There’s a story behind every hit song — and also behind goofy parodies.

The story behind “Flacco,” in the style of the Kinks’ hit “Lola,” is a short one.

Jay Casey, a lifelong Cleveland Browns fan, had written a football-themed spoof before about the last great quarterback hope, Baker Mayfield, but “that all fell apart, like things in Cleveland usually do sports-wise.”

After prompting from a friend, Casey put together lyrics that described how the 38-year-old Flacco, best known for his Super Bowl-winning Ravens tenure, has swept up Cleveland in a frenzy. “I wrote it in, like, 15 minutes.” Then a friend of a friend recorded a version that has made the rounds on radio and TV stations in the metro area.

Casey is the first to admit: His lyricism is not the song’s appeal. After years of sports misery — especially for the woeful Browns, who are in the playoffs for just the fourth time since 1990 — the city is always eager to huddle around any winner, even one led by a quarterback who once stomped them year after year. Flacco has an 18-3 record against Cleveland, with more wins against them than any other team. But, somehow, that past has been brushed aside.

“I don’t think Browns fans hated Joe Flacco,” Casey says. “It would be different if we signed a guy with a worse personality, like Ben Roethlisberger. While it’s strange to come from the Ravens, Joe’s such an easy guy to root for, you know what I mean?”

Yes, we do. That’s what makes this whole affair so odd.

It’s been years since Flacco played for Baltimore, and he’s suited up for other teams since — when he was a Jet, he even played against the Ravens. But, somehow, leading an AFC North Division rival feels different.

“To see Joe doing so well in that Brown uniform, I said before it’s strange,” kicker and former Flacco teammate Justin Tucker told me. “Actually, I think it’s pretty ugly.”

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Tucker, of course — just like every other former teammate I spoke to this week — is thrilled for Flacco, keeping his career going 16 seasons in. And no one who knows him is stunned by what they’re seeing.

“The guys that have that greatness within them, the guys that have that elite quality like Joe has, it’s not a surprise when they go out there and they play well,” Tucker said. “It is a really cool story. Couldn’t be happier for the guy, the individual. It is cool to see him doing what he loves to do.”

What Flacco loves to do is rip footballs downfield for big yardage. Browns fans are celebrating how Flacco’s arm is still one of the game’s strongest. But he’s also been very effective. According to Next Gen Stats, Flacco has a 156.3 passer rating on passes 20 or more yards downfield between the numbers. He’s thrown for more than 300 yards in four straight starts.

He’s also had some surprises. Ravens running back Gus Edwards was recently awed by highlights he watched of Flacco slipping out from pressure.

“He’s not really known for his feet,” Edwards said. “I see him escaping the pocket and throwing the ball downfield. He’s ballin’ right now.”

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Sure, you might be thinking, but for the Browns?

There are still plenty of Baltimoreans who harbor affinity for Flacco, the onetime franchise quarterback who grew from a strong-armed, small-school first-round pick to a Super Bowl MVP. He left great memories here, had great wins here.

But while Flacco will undoubtedly one day be a name in the Ravens’ Ring of Honor, and those moments in purple and black are imprinted in our minds, Flacco, the real man, isn’t done with the game.

For a Browns franchise that has famously struggled for quarterbacks, Flacco feels like a godsend. Yes, Flacco and the Ravens stomped the Browns for a decade, but as Casey told me: “Every quarterback beat us all the time. … When you’re a Browns fan, you take what you can get.”

Ravens fans, by comparison, have been blessed with stability and even greatness at the position. Flacco did the franchise a favor by gracefully transitioning when it became clear Lamar Jackson was the quarterback of the future, even though it could not have been easy. Jackson, for his part, has nothing but good things to say about Flacco.

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“I always felt like he was elite just from my rookie year watching him practice [and] seeing him throw the ball across the field, flat-footed,” Jackson said. “I was like, ‘Dang. This guy.’ It’s all mechanics. If we play him, hopefully he’ll be showing off the ‘Joe Elite’ then.”

Jackson may be in the minority here, though. Of the four teams the Ravens could face next weekend, the Browns are probably the most complete — they beat the Ravens in Week 10 with Deshaun Watson playing through injury. Not only would Cleveland stand perhaps the best chance of getting an upset, but Flacco’s return would be emotionally wrought and stir up complicated feelings in the fan base and the locker room.

To take a page from the Ravens watching, they’ve been rooting for the man, not the team. This weekend, they might not even go that far.

“I’m not gonna be watching with any other lens other than to see who we’re playing,” Tucker said. “It will be interesting to watch the Browns, because Joe is at the helm. We love him and appreciate him for everything he did and everything he represented for Baltimore and for the Ravens. But, if we gotta play them, we’ll be more than ready.”

Kyle joined The Baltimore Banner in 2023 as a sports columnist. He previously covered the L.A. Lakers for The Orange County Register and myriad sports at The Salt Lake Tribune. He’s a Mt. Hebron High and University of Maryland alum. 

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