Dec 18, 2016; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco (5) pressured by the Philadelphia Eagles defense at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports
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Joe Flacco is well payed. He is possibly the most polarizing player in the history of Baltimore sports. Flacco is far from perfect. The being said, the Ravens continuously put him in tight spots.
Joe Flacco had what is arguably the best playoff run a quarterback has ever had in the 2012 season. After throwing 11 touchdowns and no interceptions as he beat Peyton Manning’s Broncos and Tom Brady’s Patriots and being crowned the Super Bowl MVP, Flacco got a big time contract. From that point on there was a ton of pressure on number 5’s shoulders.
The 2013 Ravens season was one of the most frustrating years the Ravens ever had. It was an up and down year. Every time you thought they’d find their old magic, the Ravens fell right back down. The 2013 Ravens had very little around their highly paid quarterback.
The Ravens traded Anqaun Boldin, taking away the Ravens go to play-maker. This made Torrey Smith the number one receiver, a role that he did not thrive in. Without Dennis Pitta, Flacco was in trouble. Gino Gradkowski failed to replace Matt Birk at center. A.Q. Shipley was playing just as horribly as Gradkowski, right next to him. Flacco threw for 19 touchdowns and 22 interceptions and his contract was the topic that wouldn’t die on sports radio.
It’s easy to look at Flacco’s $120.6 million deal and blame his contract for the lack of talent around him. The problem with this ever so exhausted cry from Flacco’s loud critics, is that his cap number wasn’t a hindrance in the first two years of the new contract. Flacco was not the reason that a Super Bowl team had star players stripped away.
Oct 16, 2016; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Baltimore Ravens offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg during the game against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports
Constant Change, Same Problems
For some inexplicable reason, Jim Caldwell got the head coaching job with the Detroit Lions. The Ravens then hired Gary Kubiak to be the new offensive coordinator. Flacco finally had his guy, somebody who got him. Flacco’s stats went up in a big way. The franchise quarterback threw 27 touchdowns and only 12 interceptions. Baltimore’s offense was suddenly efficient. When Kubiak was calling the shots, Flacco was efficient and the negative plays went away. Flacco was sacked 48 times in the 2013 season. In 2014, Flacco was only sacked 19 times. The difference was unmistakable.
Next, the worst thing that could happen, happened. Kubiak accepted the head coaching job for the Denver Broncos. Now, Flacco had Marc Trestman to work with. He was fired after the Ravens week 5 loss to Washington in 2016. Marty Mornhinweg did his best Trestman impression as the Ravens interim offensive coordinator. Fatigue of change is the only sensible explanation why Mornhinweg is still the Ravens play-caller.
Flacco has had one offensive coordinator that was a perfect match. Instead of trying to replicate the success under Kubiak, the Ravens offense is steering into Flacco’s weaknesses. They keep changing coordinators and they keep getting the same struggles. Let’s hope continuity helps the Ravens in 2017, but that looks less than hopeful.
Dec 20, 2015; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Kamar Aiken (11) stiff arms Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Marcus Peters (22) after his catch at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports
A Lackluster Receiving Corps:
Steve Smith is an incredible inspiration and he was a great answer for the Ravens problems at the wide receiver position. When he suffered a season ending injury in 2015, Flacco had nobody to throw the football to. Breshad Perriman was the Ravens number one pick that year, and injury made him miss his rookie season. When Kamar Aiken catches 75 passes in a season and is clearly your best receiver, that says it all.
Mike Wallace was a nice addition in 2016, but at best he should be a speedy number three receiver. Perriman is obviously not ready to be the star he was drafted to be. Smith had an on and off again relationship with injuries and Aiken essentially vanished.
Even with the obvious problem area being the weaponry around Flacco, the Ravens remainb the most pass happy offense in the NFL. The Ravens have invested in their quarterback but they have failed to give him what he needs to play like he did in that epic playoff run or even the 2014 season.
Sep 5, 2013; Denver, CO, USA; Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco (5) prepares to pass in the fourth quarter against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Broncos defeated the Ravens 49-27. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports’
The Moral Of The Story:
We’re at the point where we just want Flacco to step up. The excuses are tiresome. The problem is that the excuses are completely valid. Every franchise quarterback gets big money, even the ones with much less accolades than Flacco. The problem is that other franchises have paid their quarterback and managed to put the right pieces around him. Flacco came back from a horrible injury just to get a massive bruise on his confidence.
The quarterback of the purple and black hasn’t gotten a ton of help. His level of play has not been up to par with what he is banking. It is impossible to excuse a player for bad performances and decisions that make you throw the remote during the game. Flacco needs to be better, but the Ravens have to be better around him.
When your defense plays at a dominant level for most of the season, and you miss the playoffs, your offense has a problem. The Ravens have to put the pieces around Flacco to be successful. They have to put him in situations in which he excels. Whatever you think of the Ravens quarterback he needs to get some help around him.