As a counterpoint to Kris Jones' article on Wednesday, I'll explore some of the reasons that Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco not working with his wide receivers during the offseason is a bad thing and should warrant some critique from fans and media.
The best quarterbacks in the league practice their craft. They work on timing, they work on making all the throws and don't just rely on their given physical talent. I think that phrasing is key in the discussion and ultimate critiquing of Flacco. You can see that in all the best players of each sport, they all have a story of non stop practice and a tireless work ethic that is borderline crazy.
Michael Jordan shooting 100 free throws every night and his work ethic is stuff of legend. Peyton Manning has his offseason workouts and legendary work ethic as well that sees him at the top of the quarterback game. Kobe Bryant is a nonstop worker that often creates some turmoil when his teammates don't work as hard as he does. All of those players already have talent but pure talent doesn't get you everywhere in the pros.
Now this is not to say that Flacco can't reach those same heights himself. He has the arm strength, the touch on his throws, the command of the offense and the mental ability to continuously learn while not harping on mistakes. He has all the talent to be the best in the league without a doubt and that is why Ravens fans give him such a large amount of slack on things like stats, mistakes and his work habits.
That is precisely why Joe Flacco should be given some grief for his inability to get with his receivers over the years. He has all the talent but hasn't been able to put up the stats that would warrant his "elite" status. He has had his stretches where he was "elite" like in the playoffs during the Ravens' Super Bowl run of 2012, but even significantly inferior quarterbacks have put up some serious numbers when they were in the zone, so we can't truly use that in the debate of Flacco's accomplishments.
We can look at the Super Bowl win, but Dan Marino, one of the greatest quarterbacks in the history of the NFL has never won a ring while players like Trent Dilfer have that on their resume. So that isn't really all that fair of an assessment of Flacco's accomplishments.
What you can look at is that regardless of talent around him, Flacco's stats sit about the same. This year, Flacco has all the talent at the receiver position he could ask for and if he doesn't drastically perform, the mutters will become screams. Which is why it is more important than ever for him to take the time to get to know his new targets.
With the Ravens' new weapons in Owen Daniels and Steve Smith, Flacco has two serious threats that he needs to gel with. That gelling process takes time... more time than just some voluntary team workouts and training camp can fully give. He needs to start that process sooner than later and if he waits to start until voluntary team workouts, he will be getting a much later start than the rest of the top offenses in the league.
We've seen what happens when a receiver becomes trusted with Flacco in players like Smith, Pitta and Boldin. Then again, we've also seen what happens when Flacco doesn't trust you as much in a player like Ed Dickson. With that trust comes a respect and a willingness to throw into a tough spot. Those throws are the difference between wins and losses at this level and is something that shouldn't be discounted on Flacco's troubles last season.
Simply put, there is a reason that you see the top athletes practicing well over what their counterparts do. It is no coincidence that Hall of Fame players all have stories surrounding them of putting the game in front of everything else. Everyone at the professional level is faster, bigger, stronger so in order to stand out of the crowd, you need to get the mental part down even more so you have the edge. Until Flacco takes that step, he can expect to hear from fans and media that know he can achieve greater if only he put the time in.