Joe Flacco deserves more from the Baltimore Ravens

Joe Flacco of the Baltimore Ravens warms up prior to the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field.
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

By Andrea Hangst

It’s not easy being Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco. Despite the Super Bowl ring (and MVP honors), despite the six-year, $120.6 million contract (with $29 million in guaranteed money) that resulted from it and despite being one of the NFL’s most durable players, having never missed a start, it hasn’t been an easy eight years for him. And it’s mainly because he’s not had a strong cast of characters around him.

When it comes to his receivers, Flacco has not been given the kind of support teams generally try to provide to franchise quarterbacks. And when the Ravens have, Murphy’s Law takes over and any and everything bad that can possibly happen, does. Take for example this year. Not only is Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta’s football career potentially over after hip fractures and dislocations suffered in back-to-back years, but Round 1 2015 draft pick, receiver Breshad Perriman, suffered a knee injury on the first day of training camp and re-injured his PCL while taking part in pre-game warmups in Week 3.

Not only that, but Flacco was also without tight end Crockett Gillmore on Thursday night and lost receivers Steve Smith Sr. and Michael Campanaro to back injuries in the win over the Pittsburgh Steelers. Flacco’s receiving corps has thinned considerably, and that’s saying something, given the crew he’s had to work with over his career. There was Torrey Smith, of course—the fast, deep threat best known for helping the Ravens to be the league leaders in drawing pass interference penalties. But even Smith caught under 50 percent of the passes thrown his way during his Ravens tenure, and now he’s with the San Francisco 49ers.

Before that, it was Anquan Boldin. Before that? Derek Mason. And while these players have all been boons for Flacco, they’ve also basically served not just as his primary receiving options but also his only options. While he’s routinely had a running back he could reliably throw passes to—first Ray Rice, now Justin Forsett—a running back does not completely replace having a full complement of receivers. Typically marginal receivers like Kamar Aiken and Marlon Brown are proving to be all the help Flacco can get.

Further complicating matters is the fact that Flacco is on his fourth offensive coordinator in as many years. And while Flacco has handled those transitions with a poise and level of comfort that few other NFL quarterbacks could manage, this also throws curveballs into his preparation, year after year. While the playbook may not change much from Jim Caldwell to Gary Kubiak to Marc Trestman, there are other things, like simple chemistry building and communication, that suffers by so much change.

It’s amazing how committed the Ravens are to Flacco while at the same time making his job much harder than it needs to be. Granted, Baltimore’s general manager, Ozzie Newsome, did try to help Flacco out in this year’s draft by selecting not just Perriman but also tight end Maxx Williams in the first two rounds. But it feels like too little, too late.

There’s no explosiveness to the offense right now, which helps explain why the Ravens have a 1-3 record. Flacco has a big arm, impressive accuracy and unparalleled durability. He should be rewarded with the best possible receiving talent the Ravens can surround him with. Think of the Cincinnati Bengals’ receiving corps. Now think about Flacco having those kinds of players to work with. This could be an unstoppable offense with the right pieces in place. Instead, it feels like the Ravens are punishing Flacco for being their rock. Simply put, Flacco deserves better.

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