The Cincinnati Bengals figured to be more competitive in the AFC North race but after the injury to quarterback Joe Burrow midway through the season, The Jungle is a cold and lonely place in the division this January. Our pal Solomon Wilcots of Sirius XM joins Nestor from The Queen City to discuss Lamar Jackson, Joe Flacco and the rest of the race to the Super Bowl.
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Nestor J. Aparicio, Solomon Wilcots
Nestor J. Aparicio 00:01
wn st Towson, Baltimore and Baltimore positive, happy Festivus Happy New Years everybody out there celebrating. I mean the waiting is the hardest part here is we have rust versus rest. Lots of football games here this weekend some old friends like Joe Flacco, but you know that I talked a lot at length all season long and last couple years about what the pathway would be for Lamar Jackson, title a parade all the accolades and believe that and all that. I thought for sure it would involve Joe burrow at some point. I really thought it would involve Trevor Lawrence, and lo and behold, I’m checking around into places this week where they’ve got their feelings hurt. Cincinnati, Ohio is one of those places I’m waiting to find Collins work, but I got solid A Walcott’s here I’ll get around all Cincinnati for it’s over with. I will not be at the Super Bowl this year, we’re doing a thing called crabcake row is going to begin on February 5. Solomon Wilcox is one of the many many people that I’ve met and befriended through 30 years of doing radio row at the Super Bowl. I hope you’re in Vegas. I hope Lamar is in Vegas. But I’ll be here doing what I’m doing. But I tell you what, I thought Joe burrow was going to be a problem for years and years and years. And man an injury just changes everything. And we learned that here the last couple years.
Solomon Wilcots 01:17
Absolutely. And that’s the precarious nature of what it means to be an NFL player, right? It’s not about if you get hurt, it’s about when you get hurt everyone it’s a we call it it’s 100%. Risk, injury ratio, it is going to happen if you play long enough. And I just look, I don’t think we appreciate enough of NFL players what they go through every offseason, the surgeries they go through the rehabilitation process, the state of loneliness, being separated from your team, every single player, if you’re going to play any length of time, you’re going to go through that you’re going to know what that feels like. And it turns out it’s Jo girls turn but he’ll he’ll be okay. Well,
Nestor J. Aparicio 02:03
and he’s gone through it before Lamar has had it. And this time of the year when your your best players are standing and you’re playing the kind of football the ravens are playing, you get the honor of having a week off and figuring out what to do with it. And then you get to be the favorite. And you get to play like that, where everybody’s talking about you as expected to win Solly I’ve been doing this since you know beginning of time that 32 years, we’ve had a team you’re 27 years now that there’s never been anything like expected that they’ve won a couple times. And they’ve been pretty good a couple of times. But when there’s Brady and Manning in the way right, you know, roughly when any of those things happen. And that’s the thing. It’s always been hardest for me with Lamar this summer. The Orioles were unbelievable, right? And when I had this conversation about who was going to win, bring the parade first. The Orioles are the Ravens. And they’re both very credible and good teams and all that. And I thought ravens is harder because of burrow because of buffalo because of Kansas City because of them. And the way this tournament is set up because of circumstances. This looks like the golden opportunity. You never know what next year brings. or the year after that. And Tom Brady’s made it look different. I think mahomes made it look a little different, too. But mahomes has never played a game on the road in the playoffs. It’s unbelievable. This this next couple of weeks really sets up to to paint an interesting picture for the league, I think, oh,
Solomon Wilcots 03:24
there it certainly is a great opportunity for the Baltimore Ravens you have home field advantage. All you have to do is win two games at home at m&t Bank Stadium. And now you’re headed to Las Vegas Would you still have to close out the deal. And I always caution that you can only win the Super Bowl once you get there. And then you’ve got to play because there’s a lot of distractions even once you arrive and you know players and family members and things can look you can lose it between now and then you can only win it by getting to that game, getting on the field. With everybody intact, and their minds ready to compete. That’s the only time you can win it. But between now and then it could slip through your fingers very easily. We’ve seen players creep off into the night and go out and have a good time. And that serves as a distraction. We seen an injury that might occur that would keep maybe one of the key players off the field that renders you less than 100% There’s a lot of things that I’ve found that you cannot really tried to leverage the hope and all the prayers and all the good positive things you have. I’ve been on a team that was a number one see that at home field advantage. Going into the Superbowl we ended up winning our two home games and getting there and 40 seconds left on the clock and Joe Montana is riding off with our trophy. So you get it look, it’s a haul and you’ve got to really take care of every single minute detail to ensure victory. Lamar,
Nestor J. Aparicio 05:03
but what what do you say about Lamar now? And what would you have said about him a year or two ago? Clearly this time last year was contract injury all you know what? Didn’t even fly to Cincinnati just to stand with his teammates, and I think all of it. None of it matters, right. I mean, you know, at this point, he’s an MVP again, they’re healthy, they have a week off, they’re expected to win. They’ve gone out and done all of these impressive things like beaten up the 40, Niners beating up the dolphins, destroying the lions and hurting the feelings in the car. I mean, they they’ve been as impressive Solly loop text out with four minutes left to go in the game though they first time all year and 17 games, they had been behind by more than one score. They had a lead at the two minute warning in all their first 16 games. I mean, the DVOA I got Aaron shots coming on and talking about the goat the greatest collective team week by week over a season in history. So they have all of this going on. But Lamar, the player and Lamar the pocket passer Lamar, they’re growing older Lamar, that disappointed guy from 2019, all of that sort of bakes into this. He’s the biggest star in the sport right now. He’s elevated himself to be that guy. Yeah.
