. Because, of course the obviously with Stafford going there. And with Jared Goff, who has been, I think one of the most least least respected starting quarterbacks in the NFL, all the narrative is on him as well. One of the lines is going to move on to somebody else. And all Jared Goff has done with the Rams has helped them get to a Super Bowl. And you know, we’ll never know what would have happened had Stafford not become available when he did and the Rams made that trade. If that hadn’t happened. Who knows maybe the Rams stick with Jared Goff. But you know, they want a lot of games with him at quarterback. And what people have forgotten. Is or overlooked is that Brad Holmes, who was the lions, general manager, who made that trade, was the Director of College scouting with the with the Rams when Jared Goff was drafted. So he wanted golf as part of that deal. And he’s lived up, you know, yeah, he had some tough stretches, but what quarterback doesn’t. But, you know, he’s obviously been a big part of that, that team’s success, and how they’re able to play. Unfortunately for them, they, they might not have Sam Laporta, the incredible rookie tight end for this game, they say he might be able to play but you wonder how effective he’ll be with an injury. So you like these teams to be healthy, but sometimes that doesn’t happen. But that’s, that’s just, that’s for the Hollywood script writers, you know, to have a matchup like this, that was Stafford and golf, in the first round of the playoffs,
Nestor J. Aparicio 17:36
they add these wild card games, and the peacock and the Monday night and all that, and, you know, nine and eight teams, and whatever else is going to be through all of this. But the one seats never been more valuable than it is to have this time off. And it’s kind of hard to not like Baltimore in San Francisco right now right now.
No, no question. I mean, they’re, they’re the favorite. There’s no doubt about it. And I’m waiting for the day when there won’t, there won’t be any teams with a buy, think of the NFL could figure out how to schedule, you know, eight games a weekend, they would probably do it. But yeah, it’s great to have that week off, you always do wonder, especially when a team arrests guys in the final week of the regular season, so they’re not playing at all or much and that game, then they have a week off. And you’re playing against a team that has just won a playoff game. And they’re playing with house money going against the number one seed. A lot of times those games are a lot a lot of times a lot better than people think therapy, but they’ll be but those two are, I think are the best in the league right now. I think it would be great theater to see a rematch in Las Vegas next month. But you know, again, you still got to navigate through some some pretty good football teams, even though you look at all the other guy Lau who can really beat the Ravens who can really be the 40 Niners and you look at it and you say there’s there’s no teams as complete or as good. But we all know on the old cliche on any given Sunday, what can happen and those not There’s number one seeds have to be especially that first week, you know, just come out and play like they haven’t had time off. And so well, I’m always interested in those chat that shot those two challenge games in that following week of the playoffs. Howard
Nestor J. Aparicio 19:16
balls are one of our dear friends he is out in the desert of Arizona via Philadelphia and longtime in St. Louis. i What is it guy like you do when Ted Cruz goes away? When you get try to get in the air? My friend transferred to Lambert airport St. Louis tried to get Ted Drewes and they were sold out and I think that that’s a crime.
Yeah, I haven’t had Ted Drewes in a while, quite honestly. And but you know, that’s the way it goes. Sometimes and but yeah, that’s that’s a staple obviously, of the St. Louis community and it’s missing a lot. There’s a lot back there, but certainly don’t miss the weather at all. Well, Mr. Carter, weather in Kansas City on Saturday night. It’s supposed to the high during the day is going to be nine nine degrees and the game starts at 7pm
Nestor J. Aparicio 20:03
I used to play their football in Davie, Florida tend to not like that sort of weather. Right?
Right right. I guess you say well gosh I wonder what the temperature will be at you know at seven as opposed to nine well is it really matter at that point?
Nestor J. Aparicio 20:16
It hurts to breathe I can I can tell you from the my miracle game It hurts to breathe. And I would just say for it you know this time of year that is the great equalizer is weather right like the Ravens play all this hard to get the one seed if it’s snow sideway next weekend in the middle of the game, Joe Flacco masonry whoever it is that matter it that that is that’s the treachery of all of this, Howard, I gotta let you go man. There’s no bad weather out in Arizona. Enjoy the sun. Enjoy the football enjoy voting and enjoy radio row if you make it up to Vegas, I will not see you there. But I’m looking forward to getting together and seeing all this works out I’ll I’ll get back with you in March or April before the draft and we’ll see you at the parade who had their feelings hurt. Yeah, we’ll
look forward to a man always enjoy coming to take care. Howard balls are
Nestor J. Aparicio 21:05
one of my favorites. Any great room Raider as well. All by I get an Emmy behind him. And is that Don Meredith up? There’s at the end, Don?
Yeah. Oh, no. Oh, that little thing right up there.
Nestor J. Aparicio 21:16
Yeah. What is that? What’s that? What’s that Monday Night Football. Who says that?
That’s your brand. That’s bobblehead that they gave away? The late
Nestor J. Aparicio 21:25
Gil Brandt. Okay. Hey, I just had to ask. And I love Gil by the way so you know my thoughts to you and everybody that loves Gil. So appreciate you man.
Thanks, man. Take our balls are
Nestor J. Aparicio 21:37
out in Arizona. We’re putting together the crabcake row beginning on February 5. So I’m brought to you by the Maryland lottery conjunction with our friends at window nation and Jiffy Lube multi care. I have lots to say about that. Lots to do and lots to ask. We’ll be doing that. After more. We are wn SDA and 1570 Towson Baltimore and we never stop talking. Baltimore positive