Monday, September 20, 2010

Flacco alarmingly inefficient against quality opponents

"It's just one game," said Ravens outside linebacker Jarret Johnson after the Ravens lost to the Bengals 15-10 on Sunday.

"It won't make us or break us."

True for the team but is that true for Joe Flacco?

Could the depths of his ineptness against Cincinnati defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer’s Cover 2 break the quarterback formerly known as Joe Cool? And while we’re on the topic of “cool” does that description really fit Flacco?


You know generally speaking it wouldn’t be fair to beat up on Joe the Quarterback after just two games and one loss. After all, didn’t most of us when considering the Ravens schedule conclude that the team needs to at least split the first two games of the season in order to set up the balance of the campaign properly?

But this isn’t about one game with Flacco. This is a body of work that suggests the third year signal caller can’t get it done against playoff caliber teams.

Since the 2008 post season Flacco has been in 14 games against playoff teams including the two 2010 contests. His record is 5-9. During those games Flacco has thrown only 10 touchdown passes while connecting with the wrong color jerseys 21 times. He’s connected on a little less than 55% of his passes in those contests on 447 attempts. He’s averaged just 191 yards passing.

Add it all up and Flacco’s QB Rating is a paltry 60.4 against high level competitors.

Many blamed the lack of weapons in the passing game for Flacco’s past failures and they concluded that if Ozzie could only surround the former Delaware Blue Hen with quality weapons, the numbers would climb and so would his success against the better teams in the league.

Usher in former Pro Bowlers Anquan Boldin and TJ Houshmandzadeh; draft polished receiving TE prospects Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta to go along with former Pro Bowlers Ray Rice, Willis McGahee, Le’Ron McClain, Todd Heap and Derrick Mason.

Mission accomplished Ozzie.

Yet the results aren’t any better.

In fact they are worse.

Flacco’s QB rating through two games in 2010 is an anemic 41.2. And other than blind faith there’s little evidence that suggests things will get better.

Sure, Flacco should get some medicine this weekend for his ills and the prescription reads: “The Cleveland Browns”. But will playing the Browns morph into a long term remedy for Joe? Can anyone realistically conclude today that he has a chance to beat the rugged Steelers in Pittsburgh on October 4?

Flacco’s mechanics are in disarray. He’s throwing off his back foot. His drops seem out of synch and consequently his timing with his receivers is off. He no longer seems to be throwing to a spot on the field. He waits until receivers break open and then throws.

By the time the ball arrives it’s often too late.

Or worse!

What happened to looking off the safeties the way Flacco did during the preseason?

Where are those effective pump fakes?

Jim Zorn said priority No. 1 for him as the club’s new QB coach would be to help Flacco develop suddenness and explosiveness in the pocket. Who detonated that plan?

Let’s face it – Joe Flacco is a mess.

On Sunday against the Bengals both Boldin and Mason seemed a bit perturbed about Flacco’s inability to deliver the ball. Instead of huddling on the sidelines Flacco’s confusion and stoic expression was matched only by Zorn’s apparent confusion and equally stoic expression.

Why not get together with Boldin and Mason and talk it over – discuss what they can do together to make it work? Wouldn’t that make sense? Wouldn’t that show leadership?

Instead Boldin and Mason brood while Flacco takes another trip to the land of the dazed and confused.

Ever see Peyton Manning on the sidelines after a series gone awry. He’s pouring over snapshots of formations, talking to his receivers, coaches and offensive line to work together to fix the issues.

We don’t see any pre-snap adjustments from Flacco in the form of audibles.

We don’t see any irregular cadences designed to disrupt the defense’s timing.

What we do see is Flacco locking in on receivers which draws defenders and prevents him from seeing the entire field as evidenced by a WIDE open Mason running all alone down the right side line (see video).

Flacco fell flat on his face for the third consecutive time against the Bengals. That’s a disturbing pattern that suggests little development.

Is he above being yanked for the balance of the game?

Isn’t the team more important? Isn’t the win?

Why worry about the psyche of the quarterback? Wouldn’t a good quarterback use the yanking as fuel to prove the world wrong and respond to the adversity? Isn’t that the kind of leader you want for your football team?

There are no more excuses for Flacco. Ozzie has provided all the toys. He’s carefully augmented the roster to give Flacco enviable weaponry via trades, the draft and free agent acquisitions.

Flacco has to start delivering and not just against JV teams like the Cleveland Browns. He needs to do it against the Steelers in Pittsburgh. If not there’s another free agent acquisition that Ozzie Newsome signed who just might be able to help.

His name is Marc Bulger who could prove to be the best free agent QB acquisition since Arizona hired Kurt Warner to “back-up” Matt Leinart.

Sure, one game as Jarret Johnson said won’t make or break the Ravens.

But how many more performances against good teams like the one Flacco turned in on Sunday can the Ravens absorb before the really are broken?

Let’s hope we never find out.


Jerry B said...

If Joe is a "mess" right now, it could be attributed to the Ravens "messing" with him in the offseason. He came out of Delaware with a 62% completion percentage, which means regardless of the competition, he was accurate. He looked accurate in his first two seasons as a starter, too. So, what did the Ravens do? In the offseason, they sent him to the west coast to work with a baseball pitching coach to work on his.......accuracy! I thought it was a mistake then and still do, but draw your own conclusions. They have also put too much pressure on him by emphasizing the passing game behind a struggling offensive line. They need to get back to featuring the running game, which will take some of that pressure off of their young QB. More imaginative play calling would help, also. As for Bulger, sooner or later, if Joe continues to struggle they will have to resort to a guy who is not just a proven, experienced QB, but a former pro bowler who, like Kurt Warner, who he replaced in St. Louis, could help this team win. One thing they cannot afford to do is to squander all the talent on this team, which they did for five years waiting for Boller to develop........

Phil from Frostburg said...

Have to agree with Jerry that the game planning has been poor. In addition, he's been under a lot of pressure from base 4-man fronts. What happened to the new deep middle patterns we read about so much during OTAs and training camp?

Putting that aside, the 14 games against playoff teams include a lot of those games against Cincy, Pittsburgh, and Indy, which all play cover-2. I'd be interested to see a more in-depth look at Flacco's performance against this scheme. I bet that's the most prevalent common factor. As Preston wrote, they need to throw out whatever strategy they have against the cover-2 and start from scratch.

dlamb44 said...

First of all everyone that is putting all this blame on Flacco doesn't pay attention to football. Given Flacco has been far from perfect but first off since when was he supposed to be this high calibur quaterback? Since i can remember the Ravens were a run first team it wasnt there amazing air attack that took them to the promise land when they won it all and it wasnt when they lost a game away from the bowl 2 yrs ago.
Its great that they picked up a top reciever in boldin and a great 3rd reciever in housh but i was under the impression these were guys to help flacco when they needed them not to throw to 40 times against the bengals.
The ravens have been a dominant team on the ground in recent years and thats the first thing they need to get back to. Everything plays off your running game, if your picking up decent gains on the ground it takes pressure off ur qb, sets up pa, safetys cheat up which opens guys up for Joe to be much better than what our now joke of an offensive "air attack guru" cam cameron. I didnt know cam and jason garret had the same mindset but after 39 attempts through the air in a low scoring game with a run first team, its not like they needed to pass. Get ur run blocking line back in sync and pound the football and dont look to flacco to carry the team and have 280 plus yards and 2+ tds every week thats not what Baltimores about.

Jerry B said...

Here's an additional point to ponder: not only did they send Flacco out to the west coast to work on his accuracy, they're paying Bulger considerably more money than Flacco to "back him up"! Not exactly displays of......confidence!