Solomon Wilcots 06:17
He’s always been very impressive to me. From the time he arrived in 2018, and all those teams passed on him and wanting them to play another position. 2018 All he did was resurrected a team that was playing with a quarterback that appeared to be on his last leg. In Joe Flacco. We’ve seen that resurrection take place, but at that point in time, it looked like they, you know, wow, they needed something to reinvigorate the organization. That’s what Lamar did. I remember Coach Harbaugh was in a contract year and it looked like the team was ready to move on. It looked like they thought that both he and Flacco were pair and that they were at the end of the road and that we needed to infuse the organization when something new we need to change. And you know what that change was John Harbaugh leaning into the different style of play that Lamar brought. He was ahead of the curve, but his brother was ahead of the curve first, and Jim Harbaugh because John saw what he did in San Francisco, he saw what Colin Kaepernick draw. And they thought they could get the same kind of playing style by going getting his offensive coordinator, a guy by the name of Greg Roman, and a similar type of player all being more dynamic right. And Lamar Jackson, it would take time for it to nurture. But it mediately Lamar took that team to the playoffs. Immediately they gave John Harbaugh a new contract, right. And everything changed. And then 2019 He comes out when they didn’t think that he could pass well enough, he leaves the league and touchdown passes win the MVP award. And now what needed to happen as the team was going to grow and evolve around him. The offense needed to grow he needed to grow. No player comes in year, one, two, okay, I’m gonna hand you a Super Bowl. He needed to grow and he did grow. And but the injury started to come. And that’s the precarious nature of the game. And I think even the coaches knew they needed to add more to the offense that he needed to get better. With his pocket passing. They needed to equip him with better assets at wide receiver who can make plays outside the number of down the field in the passing game. But he can always throw it he began to grow Todd Monken came in and and I think helped him to settle in and say, Hey, let’s run to throw and let’s not run to run. Let’s let’s run over and by time these guys aren’t going to catch you in the pocket. And that’s what you saw him toying with defenders when he played the Miami Dolphins when he played the San Francisco 40. United’s playing the
Nestor J. Aparicio 09:03
game like Roethlisberger a little bit just moving around moving around. He’s playing
Solomon Wilcots 09:08
the game like Lamar, and that’s been the biggest problem nests, people have judged him with the way they’ve seen others play. And that’s why it’s taken people a while for them because I’ll tell you right now I’m we watched him play and I only live an hour’s drive from Louisville. We watched him play in college. We knew this guy was going to change the game at the NFL level. And everyone wants him to be the next Tom Brady or be the next Aaron Rodgers or the next Ben Roethlisberger. I can tell you this, maybe he can’t do some of the things they do. But he could do a whole lot of things they can’t do. And that’s how we need to really view it. He is different. Look, forget about if he’s better or worse. He’s just different. And defenses aren’t ready for him. And he is giving defensive coordinators sleepless nights, they would love to play a pocket passer who throws in rhythm throws from the same location every time. Because now we can, we can defense that up. This guy is different. And that’s why he has won since he’s become the starting quarterback for the Baltimore Ravens. They’ve won 75% of their games. No other quarterback in our league has done that, in the first six years that they’ve been a part of a team with 10 games a year, write it down with Lamar Jackson, as your starting quarterback, but everyone was stopped by what he can’t do what’s wrong. I’ve never leaned into that. I’ve always leaned into looking over the hill and seeing what is to come. And he’s always been a great competitor, which is what I really, I hinged everything that I believe in. He wins gains and always won. Because if he has the ball last, he’s gonna beat you. He’s gonna get it into the endzone. He’s going to set you up for a game winning field goal. That’s what he does. He injured near scoring drives at a higher percentage of the possessions than most of the quarterbacks in our league. So
Nestor J. Aparicio 11:09
walk us here he gives his wisdom out on Sirius radio, you can find him there, as well as in Cincinnati, Ohio, where they’re not in the playoffs this year. And that’s its own disappointment right Cleveland in Pittsburgh in greatest division in the history of divisions and I mean, they got to 1936
Solomon Wilcots 11:28
you have fourteens in the same division finish above 500
Nestor J. Aparicio 11:34
I even know your backup quarterbacks girlfriend is at this point like it you know that JJ?
