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Flacco's Progress?

All we've heard through the Castle and all across the football media is how Baltimore Ravens QB Joe Flacco has progressed from his rookie year to his sophomore season. After Monday night's career worst performance, where he "earned" a 27.2 QB rating, I decided to look back at the stats to see how both seasons measured up against each other to determine his real progress.

Everyone knows that the Ravens have reversed their offensive tendencies to be more of a passing team this year than last year's run oriented offense. Yes, the type of offense that wore teams down, dominated the time of possession and got the Ravens to the AFC Championship Game with a the first rookie QB to ever win one, much less two road playoff games.

Now we are a pass first offense and sit at 6-6 with the need to sweep the remaining four games to even get a sniff of the post season. So how much better has Joe been this year compared to last year? Well, the stats don't lie and here they are:

It is ironic that we are doing this now and you will see why that is. Flacco accumulated his 2008 stats in 16 games last year but we are comparing all 16 games of 2008 to the first 12 of 2009 because due to the re-focus of the game plan this year, Flacco has virtually the same passes attempted and completed through 12 games this year compared to 16 games last year. What does that mean? Basically, it shows that the Ravens are having Joe throw 25% more often in 2009 than he did in 2008. Regardless of his success, it goes away from the way this team has been defined and achieved success from the Super Bowl year of 200 through even last season.

Let's look at the amazingly similar passing stats:

Year    Games     Att.    Comp.    %-age    Yards    Avg.    TD    INT    Long    Sacked   Rating

2008       16         428      257        60.0        2971     6.9      14    12       70            32         80.3

2009       12         406      257        63.3        2881     7.1      14    11       72            26         84.6

Less important, but noteworthy are his rushing stats comparison:

Year      Att.     Yards   Avg.   Long   TD   1st Downs   Fumbles

2008      52       180      3.5       38       2           16                 5

2009      28         51      1.8       10       0             7                  2

The stats show very similar numbers, including the exact same number of completions both years, and almost the same numbers the rest of the way around. The rate of throwing picks is actually up from last year, as he's thrown almost the same number in less attempts. His yards per completion are surprisingly down, most likely due to the recent reliance on Rice Rice out of the backfield rather than throwing downfield. While his sacks are down, the season still has four more games left and those numbers, as well as his TD and interceptions, will surely increase.

While obviously less important, the noticeable difference in his rushing stats tell a tale themselves. He is staying in the pocket or throwing the ball more on the run rather than running this year much more than last. He scrambling last year that resulted in many more first downs may have defenses sitting back waiting for the late release and possible interceptions, many of what we have seen in the Red Zone this season.

Most fans would have said he has made huge strides this season before they read this. Now we have to possibly scratch our heads and say what were we thinking? Better yet, we need to ask the coaching staff if they've seen these same stats and what are they thinking? Isn't this the best evidence presented to make a case for returning to our success by running the ball as the first option and passing as the second option? Utilizing all three running backs like we did last year and not putting Flacco in the position of having to carry this team at a point in his development that he is obviously just not ready to do after only one full season in the NFL. While I accept the fact that he had a pretty good year last season as a rookie, there was too much read into that success and the next step the team expected him to make was just too big of a jump from year one to year two.

Now is the time to say the stats on paper tell the true story and let them be a reminder of what we were able to do with Flacco not being the one to lead the team to success with the weight of the offense on his young shoulders. Go back to what we did and still do well and that is run the ball as Flacco is on pace to make close to 600 passing attempts which could put an unnecessary strain on his young shoulder and arm. I have no problem featuring Ray Rice as the feature back, but give Willis McGahee 10-12 carries a game an LeRon McClain 8-10 as well.That would also limit the wear and tear on the smaller Rice, who should still get 20 touches a game combined rushing and receiving.

Is the possibility of Flacco throwing for close to 4000 yards true progress? Not in my opinion, as the reason is that this team is just relying on him way too much and while the stats are showing the same results as last year, the team as a whole is not.