Controversy surrounded the Palace at Owings Mills, after Ravens QB Joe Flacco made some very poignant comments about the team’s Wildcat offense on Tuesday. After deploying Tyrod Taylor under center, while Flacco played 6’6″ decoy at WR, the reigning Super Bowl MVP was not a fan of the new offensive wrinkle. He stated, “I think it makes us look like a high school offense;” well for most of the season the Ravens offense has produced like a high school offense.
Baltimore has not run the ball with any effectiveness for any game, except against the Bears last ranked run D. The offensive line has struggled mightily, with changes at center because of Matt Birk’s retirement, Kelechi Osemele ending up on the IR and two mid-season trades (which has never been done in franchise history) to settle the LT spot. Add in the loss of Dennis Pitta in training camp, and the foolish off-season trade of WR Anquan Boldin, this team has plenty of excuses why they had to administer the gimmick play calls of the Wildcat to jump start the offense.
But there is only one way to keep the Ravens star QB from moving aside for Tyrod Taylor’s option plays; Joe Flacco must play better. There seems to be two different factions of Baltimore fans, when it comes to the man under center. Either they think that he is one of the NFL’s best QB’s and is stuck with a roster of nobody’s around him on offense, or those that think he is terrible and the cause of all the Ravens problems (especially with that $120 million contract they love to bring up, but do not understand). This debate is more two sided then government budget cuts, gay marriage and Obama care combined.
The facts land Flacco somewhere in the middle of those arguments. He is a GOOD QB, that has proven he can carry the team to a championship, but he is not “elite,” or “great,” or “among the league’s best.” There are very few signal callers in the NFL now, let alone history of the game, that make the players around them better; Flacco is not one of them. He is not, nor never will be, on the same level of Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Drew Brees or Aaron Rodgers. But he also does not need to be; he just needs to be a GOOD QB, week in and week out.
So far this season, he has made too many costly mistakes; mistakes that some people blame on his arsenal of pass-catchers, but in the end, Flacco is the one making the decisions on passes. He obviously needs better talent around him in the future, in order to take this team back to the Super Bowl, but Flacco cannot continue to be mediocre until then. Flacco has very few good games this season; games where he is efficient and accurate through the air, doesn’t turn the ball over and leads his team to a comfortable victory.
It should have been smooth sailing for the Ravens, after entering half-time at home against the Bengals on 11/10. But Flacco made some dimwitted decisions, threw untimely interceptions and allowed Cincinnati to claw back into the game. Thankfully, the Ravens pulled that game off in overtime, because of a strong defensive performance and a clutch kicker. The point is that is a victory for Baltimore, despite Flacco’s ineptitude for an entire half of football. If he remains competent for the four quarters, the Bengals (and most other teams) have no shot. His poor play after halftime almost cost the Ravens the game; Flacco must play better.
Then the team headed to Chicago, for some of the ugliest weather in NFL history. The storms caused a two-hour delay, but Flacco’s mistakes cost the Ravens the game. His interceptions were not because of a wet ball, or treacherous conditions, they were just bad throws. He handed the Bears six points by completing a two yard pass to DE Dave Ball, with open room to return the pick for a touchdown. Flacco put the defense in bad spots with a fumble where he did not step up in the pocket and an interception in double coverage at the middle of the field towards the end of the first half. The Bears garnished points off of all three Flacco mistakes. All this happened in the only game Ray Rice amassed over 100 yards on the ground; Flacco must play better.
The Ravens QB can only control so much of what happens on the football field, but those aspects of the game he commands must be more effective. He has already surpassed his season high for interceptions, with five games still left in the season. That is probably a result of Flacco trying to do too much, for an offense that is struggling, which is not his game. He has led this team in the past by controlling the ball and not handing opponents turnovers; an idea he needs to revert back in order to keep the Ravens in the playoff hunt. This is the main aspect where Flacco must play better.
His accuracy has been questionable for most of the season, only eclipsing the 60% completion rate four times all season. The NFL demands QBs to consistently complete passes in order to move the ball down the field. Though he cannot make-up for key drops, Flacco must put the ball in the pass catchers hands at a higher rate. In order to keep drives alive, and control the clock like the Ravens of 2012, Flacco must play better.
So the criticism and praise will continue to flood sports talk and the Ravens QB will have to take it all in stride. He cannot fight back against his detractors, nor embellish his supporters. To end all the controversy, Flacco simply must play better.