Solomon Wilcots 11:41
I mean, it says he can win games.
Nestor J. Aparicio 11:45
What happens in Cincinnati through all this? What kind of offseason is it there?
Solomon Wilcots 11:50
Hey, look, they had a winning record and they lost one of the best quarterbacks in the league for more than half the season. And look, it is what it is. No one’s around here crying in their beer. There’s not an overreaction here in Cincinnati when Joe burrow said we’re going to be doing this every year. He’s right. He meant as long as he’s playing. He said as long as I’m playing we’re gonna and he delivers and and we have a great sense of confidence in that Cincinnati. Bengals fans have gotten better. I think they’ve matured in a way where they realize who and what Joe burrow is. And it there’s no sense of panic. There’s no sense of hey, let’s fire this guy. Let’s go get this guy. Looks like you got to ride it out. Listen, I think John Harbaugh was one of the been one of the best coaches in our league for a long time. He’s only won one Super Bowl. Right? And and listen, I’m not that’s not a complaint. I’m just saying you got to just be in the race. You got to win 10 to 12 games every year. Just to be in the tournament. When you get in the tournament. You give your best you’re not going to win it every year that’s the look the chiefs are finding that out and they have arguably the greatest quarterback ever. The bills are finding that out they have a great quarterback there a lot of teams a great quarterbacks, that mean you got to win it every year, be a be a mature fan, be a mature person to say, You know what? This guy is gonna give us a lot of good Sundays. Let’s see where it takes us. And let’s enjoy the ride. I would advocate that’s how the Ravens fans should look at it. Because I know that’s how the Cincinnati Bengals fans are looking at.
Nestor J. Aparicio 13:35
Joe Flacco, how about this, man? He can win, right? I mean, they can win a game or two or three here, right? I mean, they’re there especially on the defensive side. They’re dangerous to brown. I mean, we’ll talk a lot about them and they got those uniforms and never win. But this I expect them to win this weekend.
Solomon Wilcots 13:54
Well, a look. They’re playing well because they have a great defense. They have a great offensive line the running game that is productive even though they’re thinking about it. They’re playing without their starting quarterback they’re playing with their fourth quarterback. This season they use their fifth when they play the final week of the season against the Bengals. So try to get through the season. See what your team looks like when you playing five different quarterbacks. That’s impressive to win 11 games, having gone through that many players at that very important position. But Jim Schwartz has built a great defense. I think Andrew Berry has put together a great roster. That’s why they can withstand all the moving parts at the quarterback was this. They did get a little lucky because Flacco had this ress he’s feeling fresh at a time of year where most quarterbacks I don’t care how old you are. If you’re young, you’re feeling a bit worn down, but not him and now to have a bye week, essentially not playing week 18 before they go down to Houston. Remember when they were in Houston a week 17 He looked him up Amari Cooper set a franchise record to an in 65 yards passing. But Joe Flacco did throw two interceptions. He had three touchdown passes. two interceptions in that game made that game maybe a little bit closer than what it should have been. He had three interceptions the week before it gets the Chicago Bears game they ended up winning bears almost wanted on a Hail Mary. Look, he’s playing well. But be cautious, high number of interceptions. And a lot of big time Throws over 300 yards passing and I think each of his last three or four games so you got to take the good with the bad Joe’s not perfect. But he is playing very well and he’s given the Browns a chance to win a lot of games
Nestor J. Aparicio 15:43
sell the Wilcox is here. Last thing for you on the ravens and you mentioned Andrew berry I haven’t given love to Eric the cost in regard to the roster building and sort of stealing these ideas from Bella check from 20 years ago when you bring in pass rushers late. You pay him a little bit you if you don’t have them out there 60 snaps a game what clowny has done and Van Noy to complement was already good. But the RO Quan Smith thing is filthy like bringing him in in the middle. Not a lot of organizations wouldn’t have had cap space wherewithal thought creativity to say we’re gonna go take somebody else’s lottery pick on a woebegone franchise is going to transform our defense, and then the drafting of Kyle Hamilton all the way through what the Ravens have done with personnel here and to keep it healthy. If they win a championship, it’s really a tribute to their decision making above and beyond just Lamar.
