Normally when I see the headline 'rankings', especially during the offseason, I cringe. Most are poorly written/researched by people who should know better. After Cian Fahey's 'Tier 7' assessment of Joe Flacco a few weeks ago, I made a vow to myself to pay no attention to any more 'rankings', and to not even consider writing about them.
However, ESPN's QB rankings were spot on, and deserve to be reported on.
ESPN employed the services of over 30 league 'insiders' for the project, who are all great evaluators of talent. The panel consisted of eight personnel directors, six general managers, four head coaches, five offensive coordinators, five defensive coordinators, three salary-cap managers, two ex-GMs, two ex-head coaches, and one offensive assistant coach.
The 'insiders' ranked the QBs into one of five tiers, the results were averaged at the end to produce a 1-32 ranking across the tiers.
Now where was Joe Flacco ranked?
'Joe Cool' was placed in the second tier, or 10th place of the 32 QBs ranked. His average rating was Tier 1.94. He was placed between Philip Rivers, Russell Wilson and Tony Romo, and in front of Matt Ryan, Eli Manning and Matthew Stafford. A fair assessment if you ask me.
"I'm not insulted by the placement of Flacco, therefore I approve of this list." - Redditor /u/streetxmanifesto
The insiders categorized Tier 2 players as "less consistent and need more help, but good enough to figure prominently into a championship equation." This exactly describes Flacco, who has been inconsistent at times in the regular season, but definitely championship-caliber. The previous sentiment was proved true in the 2012 Playoffs, where Flacco famously led the Ravens to their second Lombardi trophy.
This was the second installation of this list, as Flacco climbed two spots from last year's rankings and had a 15.8% change in rating on the heels of his best statistical year yet. However, while he placed well, Flacco also had his detractors as usual.
A GM who placed Flacco in the second tier said he could make a case for him as a 3, noting nearly identical career stat lines for Flacco and Andy Dalton in winning percentage, yards per attempt and passer rating. Their career Total QBR scores are also right around 53, just ahead of Ryan Tannehill.
Ugh. Dalton v. Flacco? Don't even get me started here. Their compared stats may paint a pretty picture for Dalton, but his annual playoff implosion certainly doesn't. While Flacco doesn't deserve to have his name in the same breath as the likes of Manning, Brady, Rodgers, and Brees, he certainly shouldn't be compared to guys like Dalton either. It should be noted that Dalton was ranked Tier 3, or tied for 18th place.
A personnel director placed Flacco in the third tier, saying that Flacco has played his best games at the right times, and that he considered it more anomaly than a sign of Flacco possessing some sort of clutch gene.
"That Super Bowl run had to do with his defense and Torrey Smith having a heckuva year making catches down the field, and Anquan Boldin making tough catches," this director said. "They had the right combination of people around him. That is important for him. I don't see him as a guy who carries the team. I do not think he has the short accuracy. He has downfield arm strength, a big arm but not a great arm. I don't think personality-wise he is the leader of your team."
- totally the Steelers GM
Okay, so we don't know for a fact if that was the Steelers GM, but it certainly sounds like something he'd say. Anyways, the whole 'defense won us the ring' argument has been run into the ground, and it simply isn't true. That Ravens defense was ranked 17th in the league, while Ray Lewis and Ed Reed were valuable contributors, they were far removed from their primes. With his 11 touchdowns and no interceptions during that Super Bowl run, it's impossible to say that Flacco wasn't the main reason the Ravens took home the title.
People also often forget that Flacco doesn't have the greatest supporting cast, on both sides of the ball. His receivers have never been anything to write home about, as they left Flacco with the most yards lost due to dropped passes of any QB last year. On the defensive side, the reign of shutdown Raven defenses ended a long time ago, as last year's unit gave up the most pass yards in team history.
It's an argument many Ravens fans always seem to resort to, but it's true. While many of the QBs ranked around Flacco have 'elite' weapons at their disposal, he does not. For now, it will have to stay a 'what if?' situation.
On the positive side of things, one defensive coordinator placed Joe in the top tier, saying that Flacco had great arm strength, and praised him for his play last year.
However, even I, a huge Flacco fan, don't believe that Flacco is a 'Tier 1' QB. It will take more from him to join the ranks of the best, in my humble opinion.
I'm with this head coach.
"Joe is a 2," a head coach said. "He can't do it all, but he can do enough, and he doesn't do it every week. To me he is like Eli [Manning]. He can go win the game."
At the end of the day, Joe Flacco is a true winner, and that's what matters most in this league. GMs don't simply draft quarterbacks to put up pretty stats, they draft them to win for their team. That's what Joe Flacco does, and he does it better than almost any other QB in the league. A 'Tier 1' winner is the best description for Joe Flacco.