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Browns fans 'wacko for Flacco' as latest QB leads Cleveland to the brink of a playoff berth

Cleveland Browns quarterback Joe Flacco in a white shirt stands in front of a microphone with a Browns banner behind him.
David J. Phillip
Cleveland Browns quarterback Joe Flacco speaks during a press conference after an NFL football game against the Houston Texans, Sunday, Dec. 24, 2023, in Houston.

The Browns can clinch a playoff berth with a win over the New York Jets on Thursday night.

Ideastream Public Media's sports commentator Terry Pluto believes it's the biggest game since the team returned to the NFL in 1999. That's because the other two times they made the playoffs — in 2002 and 2020, they had stable starting quarterbacks in Tim Couch and Baker Mayfield, he said.

"(It was) nothing like this parade of quarterbacks from Deshaun Watson to Dorian Thompson-Robinson to P.J. Walker to Joe Flacco, to a 10-5 record with the playoffs, as (head coach) Kevin Stefanski told his team after they won Sunday, 'It's right in front of us now, guys. It's right there,'" Pluto said.

A skeleton in a Browns jersey sits in a lawn chair next to a sign that reads, "All I want for Christmas is a drama free Brown season."
Stephanie Czekalinski
Ideastream Public Media
Browns fans have been taken on a wild ride this season. The team enters Thursday's game with a 10-5 record led by Joe Flacco, who has taken over as quarterback from Deshaun Watson, Dorian Thompson-Robinson and P.J. Walker. Head coach Kevin Stefanski told his team after they won Sunday, 'It's right in front of us now, guys. It's right there.'"

To add extra excitement to Thursday night's game, veteran quarterback Joe Flacco will be facing his most recent team, the New York Jets.

"So for three years, Joe Flacco backed up different quarterbacks in New York. When he did get a chance to play, his record was 1-8. There was nothing there to indicate what the Browns have seen" Pluto said. "Let's just even look at this past season. In 2022, he started four games. They won one. And the Jets, who were always looking for backup quarterbacks, they didn't even ask him back and nobody else wanted him."

Since Flacco arrived in Cleveland, he's 3-1 with 10 touchdown passes, Pluto said.

"I've been calling it Air Joe," Pluto said. "Everybody's going wacko for Flacco, but it's exciting. You can't sit there and watch this and insist as some kind of fluke, not three games in a row like this."

Flacco, 38, kept himself in great shape this past year while he was out of the NFL, Pluto said.

"He wants to prove a point that he can still play in the league," Pluto said. "He's the oldest quarterback ever to play for the Browns. And so we're going to see, I think, the best Flacco's got on Thursday night against his old team."

The Browns will be playing Thursday without their ace kicker, Dustin Hopkins, who injured his hamstring as he chased Texans returner Dameon Pierce on a 98-yard touchdown on Sunday. It's unclear how long he'll be out.

In the meantime, the Browns have signed kicker Riley Patterson, who has appeared in 37 games for Detroit and Jacksonville. He's made 58 of 66 field-goal attempts.

"He actually wasn't kicking too badly for Detroit," Pluto said. "He attempted 17 field goals, made 15, missed a couple extra points, and then all of a sudden they just cut him. And that wears on kickers. That's the other thing that happens and really overall, his stats are not that bad, but you start getting cut and you think, 'Every kick I make, my money is on the line.'"

The Browns (10-5) face the Jets (6-9) Thursday night at 8:15 p.m. in Cleveland.

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