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What could have been: Joe Flacco and Pitt

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The one-time Panther who later transferred to Delaware is now a Super Bowl champion.

USA TODAY Sports

Watching Joe Flacco win his first Super Bowl Sunday night hurt - not just because I had to watch him beat my NFL team, the New England Patriots, in the AFC Championship game two weeks prior, but also because it brought up many thoughts of what could have been in the minds of Pitt fans.

As many of you know, Flacco was initially a Pitt Panther coming out of high school. The Audubon, NJ native initially committed to Walt Harris and was set to one day become the starting QB for the Panthers. Instead, Tyler Palko was selected as the starter after Harris left for Stanford and Dave Wannstedt came in as the head coach. Flacco, who understandably wanted playing time after completing just one pass in 2004, was frustrated by the news and left for Delaware, where the Blue Hens made back-to-back FCS Championship games with Flacco under center.

It makes you wonder what could have been. The Big East in 2005 was ripe for the taking after the first ACC raid. Pitt had just went to the BCS the previous season and the stage was set for the Panthers to claim the conference. Wannstedt chose Palko, Flacco left, Pitt went 11-12 the next two seasons, and the rest was history.

Is it fair to place blame on Wannstedt and Pitt? No. No one could have seen Flacco becoming the player he has become in 2005. Of course, after seeing the rest of Wannstedt's quarterbacks, though, it's safe to say that the former head coach was not the best judge when it came to that position. And after watching the Ravens' run through the playoffs, it certainly is quite easy to say that Pitt missed out on this one.