Right now there are more than a few quarterbacks in the NFL who are envious of Joe Flacco. Envious because a middle of the road NFL quarterback turned a Hall of Fame type playoff run and fortuitous timing into a record six year $120.6 million contract from the Ravens to become the highest paid player in league.
It’s a contract that is mind-boggling, logical, and moreover risky as to whether or not Baltimore will actually see a return that justifies their immense investment in the quarterback.
In a sense it seems ridiculous to question a contract that rewards a quarterback who is coming off one of the best postseasons in NFL history with 11 touchdowns, zero interceptions, and a 117.2 passer rating. Only Joe Montana and Kurt Warner have thrown the same number of touchdowns in a postseason and Flacco’s passer rating is tied for 5th all-time for quarterbacks who have led their teams to a Super Bowl appearance. The others in this group include Steve Young, Troy Aikman, Phil Simms, Bart Starr, and Joe Montana…all with the exception of Simms are Hall of Famers.
But does a phenomenal four game stretch justify making Flacco the highest paid player in the NFL? Of course not.
It’s easy to forget that prior to the Ravens’ Super Bowl run, there were more doubters than believers in Flacco’s ability to ultimately deliver Baltimore a championship on his own.
Up till this season, Flacco’s postseason record of 5-4 included numerous underwhelming performances where the team was carried to victory by its vaunted defense. During Flacco’s first nine playoff games he tossed the same number of touchdowns to interceptions (8) for a passer rating of 70.4. Not exactly a pillar of playoff strength. Additionally, even with his improved performance during this postseason, Flacco still completed less than 58% of his passes and his career average in the playoff is only 55%.
Of course there is also Flacco’s rather pedestrian regular season numbers to consider.
Although he is 54-26 in the regular season (.675 winning percentage) and has nearly a 2-to-1 touchdown to interception ratio, Flacco has completed only 60.5% of his passes and averaged 220 yards per game for a passer rating of 86.3. Again not exactly what one would consider elite quarterback numbers justifying an elite salary. This is especially so given the fact that most would argue that just like in the playoffs, Flacco’s regular season winning percentage has benefited from the team possessing a top tier defense.
In looking at this past season’s statistics, there were 13 starting quarterbacks in the NFL with a high passer rating than Flacco, a list that includes rookie Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson as well as Tony Romo and the ever unpopular Philip Rivers. There were 21, yes 21 starting quarterbacks with a higher completion percentage than Flacco in 2012, a list that frighteningly includes Christian Ponder, Carson Palmer, and Ryan Fitzpatrick…none of whom would ever be considered an elite quarterback. Even the statistical gurus at Pro Football Focus have lukewarm feelings toward Flacco, rating him the 17th overall quarterback in the league with every rookie quarterback who took 75%+ of the snaps in 2012 rated higher with the sole exception being the Browns’ Brandon Weeden.
The fact is Flacco’s contract is one that was born out of circumstance rather than numbers. Refusing to sign a $16 million a year extension during last off-season, Flacco (and his agent) gambled correctly that a weak free agent market and underwhelming rookie draft class would make him more valuable this off-season than the last (winning the Super Bowl was just icing on the cake).
With no viable options to replace the 28 year old Super Bowl MVP and facing a public relations disaster if they didn’t resign Flacco, Ravens’ owner Steve Bisciotti and GM Ozzie Newsome were effectively cornered into offering Flacco a mega contract.
Guaranteeing over $62 million over three years the contract in itself is a gamble, one that is largely based off of a seven game stretch where Flacco blossomed under the direction of offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell.
As you might recall, Caldwell replaced Cam Cameron after Baltimore’s Week 14 loss to Washington and for the first time during the quarterback’s five year career Flacco finally played to the potential which made him the 18th overall pick in the 2008 draft.
Given the success Flacco has had under Caldwell, it seems justified to say that the marriage between Cameron and Flacco was one where the former OC was a hindrance to the quarterback’s success. Cameron admitted as much when his firing was “a brilliant move” by the organization.
Yet we can’t forget that Caldwell is a coach that up until Week 15 had never called an offensive play in the NFL and that Flacco’s success in playoffs might have more to do with opposing defensive coordinators’ unfamiliarity with Caldwell’s style, scheme, and play calling than a harmonious union of two people that produced a Hall of Fame caliber quarterback during the Raven’s Super Bowl run.
Thus the Flacco contract is a huge gamble on the Ravens part.
The organization might profess to know who Joe Flacco is and what he can deliver for the team in the coming year’s. But it’s not until opponents have a solid grasp of who Jim Caldwell is as a play caller that the Ravens, media, and fans will know whether or not the team is paying for the 2012 postseason Joe Flacco or a pedestrian NFL quarterback who might not have a strong defensive unit going forward to bolster his winning percentage.
Don’t believe that an offensive coordinator makes all the difference? Ask individuals like Jay Cutler, Mark Sanchez, Jason Campbell, or Alex Smith about the importance of having a competent play caller in your ear. In particular Jay Cutler would most likely argue that had he had a competent offensive coordinator in Chicago, the Bears would have already won a Super Bowl and it would be him receiving an overinflated contract. Even possible future Hall of Famer Drew Brees felt the hurt this past season without offensive guru Sean Payton on the sidelines.
The bottom line is that people should congratulate Joe Flacco for beating “The House” and it remains to be seen whether or not the Ravens can recoup the House’s money.
Copyright © sports-glutton.com, 2010-2013. All Rights Reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from sports-glutton.com is strictly prohibited.