Baltimore Ravens rookie, Joe Flacco, may be the first franchise quarterback in Ravens history and the first in Baltimore since Bert Jones in the 1970's and 80's.
Bert Jones was the first sports hero I ever had. During his best season of 1976, I was five years old, my son's age now, I wasn't completely aware of sports at that point, but I remember watching the Colts on TV with my dad and grandfather.
The photo on this article is his card from the 1977 Topps series. I used to carry this card with me in my pocket everywhere I went. I believe I still have it. Needless to say it's rather beat up and even in mint condition, it's not very valuable, but that doesn't matter to me.
Bertram "Bert" Jones was selected by the Baltimore Colts, as the second overall pick in the 1973 NFL draft with a pick acquired from the New Orleans Saints. Some other notables in this draft were John Matuszak (first pick overall), Dave Butz, Ray Guy, Ron Jaworski, Tom Jackson, Dick Jauron, and HOFers John Hannah, Dan Fouts and Joe DeLamielleure.
The Colts won the AFC East, three years in a row between 1975-1977. Unfortunately they were eliminated from the playoffs in the first round each of those years.
Jones' best season was 1976, when he posted 3,104 yards passing, 24 TDs, nine INTs, 214 rushing yards, two rushing TDs, and a passer rating of 102.5. Only two other quarterbacks put up 100+ passer ratings in the entire decade of the 1970's, Roger Staubach in 1971 and Ken Stabler also in 1976.
Bert won the MVP and NFL Offensive Player of the Year awards in 1976. He was also elected to the Pro Bowl. He made the Pro Bowl the following year as a reserve.
In 1982 he played in only four games with the then Los Angeles Rams and then was forced into an early retirement due to a neck injury. His final stats were 10 seasons, 124 TDs, 101 INTs, 18,190 passing yards, 1,429 rushing yards, 14 rushing TDs and a passer rating of 78.2.
In 1990, Bert Jones won the retiree category of the first NFL QB Challenge and finished third in the regular competition. Bobby Beathard, then the GM of the San Diego Chargers, as a result tried to get the 39 year old Jones to come out of retirement and play for the Chargers. Jones decided not to try a comeback attempt.
Bert Jones was allowed to call his own plays and was a true field general. His armstrength was so great that only Brett Favre, John Elway and Doug Williams could rival it, reportedly able to throw the ball almost 100 yards in the air.
Ernie Accorsi, speaking of injury problems, said of Jones "if he had played under different circumstances, he probably would of have been the greatest player ever."
More high praise came from Redskins great John Riggins, who known for his toughness, who said "Bert Jones was the toughest competitor he ever witnessed."
Bill Belichick, gave his choices for greatest quarterbacks of all time, before this years' Super Bowl, listed Bert Jones among them and called him the "best pure passer he ever saw."
Bert was a beloved figure in Baltimore, a step below the legend followed on the Colts, Johhny Unitas.