When it comes to winning at the highest level, some teams will lean heavily on a great quarterback while others rely more on defense while asking their quarterbacks to "steer the ship". No matter which quarterback a team has on its roster, they are universally looking for consistency.
Joe Flacco is "consistent", but only as it pertains to the stat sheets come season's end. The reality is that there are reasons to be very concerned about his consistency if the Ravens want to win at a high level. While Flacco must certainly be held accountable for his problems, the Ravens brain-trust is to blame as well.
Over his last three season, the Ravens have finished 12-4 (2011), 12-4 (2010) and 9-7 (2009) and Flacco's stats have been—consistent.
|Passing Yds||Comp %||TDs||INTs||QB Rating|
Man, that Joe Flacco sure is "consistent", but I wouldn't go so far as to call him "good". I will readily admit that he was on the trajectory towards "goodness" based on his 2009 and 2010 seasons, but last year's performance is a massive cause for concern if you're a Ravens fan.
Fans are always looking for All-Pros at every position, but the Ravens have more than enough talent on offense to finish higher than the bottom half in the passing game which is where they found themselves last year.
Baltimore's offensive line is solid (even with Ben Grubbs' departure) and Ray Rice is obviously one of the premiere backs in the game with a unique ability to dominate games on the ground and out of the backfield.
Torrey Smith was much more effective than anyone could have expected in his rookie season with 16.8 yards per catch while Anquan Boldin is reliable. Boldin can probably be tagged the dreaded "possession receiver" tag, but he can still make some plays down the field when called on.
Ed Dickson gives the Ravens a weapon at tight end who should be able to stretch the field and cause matchup problems for defenses. So here is the question—why was the passing game so disappointing and why did Joe Flacco average a measly 6.7 ypa while seeing his completion percentage and quarterback rating tank?
If you watched the Ravens last season, you saw a quarterback who looked timid and showed a great deal of inconsistency with his throws down the field. The mobility, arm strength and weaponry is all there so why the problems?
To dig deeper, I spoke with John Pollard who is the general manager of the Sports Solutions Group at STATS. The X-Info portion of the STATS ICE program has a performance metric called "poor throws" which charts incompletions that were due to the quarterback over-throwing, under-throwing and throwing wide of the target. Here are the numbers from last season with comparisons to some of the "tier 2" quarterbacks in the league.
|Quarterback||Atts||Inc.||Overthrown||Underthrown||Wide||Total Poor||Poor Throw %||YPA|
On the mechanical side, Flacco has a tendency to fall off of some of his intermediate and deep ball throws. This issue could easily be the cause of his high number of wide throws. This issue is correctable. I'm worried, however, that his overthrows combined with his low yards per attempt may signal issues with Flacco and/or the Ravens approach to the game.
I'm sure that working with young targets like Dickson, Dennis Pitta and Smith are part of the accuracy problem for Joe Flacco, but I think the issues goes deeper than that.
Flacco had a solid rookie season, but lost three big games to the Pittsburgh Steelers that year thanks to mistakes he made. Over time, he learned how to manage the game more effectively, but now that is what he is—a grinder who is more concerned with eye-balling his chip stack rather than getting his chips in the pot and playing some cards.
In the movie "Rounders", Matt Damon's character Mike McDermott famously opines, "You can't lose what you don't put in the middle, but you can't win much either."
Flacco doesn't put much in the middle. How else can you explain managing to avoid a high interception rate despite having such a low completion percentage and so many "poor throws?" He folded without seeing the flop. Flacco would rather overthrow a wide receiver or check it down to the safe option than take chances. He's in a "just don't lose the game" mode and it is hard for him to get out.
What would Ben Roethlisberger do? It won't always be pretty, but Ben is willing to stay in a hand and look for his flush on the river. Don't let that goofy haircut fool you because Philip Rivers has a pair of 8s and he thinks you're bluffing which is why he will push his chips all-in and look for shots down the field despite having a very average arm. He's willing to gamble.
"You can't lose what you don't put in the middle, but you can't win much either."
I know that the Ravens tried to open up the offense for Flacco in the past, but that does no good when he's just going to "check (down), check (down), check (down)".
Players just don't seem to be utilized to the best of their abilities in Cam Cameron's offense and that might include Flacco. Cameron needs to study the numbers and really work with Flacco to find out what Flacco is best at and most comfortable with and mold the passing game around those strengths.
The Ravens could live with the overthrows and lower completion percentage as long as they were part of an approach that yielded more big plays.