Baltimore Ravens’ quarterback Joe Flacco hasn’t had the best couple of weeks, and if his team doesn’t correct a recent trend, he may again have a tough season in 2017. That trend is a certain amount of overexposure that has gotten him in trouble in terms of his level of play over the past few seasons.
As a franchise, the Ravens are a team that is known for prioritizing the running game, but the last several seasons have not been indicative of that. For the first three years of Flacco’s career, he never attempted more than 500 passes while the team showed a heavy emphasis on feeding the running backs.
His fourth and fifth year in the league, he attempted 542 and 531 passes in 2011 and 2012 respectively, the final two seasons of the Ravens’ five year streak of playoff runs. In 2013 Flacco attempted 614 passes in the worst season of his career, only to bounce back with a very nice 2014 campaign in which he only threw 554 passes.
The last two years (2015 and 2016) he’s been from below average to bad after attempting 413 passes in 10 games in ‘15 and a career high (by a wide margin) 672 in 2016. Essentially, all of the hard data points to the Ravens having much more success when Flacco throws the ball less.
It may seem a bit asinine to utilize your highest paid player less, but not in Flacco’s case. As a player, he has always had more success throwing the ball deep off of play action, which only works well if the rushing attempts are there.
Chief Colin Kaepernick crusader Cian Fahey has led a one man takedown attempt on Flacco since 2014, but while some of his points and opinions on Flacco can come across as jaded and colored by circumstance he does make certain valid points in his criticisms of the Ravens’ franchise quarterback. The mechanical flaws that he notes such as Flacco showing less confidence to stand tall and set his feet in the pocket are pretty noticeable at times, and has affected his ability to get the ball down the field as well as he used to.
The Ravens’ offensive coaching staff will have to get him back to the player that he was in 2014 and before, and to do so the numbers bear out that they’ll have to lower his passing attempts and therefore limit his exposure. This will be especially crucial considering he’ll be re-entering the lineup coming off of a back injury that kept him sidelined for a month.
While he shouldn’t necessarily be protected by the coaching staff as he was during his first few seasons in the NFL, the data shows that Flacco is more effective and the Ravens win more games when he throws the ball less. As a result, Marty Morninwheg and Greg Roman will have to get all hands on deck to make sure the offense and the quarterback operate more effectively in 2017.