Joe Flacco: Elite? Awful? Actually, somewhere in the middle

Every Sunday the debate seems to go back and forth on twitter amongst Ravens fans about Joe Flacco. On one side you’ve got those who believe Joe is an elite quarterback, or in the very least a very good one and on the other, those who seem to think he isn’t good enough and won’t ever be. So after a brief conversation with someone earlier today it got me thinking; Why does he have to be either very good or very bad? What if he’s somewhere in the middle?

And that’s pretty much where I think he is. I don’t think he’s a bad quarterback like Mark Sanchez for example, but I don’t think he’s as good as Tom Brady, Eli Manning or Matt Ryan (side note, yes I’m aware of Ryan’s playoff record but his performance on the field has been better than Flacco’s for me).

So with that in mind I went back through yesterday’s game and picked out Flacco’s best and worst throws to sort into a top and bottom three.

The Bottom Three

3rd-and-9, 13:58 left in the 2nd Quarter

From the shotgun Flacco forced the ball to Torrey Smith who was being covered tightly by Antoine Cason with Eric Weddle underneath. It’s third down so I can understand him looking to make a play, but with it still being early in the game that’s an unnecessary risk in my opinion.

3rd-and-16, 2:23 left in the 2nd Quarter

From the shotgun again, Flacco overthrows Dennis Pitta by three yards. Pitta had beaten Chargers linebacker Donald Butler by a good five yards. Safety help wasn’t close enough to break up the pass had it been on target. I get that Joe has to get it over the linebackers here but Pitta had given him enough of a cushion to get it over them and to him. That’s a throw he has to make for me.

1st-and-20, 2:18 left in the 4th Quarter

This is the one that probably should have ended the game. Again from the shotgun, Flacco overthrows Anquan Boldin, who had beaten Quentin Jammer. Jammer is close enough that I can understand the overthrow but he has to see Eric Weddle closing behind him. You can overthrow it a little with no safety help there safe in the knowledge that it’s going out of bounds. With Weddle there however, he’s in perfect position to make a play on the ball and surely does pick it off and end the game if Boldin doesn’t make contact with the ball first.

The Top Three

3rd-and-6, 6:56 left in the 4th Quarter

From the shotgun, he puts the ball where only Jacoby Jones can make the catch after he had beaten the coverage by Marcus Gilchrist. Down by 10 with under seven minutes to play, he just calmly fires it to Jones. If the ball is overthrown by even a yard there, safety Corey Lynch is in position to try and force the incompletion.

3rd-and-10, 10:02 left in Overtime

Here Boldin beats Shareece Wright from the snap. From the shotgun, Flacco fires the ball to Boldin, putting it nice and why where only Boldin can make the play. Given the down and distance, if he doesn’t make that throw, the Ravens are likely handing San Diego the ball in excellent field position. Nice and calm under pressure from Flacco.

3rd-and-10, 2:27 left in Overtime

This pass for me is up there with the best passes we’ve seen Flacco throw. It’s 3rd down with time ticking away in overtime, if the Ravens don’t convert here they have to either attempt the long field goal or punt the ball back to the Chargers. Torrey Smith is being covered closely by Jammer downfield. Close isn’t good enough however when Flacco nails a perfect back shoulder throw that gives Jammer no chance. We’ll be talking about the play by Ray Rice on 4th-and-29 for a long time but, for me, that’s a better play. Perfect execution on a play that shows Flacco and Smith are growing together as a quarterback-receiver tandem.

This game perfectly highlighted the good and bad of Joe Flacco. The overthrows and forced passes early in the game coupled with the late throw that very probably should have been picked off are what keeps Flacco from moving into that next-to-Elite class of quarterbacks in the NFL. Far too often he makes throws that could be picked, or misses a receiver who’s open downfield.

That being said, if you’re a Ravens fan, how can you not have faith in him late in the game? Like he did on the winning drive in Pittsburgh a year ago, Flacco just went into another zone in overtime with key passes to get the team out of trouble and one in particular to put them in position for the winning score. I think at this point in his career we need to accept that this is who Joe Flacco is. He’ll make the throws that have you scratching your head, only to make up for it with key throws in key moments.

I don’t believe he’s an elite or even a very good quarterback, but that doesn’t mean he’s not good enough to take the Ravens where they need to go with the rest of the talent he has around him.

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