When you sign a $120M+ contract and play quarterback in the National Football League and you don’t perform to the level of that contract, critics will fly in from all angles like flies on road apples. And if listen to observers from both near and far, Joe Flacco fits the description of a player not playing up to his pay scale.
Fans along with the media are attracted to glitzy stats like moths to a lamppost. It’s the curse of fantasy football. Stats are sexy and sex sells.
What gets lost in the shuffle is the most important stat of all – wins! And when it comes to winning no one has done it better than the guy who wears No. 5 for the Baltimore Ravens since he entered the NFL.
With 66 wins since 2008 Flacco has more W’s than media darlings Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Matt Ryan, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers. Those players might get you more excited in your fantasy leagues but in the real world Flacco gets it done as well as any of them.
And he’s done it without an arsenal of offensive firepower that the aforementioned poster children have.
Just win baby!
This season Flacco has a (3-2) pitching record. It hasn’t been pretty but it doesn’t need to be. Style points don’t count when it comes to determining a Divisional Champion, a Conference Champion or a Super Bowl Champion.
Get the win and get better each week.
If you look around at Flacco’s supporting cast the cynic in you might say they can’t get any worse.
The Ravens have always relied upon a stout defense and a running game. This season the defense is a work in progress and clearly showing signs of improvement. But if you look at the offense as measured by Pro Football Focus, it’s a mess! For Flacco to accomplish what he has borders on miraculous.
The once reliable running game has crashed to 27th in the league. One of the NFL’s best one-two punches by ground has struggled. Bernard Pierce (48th) and Ray Rice (55th) are ranked near the bottom in PFF’s measurements of the top 57 running backs.
The Ravens tight ends (Dallas Clark, Ed Dickson) rank 19 and 52 respectively out of 56.
From a pool of 105 wide receivers graded the Ravens corps that includes Torrey Smith (18), Brandon Stokley (49), Marlon Brown (80) and Tandon Doss (84) show up unimpressively among the 105.
And then there’s the Ravens offensive line. It’s as if opponents have somehow found kryptonite to mitigate their collective and individual effectiveness when compared to the unit that was so impressive throughout the 2012 postseason.
- Of 34 centers graded by PFF Gino Gradkowski is 34th.
- Of 72 guards graded by PFF Marshal Yanda is 23rd, Kelechi Osemele 58th.
- Of 71 tackles graded by PFF Michael Oher is 45th, Bryant McKinnie 66th.
These are Flacco’s “protectors”?
Mix in that his go-to guys from 2012 (Anquan Boldin, Dennis Pitta) are gone via trade or injury and the problems become even more pronounced. Without familiarity Flacco is unable to throw to spots because he can’t trust his receivers to be there. That could and should change with time but up until now, Flacco hasn’t enjoyed that luxury.
Without the ability to throw to spots, Flacco is forced to wait until receivers clear and that requires adequate time to throw. Without that time, even with his laser right arm, success is a steep and slippery slope for Flacco and the Ravens.
The chemistry with the receivers may come around. The offensive line play may improve with the addition of Eugene Monroe – perhaps as it did when the coaching staff shuffled the lineup during the playoffs last season.
If and when it does and as the Ravens defense continues to improve, something special could be in the making.
But none of it would matter unless the Ravens get these ugly wins now.
So for all of those Flacco detractors intoxicated by fluffed up stats, go ahead and criticize and label Joe as “overpaid.” But ask yourselves what Brady, Manning, Brees, Rodgers, et al would do with the Ravens offense as described above.
Flacco continues to stand tall in the pocket despite hit after hit. Could you say the same for Brady or Manning? Funny, I have visions of both curled up on the ground in the fetal position sucking their thumbs.
Last time I checked, the Ravens are in first place and if anything, given what he’s had to work with, Joe Flacco is carrying the Baltimore Ravens.
And in the process earning every single penny he’s being paid.