LOMBARDI’S WAY: The criticisms of Flacco are fair, the calls for Smith ridiculous

Lombardi's Way LOMBARDI’S WAY: The criticisms of Flacco are fair, the calls for Smith ridiculous

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Joe Flacco has been the recipient of his fair share of fan flack after his rather uninspired performance in Oakland this past Sunday. Students of the game will understand that there is far more to an effective passing game than simply the play of the signal caller.

 

Among the many things that affect the passing game and consequently the performance of the quarterback are:

  • Pass protection
  • Ability to pick up and recognize the blitz by the entire offense
  • The receivers’ ability to gain separation
  • Versatility in play calling
  • Communication between the QB and his passing targets

If I had to point to one thing that undermined the efforts of Joe Flacco on Sunday, the culprit would be the offense’s pacing. The Ravens were slow to the line of scrimmage and they left little time on the play clock to make pre-snap reads. Each time Joe Flacco set up in the shotgun center Matt Birk would look through his legs, pick up his head and then snap the ball. That sequence provided the Raiders’ defense with a great jump on the snap and a significant advantage.

Clearly the Ravens need to clean that up and pick up the pace offensively otherwise, they will be one and done in the playoffs.

The sloppy aerial attack has not gone unnoticed by fans and many have ridiculously clamored for a change behind center – a change to backup Troy Smith.

Such fans would be wise to take pause and remember that this is only Flacco’s second season in the NFL. He has started the last 35 consecutive games at quarterback for the team and he is about to experience his fourth playoff start. That experience will go a long, long way to accelerating that maturation process of the team’s franchise QB.

Clearly Flacco has been inconsistent during the second half of the season and it would be naïve of us all to think that injuries aren’t at least in part affecting his play. To his credit Flacco has not used those ailments as an excuse and his mental toughness is remarkable. That too will help him as he gains even more experience.

The criticism is fair. The call for Smith is ridiculous and a move like that is a nothing more than a few steps backward for the organization.

All the flack-o for Flacco stirred my curiosity a bit and I decided to look at each of the playoff quarterbacks and review their individual performances during their first two seasons in the league. The chart below details my findings. (Note: I chose not to include Jets’ rookie Mark Sanchez in this evaluation.)


Quarterback
Att. 
Comp. 
Yds. 
TD 
INT 
Rating 
No. Sacked 
Warner 
510 
329 
64.5% 
4,392 
41 
13 
107.9 
29 
Romo 
337 
220
65.3% 
2,903 
 19
13 
95.1 
21 
Flacco 
927 
572 
61.7% 
6,584 
35 
21 
86.2 
68 
Brady 
416 
265 
63.7% 
2,849 
18 
12 
86.1 
41 
Favre 
476 
302 
63.4% 
3,227 
18 
15 
82.7 
35 
Manning 
1,108 
657 
59.3% 
7,874 
52 
43 
80.6 
36 
Brees 
553 
335 
60.6% 
3,505 
18
16 
77.8 
26 
 Palmer
432 
263 
60.9% 
2,897 
18 
18 
77.3 
25 
McNabb 
785 
436 
55.5% 
4,313 
29 
20 
73.0 
73 
Rivers 
30 
17 
56.7% 
148 
67.1 
Rodgers 
31 
15 
48.4% 
111 
43.9 
As mentioned, many things affect the performance of a quarterback. The quality of offensive skill positions also impact performance and it could be argued for example that Carson Palmer’s accomplishments in his first two seasons were boosted by his posse of receivers particularly when compared to those of Joe Flacco.
How might Flacco benefit from an improved receiving corps?
The point of this analysis is to illustrate how Joe Flacco compares favorably to this esteemed collection of quarterbacks still alive in the 2010 playoff picture. And while it can be effectively argued that players mature and improve at different rates and reach different levels of competency with varying ceiling, it is equally safe to assume that Joe Flacco is heading down the right path towards becoming an elite quarterback in the NFL.
These playoff experiences are invaluable and they will serve him and the team well in the future.
In the meantime, it’s ok to criticize — Flacco is his own worst critic.
But don’t dummy yourself down and suggest Harbaugh pull Flacco in favor of Troy Smith.
A less than 100% Flacco is 100% better than a 100% Smith. 

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Tony Lombardi

About Tony Lombardi

Tony is 24x7 Networks, LLC's founder (the parent of EutawStreetReport.com and RussellStreetReport.com) His work has been featured on various sports websites and he is a regular guest on 105.7 The Fan and he hosts "The Fanimal" also heard on 105.7 The Fan, Saturdays from 8-9AM. Among his favorite things in life are his wife, kids, family, friends, The Beatles, Breaking Bad, Gladiator, The Godfather, Guinness, orange crushes, meatballs and Key West, not necessarily in that order. Follow Tony on Twitter @RSRLombardi. More from Tony Lombardi

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