For all of us who have been clamoring for a big name wide receiver, such as Denver's Brandon Marshall, Arizona's Anquan Boldin, or even Buffalo's Terrell Owens, the addition of such a name might not make any difference in the Baltimore Ravens' passing game. Currently and historically in the entire decade, the Ravens air attack has been one of the lower ranked in the league and despite the addition of what is supposed to be our future Franchise Quarterback, the ranking has not significantly improved.
Proportionately, it has pretty much the same statistics as it did last year, but the team just threw the ball more times than it did last season, approximately 30% more in 2009 than in 2008. However, this is still a run-first offense and the emergence of second year running back Ray Rice has overshadowed the same in second year QB Joe Flacco. Due to Rice's success, Flacco not only hands him the ball more often, but also looks for him out of the backfield more than anyone else on the team.
So what difference will a big name, star quality WR make on the Ravens?
Probably not much, at least at first, as both the QB and his receiver will need to get acclimated with each other and that takes time for a young QB. However, even with his maturity, the connection he makes with his wideouts depends partly on his abilities as well as the leadership from the coaches who make the offensive decisions on the sidelines. Let's look at some of the examples of QB's that have been successful without that star wide receiver.
Tom Brady won three Super Bowls with the New England Patriots, all without that big name guy to throw to. Even when Randy Moss entered the fray, the Patriots had an undefeated regular season and both Brady and Moss set individual records at their positions, but they still have not hoisted the Lombardi Trophy together. Donovan McNabb made the Super Bowl with TO and lost, but he also made a bunch of NFC Championship Games without him.
Sure, Peyton Manning has Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark and had Marvin Harrison, but he has made great wide receivers out of no-names such as Brandon Stokley, Anthony Gonzalez, Austin Collie and Pierre Garcon. New Orlean's Drew Brees has put up huge numbers, with guys who were relatively unknown coming out of college in Marques Colston, Devery Henderson and Robert Meacham.
Even Dallas' Tony Romo, despite his inability to get deep into the post season, has enjoyed a prolific passing game with just guys such as Miles Austin and Patrick Crayton. Look what the veteran Brett Favre did to Minnesota's relatively poor passing game with receivers such as Sidney Rice, Bernard Berrian and Visanthe Shiancoe?
My point is not that I am even beginning to compare the Ravens' Joe Flacco to these NFL stars, but just trying to understand what looks like a trend that the better QB's make the WR's, not the other way around. Teams that win the Super Bowl, much less compete for it year after year, are those with veteran quarterbacks, not necessarily those with star wide receivers. My point being that until Flacco grows up over the years, the reps and the experience that these guys have earned, the addition of a big name wide receiver may not make the difference that so many fans, as well as local female radio hosts covet as the answer to all our problems.
Perhaps too much blame is being heaped upon the Ravens second year QB, but that position can absolutely make or break a team's chances to get to the pinnacle of the game. At the same time, the fanfare surrounding Flacco's arrival has put the spotlight a bit brighter on him than perhaps it should be. Not helping the situation was the emphasis on the passing game that we saw throughout the season which appeared to be a classic case of "too much, too soon." Perhaps as the experience continues, Flacco will rise to the level where he can better "manage" a game and then the addition of a big name receiver will only further his progress. But adding one right at this point, might just not make the difference that many would expect and then where would that leave Joe and his lofty status amongst the Ravens' fanbase?
Flacco might actually be better off with a young receiver with big potential to grow with and develop that connection we spoke about earlier, than to just plug in a star name and expect the results to be spectacular. Everyone could end up very disappointed if that were to happen. Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome knows what he is doing and will put the parts together for this team that will support Flacco's progression, and not just hide his inefficiencies at this point of his young career.