The Baltimore Ravens were lambasted in London this past Sunday, and nary a player or coach is without fault. While much of the focus is on a defense who left all its energy on the other side of the Atlantic and an offensive line in shambles, the Ravens only franchise quarterback in history does not emerge unscathed.
While it is not productive being over-reactionary to the Ravens first time appearing in the loss column in 2017, we expect them to bounce back at home against rival Pittsburgh this coming Sunday, the sight of Joe Flacco appearing out of his depth against the Jaguars caused me to ponder whether we need to adjust our expectations.
When will we see Joe Flacco take ownership of this offense?
Until now, there was always an excuse. First it was inexperience, a lack of firepower, a focus on the run game. Then came the injury, albeit during an already underwhelming performance, and the recovery which stretched into 2016 with the Ravens missing the playoffs. In addition, there was the always changing cast of offensive coordinators, none better than the last with the exception of Gary Kubiak.
So here we are, with a 10-year veteran at quarterback paid among the best at his position, vacillating from game to game, with some in the decent category, others in the struggling category, with an occasional flash of January Joe who we love. But why hasn’t Joe been able to grab the reigns of this team and run?
Several options exist, none of which fully absolve Flacco or the coaching staff. But a franchise quarterback needs the ability to identify the coverage and switch the blocking or the play call at the line to take advantage. A franchise quarterback needs to be watching game film of opponents, seeking out weaknesses to exploit, and helping his coaches craft a game plan for him to execute. The Jaguars crafted a great one with the capricious Blake Bortles this past Sunday, against our beloved Ravens. Flacco should be able to do all that and more at this point.
Is the coaching staff not letting Joe have the control he needs to take the next step?
Does Flacco lack the chops to take that next step and really run an offense?
When the offensive line is having issues, the play calls have to be a mix of short drops to keep the pass rush away. That may not be enough to stop a truly elite defense, but I don’t think the Jaguars team who gave up 37 points at home in week 2 to the Titans is elite. The Ravens should have been better prepared, and while some of that falls on the offensive staff, plenty of it falls on Joe too.
The bottom line is, this year is sink or swim time for Joe. The offensive staff need to give Joe a long leash and see what he can do with it. If his ceiling is what we have seen the past two years, the Ravens need to find a new quarterback, which would mean spending a day 2 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft at the position. We would have the luxury of letting our new quarterback sit a year, and then fight for the starting job in year 2. Cutting or trading Flacco would save $10.5 million in cap space with $16 million in dead money if done before the 2019 season. Or, only $8 million in dead money after the 2019 season. Either way, the Ravens need to figure out what they have before then, and there is only one way to do so.
Give Joe the keys to the offense, and get out of the way. Because that is the only way we will truly have our answer. Miss the playoffs again this year, it’s going to be Flacco or John Harbaugh who bear the brunt of the blame. So knowing what we have will go a long way to deciding which of those two are still in our future.