Solomon Wilcots 16:39
These are when we talk about culture. People should understand that’s what Ozzie Newsome has helped to build here. And I think it was there before Coach Harbaugh and coach hardball like a very smart football coach. He’s brought his own flair, he’s brought his own vision. And he’s built upon that foundation that pre existed, every defensive coordinator who’s come there, they built on it, they understand that, okay, this is the kind of style of play that we have. And this is how we attack people in terms of how we build our defense, and they knew they weren’t going to give up on Pachi queen, they knew that patch a queen, all we need to do is bump him out to a wheel backer, have him do something, we need to go get a true Mike backer, and the smart organizations. They understand that there’s going to be teams out there that are struggling, but yet they’ve got good talent. And they’re wasting that talent, because they’re not ready yet. And every now and then there’s this Apex this this crossroads, right, where you have a team going in one direction, and they have a player, it’s Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Lew Alcindor, playing for the Old Milwaukee Bucks in the Lakers saying, Hey, you don’t need them. But we do. Right. That’s kind of how the Lakers have always went out and got stars, because they’ve seen teams sort of wasting some of that talent. And they go out and get it. And they continue with the tradition and the culture that they’ve built. They know how to take advantage of that talent. And that’s how the ravens are and that’s, I think it was a perfect blend, where ro Quan Smith, he was being wasted with the bears and in our pff database. We had him graded as one of the highest linebackers one of the baddest dudes walking as a three down linebacker can play the run can pay the the pass equally, at a very high level, give kudos to the Baltimore Ravens for recognizing that and knowing where to go shop and when to go get them because it was the perfect pairing that I think can make their defense a great one for a very long time and
Nestor J. Aparicio 18:39
paid him more than a lot of other teams would have paid him quite frankly to be given the value what am like linebacker you weren’t going to have
Solomon Wilcots 18:45
him on your team unless you paid him that that that trade didn’t happen unless they had an agreement for the contract. And listen, the bears would have paid them. They just knew that paying them based on where the team’s growth rate is right now. It would have been a waste of money. There are some other teams that are paying ro Quan Smith it was a what we call a competitive market price. That’s why the Ravens ravens are doing people’s favors. They’re not just throwing money out. Because they like a guy. Yeah, that’s it. They knew that that was the requirement but they also knew he was worth it. To your point. They recognize the value they’re
Nestor J. Aparicio 19:21
selling the Wilcox is here everybody’s taking ravens and 40 Niners you have any shame off the chalk. I mean, is there a team out there that you you know, some people say buffalo whatever easier path you’re gonna play some home games here. But is there any team you like to upset San Francisco or Baltimore?
Solomon Wilcots 19:38
Not to lie? I don’t like them to upset Baltimore or the or, first of all, Cleveland is one of the few teams on the board that can say we beat the 40 Niners and the Ravens and that would be true, right? And they did have their quarterbacks not like what the Steelers did in the final week. You You know, the browns, they match up well with the Ravens. Again, when you playing in the AFC north, and you’re playing one of those teams for the third time, you already know it ain’t gonna be no cakewalk. If there’s anyone that can spoil that can go into m&t Bank Stadium and spoil ravens trip to the Super Bowl. Yeah, Cleveland Browns, they know you well. They match up well, their defense is highly regarded and the front end and the back end. They can make it a long day for you know, for Lamar and Joe Flacco is bringing a cup of vengeance with him. You and I both know, that’ll keep some people up at night in Baltimore. If that game happens, no one’s sleeping well. You feel good about your chances of winning, but you don’t feel overly confident that you’re going to be able to beat them in this third matchup. I
Nestor J. Aparicio 20:52
see shorts with a number two pencil behind his ear right now drawing things up right now trying to figure out how to come home and wreck everybody and he’s a beautiful man he Southwest Baltimore east southeast ball you know it’s it’s east west thing but we all stick together. We’re all in it and I am a little concerned about Schwartz and Ed about Joe Flacco and whatever they have under the hood selling always pleasure to have you on I’m sorry I’ll miss you at the Super Bowl this year but thanks for spending a visit I I’ve talked about it this week I’m having my favorite people on this week because I’m not going to Super Bowl next month we’re doing this charity endeavor but it is a great time to be talking about ravens football right now folks like you and and this level of expectation we have here that we never been the best team this is the deal. This is a weird place Ross versus rest we’ll see how it works out next week. Really appreciate your time and you
Solomon Wilcots 21:37
might have found a Pro Bowl wide receiver for the first time in franchise history so there’s a lot of good things taking place for the Baltimore Ravens nets thanks for having me wish you all the best
Nestor J. Aparicio 21:46
in a damn good thing happen in here if we’re not playing in Vegas for three weeks believe God’s out Cincinnati you can find it out on Sirius XM, as well as anywhere good NFL thoughts and Solomon’s wisdom is served I am Nestor we are wn st am 1570 tastic Baltimore having just I put it all star team together my favorite people here this week’s you’re gonna love the station. Stay with us. You’ll love it more out of Baltimore positive.com as well.