Joe Flacco was surely jesting this offseason when he declared himself the best quarterback in the NFL. Of course, it’s not just Flacco that’s perpetuating the myth that the Ravens’ quarterback is one of the best in the NFL. Baltimore fans and analysts alike were jumping on the Flacco bandwagon after a strong 2011 playoff display.
If the hope was that Flacco would finally “make the jump” and eliminate those pesky occasional terrible games this season, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Simply said, Flacco single-handedly cost the Ravens their Week 2 and 7 games against the Eagles and Texans. Flacco’s accuracy was horrendous in both games, and all he could hit on was dink and dunk passes underneath. His usually-strong decision making skills were gone, and his statuesque pocket presence was in full display.
Flacco conversely had two truly elite games in Weeks 1 and 3 against Cincinnati and New England. Flacco trounced a good Bengals team and fooled all of the Ravens’ faithful to believe he made the jump. Against New England, his strong play pushed Baltimore over the top and exploited New England’s porous secondary perfectly.
The problem is, much like a box of chocolates, you never know which Flacco you’re going to get. And when Flacco is bad, the entire offense stalls around him. In 2011, Flacco completed less than 50 percent of his passes in four games. He averaged less than six yards per attempt in four games as well. Of course, he also had four games completing over 65 percent of his passes and four games averaging more than 7 1/2 yards per attempt.
Completion percentage is a flawed stat, and it certainly isn’t everything, but two straight seasons with a completion percentage under 60 percent is inexcusable in such a pass heavy league. If anything, Flacco is lucky to have his 59.8 percent completion rate. His receivers have been very kind to him.
The Ravens’ receivers have only dropped 11 passes this season, the least in the NFL. Cleveland leads the way with nearly three times as many with 31. Flacco is 22nd among starting quarterback in completion percentage, but if you account for drops, his completion rate suddenly drops to 26th. If every drop was caught, rookie Brandon Weeden — widely deemed the worst starting QB in the league — would have a 64.3 percent completion rate — Flacco’s would be 63.7. If you want some truly elite numbers, Tom Brady‘s would be 72.8 and Peyton Manning‘s would be 77.7.
Flacco doesn’t belong in a class with Brady, Manning, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers. His winning ways don’t place him down with Weeden, Blaine Gabbert or the Arizona quarterbacks either. Instead, Flacco should be grouped with other inconsistent players like Tony Romo and Jay Cutler — guys you can win with, but maybe not win it all. All three players’ inconsistent nature essentially means their teams have to get lucky in three or four games straight. You can win against the Clevelands and Jacksonvilles of the league with shoddy play, but when the games matter the most, the teams get tougher.
Everyone keeps waiting for Flacco to just get better. He’s progressed very little since he entered the league in 2008, and he may always be that player that overachieved, and got hopes high his rookie season.