Browns QB Joe Flacco named starter for remainder of season

CLEVELAND -- A month ago, Joe Flacco wondered if he'd get a chance to play in the NFL again. Now, the 38-year-old is Cleveland's starting quarterback for the rest of the season.

On Sunday, Flacco led the Browns to a 31-27 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars. Afterward, Browns coach Kevin Stefanski committed to Flacco as his starter.

"Joe's been in big games," Stefanski said. "So feel comfortable with him leading the football team."

In his second straight start with the Browns, Flacco completed 26 of 45 passes for 311 yards. He also became the first Cleveland quarterback since Brian Sipe in 1980 to throw three touchdown passes of 30 yards or more in a single game, according to research by ESPN Stats & Information.

The last touchdown came in the fourth quarter on fourth-and-three from the Jacksonville 41-yard line. Flacco scrambled right to avoid the all-out Jaguars blitz and then found a wide-open David Bell, who scampered untouched for the score to put the Browns up 28-14 and in command.

"My gosh, that was exciting," Flacco said. "One of those plays where they're bringing pressure, and you have to kind of buy a little time and [Bell] did a great job feeling a little soft spot and then making it happen from there."

With Sunday's win, the Browns became just eighth team in NFL history -- and first since the 2015 Houston Texans -- to have four starting quarterbacks (Flacco, Deshaun Watson, PJ Walker, rookie Dorian Thompson-Robinson) each win a game in one season.

Flacco started last weekend's game at the Los Angeles Rams after Thompson-Robinson sustained a concussion the week before in a loss at the Denver Broncos. Thompson-Robinson exited concussion protocol and practiced Friday, and the Browns declined to announce who would start against the Jaguars until pregame warmups.

But after Flacco became just the fifth NFL quarterback since the 1970 merger to throw five touchdowns in his first two games with a new team, according to ESPN Stats & Information, Stefanski finally declared Flacco the permanent starter for the rest of the season.

"Obviously it feels good when it looks like people have confidence in you," Flacco said. "I know I've been in a bunch of locker rooms, but whenever you walk into a locker room, you still want to gain the respect of everybody, and you don't know if you quite have that until you can go out there and get a win and continue to do it day in and day out. You try to carry yourself the right way and you try to do all the right things, but that doesn't guarantee anything in terms of going out in the field on Sunday. So it feels awesome to go out there and get the win."

Flacco signed with the Browns on Nov. 20 following Watson's season-ending right shoulder injury.

Flacco was the Super Bowl MVP with the champion Baltimore Ravens during the 2012 season, and started four games with the New York Jets last year.

Flacco, however, went unsigned during the offseason, and he said he didn't receive a single contract offer until the Browns signed him to the practice squad. Until then, he admitted that he began to doubt if an opportunity to play again would come.

"It was a little scary. ... It wasn't like I turned anybody down in the offseason," he said. "Life puts you in certain situations and you don't know why, you just got to make the most of it."

With Sunday's win, the Browns moved to 8-5 and all alone for the 5 seed in the AFC wildcard picture. Cleveland also remains alive in the AFC North division race, though still trails the Ravens (10-3) by two games.

The Browns have not made the playoffs since 2020. Over the last three seasons, Cleveland has had only five games where its quarterback has passed for at least 250 yards and two touchdowns in a game; Flacco, in just two starts, is the only one with two such performances.

"Our offense -- I think you guys can see it and feel it a little bit -- we have the ability to really start to get over the hump," Flacco said. "We're not quite there yet, but we're going to work hard and we're going to continue to get better."