No Slacko for Flacco

Lombardi's Way No Slacko for Flacco

Posted in Lombardi's Way
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As the preseason winds down and Opening Day approaches, Joe Flacco remains a lightening rod in Baltimore. Mention his name in a pub, on sports talk radio or on message boards and for the most part the result is a rush of polarizing opinions about the player labeled the Ravens “Franchise Quarterback.”

That’s just the nature of the beast.

On one hand you have those who three seasons ago went Whacko for Flacco and have convalesced in Joe Cool LaLa Land ever since. On the other hand there are those who are outwardly frustrated by Flacco’s perceived limitations and his inability to win games on his own – particularly the big ones.

In many ways, Baltimore is no different than any other NFL city when it comes to the town’s signal caller. Yet there are circumstances in Baltimore that make things a bit more difficult for Flacco – circumstances that aren’t his fault and unfortunately can’t control.

THE POST BOLLER ERA

Fed up with Kyle Boller’s post-snap schizophrenic mental meltdowns and tired of watching the prime years of a premier defense wasting away, Ozzie Newsome traded for Steve McNair in 2006. The immediate results were good as the Ravens finished the season with a 13-3 record and the No. 2 overall seed in the post season.

But towards the end of that season the plus results of the anti-aging body cream started to wear off and McNair almost overnight looked like a has-been.

The effects of Father Time were even more pronounced in 2007 and McNair broke down forcing Brian Billick to turn the keys of his clunker offense back over to Boller only to have them taken away again late in the ’07 campaign and handed to Troy Smith.

It wasn’t pretty as the team was lucky to finish 5-11 thanks to a Week 17 gift from an unexpected philanthropist – the Pittsburgh Steelers.

ENTER JOE THE QUARTERBACK

Organizationally the Ravens committed to finding a franchise QB after the debacle of 2007. Frustrated again, they didn’t want to waste any more years of the team’s defensive talent nor did they want the cyclical ups and downs that were part of the Billick regime. To thwart that they fired Billick and then sought stability at the quarterback position – a young gunslinger to grow alongside rookie head coach John Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron.

Flacco didn’t arrive expecting to be the team’s starter from day 1 but as we all know, that’s exactly how it went down. Flacco’s inaugural season was a baptism of fire – one that overall was a smashing success as he helped guide the Ravens into the AFC Championship, something a rookie QB had never previously accomplished.

And neither did Elvis Grbac, Jeff Blake, Kyle Boller, Anthony Wright or even Steve McNair for that matter.

CRITICISMS JUSTIFIED?

So why then so much bile and angst directed toward Joe?

Part of it can be attributed to the many years of frustrating offensive performances dating back to the days immediately following the departure of Vinny Testaverde. Since 1998 the Ravens on average are the 21st ranked offense based on yards. Defensively they averaged fifth during those 13 seasons.

The best offensive ranking for the Ravens since ’98 is 13th. Guess who was QB then? You got it, No. 5 in 2009. Defensively the unit has place Top 5 or better eight times!

Maybe Flacco, despite an unprecedented three consecutive post season appearances is just an easy target. After all he is the trigger man of an offense that either hasn’t pulled its weight or has fallen short of expectations in the post season.

TIME FOR A (JOE) COOL CHANGE

Predictably the anti-Flacco camp wants a change. He was supposed to make a difference and in their mind’s eye he hasn’t and this preseason has provided little assurance that he will. Give them Bulger, give them Tyrod Taylor, bring back Troy Smith and why oh why did they not draft Matt Ryan?

“Matty Ice” is a media darling while Flacco gets mud slung in his face by some national and local sports talking heads. It’s no secret that the Ravens explored moving up in the 2008 draft to get Ryan but opted instead for the relative bargain in Flacco.

For many “Ice” trumps “Cool”.

But do the numbers support that position?

REGULAR SEASON
 
Player 
Att
Comp 
Yds 
TD 
INT 
QBR 
W/L 
Sacks 
Flacco 
48 
1416 
878 
10206 
62.0 
60 
34 
87.9 
32-16 
108 
Ryan 
46 
1456 
885 
10061 
60.8 
66 
34 
86.9 
33-13 
59 
 
POST SEASON 
 
Player 
Att
Comp 
Yds 
TD 
INT 
QBR 
W/L 
Sacks 
Flacco 
184 
98 
1050 
53.3 
61.6 
4-3 
13 
Ryan 
69 
46 
385 
66.7 
71.2 
0-2
 
The regular season stats are remarkably similar while the post season digits for both are subpar. Flacco sports a 4-3 record in the playoffs and Ryan a 0-2 mark and although statistically Ryan is a little less ugly in the playoffs the circumstances have to factor in.
 
Ryan’s two January contests took place in domes at Arizona and at home against Green Bay while Flacco’s struggles are largely at the hands of the Pittsburgh Steelers, a regular top flight defense in less than ideal conditions at Heinz Field.
 
During the regular season Ryan plays indoors no less than 9 games per season and in a division with more QB-friendly climates. Flacco has played under a closed roof only 6 times in his career and in a division consisting of cold weather cities.
 
THE BOTTOM LINE
 
The pent up frustrations from the Boller Years and the missing out on Ryan aside, Flacco’s true nemesis without question is The Pittsburgh Steelers a team by birthright that Baltimoreans despise.
 
Twice the Ravens have been knocked out of the playoffs by the Steelers with Flacco at the helm. Not only has Flacco failed to knock off Pittsburgh but the manner in which they’ve lost has been painfully gut wrenching, particularly last season after taking a 21-7 halftime lead in the Divisional Round.
 
If Flacco can remove THAT monkey from his back he will become less of a lightening rod and the critics will calm down.
 
Joe Cool will get his chance to answer those critics on September 11 when the Ravens host the Steelers on Opening Day. Win and he’ll get a reprieve. Win convincingly and he could remove all lingering doubt.
 
But lose and that monkey will morph into King Kong.
 
That’s just the nature of the beast.

 

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Tony Lombardi

About Tony Lombardi

Tony is 24×7 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.

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