Does Flacco Deserve Contract Extension?
2012 is the final year of Joe Flacco’s contract with the Ravens, and the early word out of Baltimore is that the two sides had a productive first meeting regarding a contract extension Saturday at the NFL combine. Naturally, neither Flacco nor the Ravens want this negotiation looming over their heads when the season begins in 2012. However, if I were a Ravens fan there is no way that I would be rooting for Flacco to sign a contract extension this offseason. Flacco is apparently asking for an extension averaging $15 million a season. Flacco is currently only scheduled to make $6.76 million in 2012 with a roster bonus of $2.1 million, so what he’s asking for would be a pretty big step up in terms of pay. When a player asks for a more lucrative contract, it is generally assumed that he’s doing so because he is playing at a higher level than anticipated and therefore deserves money. So the question is, through Flacco’s first four seasons has he exceeded expectations like he seems to believe he has, or has he been at or below the level where the Ravens expected him to be? In my opinion, the answer to this question is rather obvious. Thus far in his career, Joe Flacco has been a major disappointment.
However Flacco’s agent, Joe Linta, seems to disagree with me on this point. According to Linta, “If the game is about wins and losses, he has to be in the top 5[quarterbacks],” Linta told Matt Vensel of the Baltimore Sun. “He is a player who has been extremely durable, never missed a game. And he’s done something that no one has ever done. In his four years in the league, he has never missed a game and has more wins than any other quarterback.” Now I understand that it’s the agent’s job to defend his clients and promote their value, but this statement is absolutely ridiculous. First of all the wins stat is both false and deceiving. Drew Brees has more wins during that time period, and so would Tom Brady and Peyton Manning if it were not for season-ending injuries. Granted durability is important and Flacco has won a lot of games, but the conclusion that that alone makes Flacco a top 5 quarterback is utterly preposterous. Maybe I shouldn’t be so surprised to hear such far-fetched garbage coming from an agent’s mouth, but I can’t help myself. The Ravens won all of those games because of their defense and running game, not because of Joe Flacco. Not to mention, citing regular season victories rather than postseason victories is never a good sign in grading the stock of an NFL quarterback (Flacco is just 5-4 in his career in the postseason).
Linta’s comments also got me thinking, just how many quarterbacks in the NFL are better than Joe Flacco at this point? In my opinion, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger, Drew Brees, Phillip Rivers, Eli Manning, Matt Schaub, Tony Romo, Matthew Stafford, Matt Ryan, Jay Cutler, Michael Vick, Cam Newton, Matt Cassel, Matt Hasselbeck, and Alex Smith are all better than Joe Flacco right now. In case you weren’t counting, that’s 17 quarterbacks. 17. Now I’m sure some of you are reading this and thinking, maybe Joe Flacco’s not top five, but he’s got to be better than a few of the quarterbacks that were just listed. The statistics do not support this. Last year for example, Flacco wasn’t merely below top 5 statistically, but he wasn’t even in the top half of the league. His quarterback rating was only 80.9, ranking him 18th in the NFL.
The funny thing is it’s not just Flacco’s agent Linta that has overrated him, Flacco has also overrated himself. Instead of being humble, Flacco said “I think of myself the same way,” when asked whether or not he considers himself to be a top five quarterback in the league. Now there’s absolutely nothing wrong with believing in one’s own abilities, but for Flacco to be so vocal about it and then to have such a disappointing year in 2011 is a little embarrassing. Flacco and Linta don’t seem to be embarrassed about it at all however.
Flacco was taken 18th overall by the Ravens in 2008. He was supposed to be their answer to Ben Roethlisberger. One cannot deny the similarities between the two at the time. They were both huge quarterbacks with rocket arms from small schools. The similarities end there however, as Roethlisberger has been the far superior pro. Roethlisberger may be a future hall of famer so perhaps it’s a little unfair to compare Flacco to him, and then call Flacco an underachiever for not being on Roethlisberger’s level. Although Flacco has been the second most successful NFL quarterback of his draft class behind Matt Ryan, the 2008 stock of quarterbacks was arguably one of the weakest in the history of the league. This could help explain why Flacco was still drafted so high with so many question marks around his accuracy and pocket awareness going into the draft.
The question mark of accuracy has certainly proven to be a real issue with Flacco; he had a career low 57.6% completion percentage in 2011. According to Pro-Football-Reference.com, Flacco is 17th among active quarterbacks in net yards per pass attempt. Flacco is 14th in active completion percentage and 13th in active passer rating. Flacco also takes a lot of sacks despite having a very solid offensive line, and has the same number of come from behind victories in his career as Tim Tebow and Kyle Orton (6). What has to be more disheartening for Ravens fans is that although Flacco has never had a great season, he was steadily improving up until 2011, a season in which he clearly regressed.
Even with such a bad regular season, Flacco had the chance yet again to silence the haters and prove that he was an elite quarterback in the NFL. If he really wanted to be considered at that level, he needed to perform a lot better than he ever had in the playoffs. Prior to 2011, Flacco’s career in the postseason had been abysmal. He completed only 53.1 percent of his passes while averaging only 153.3 yards per carry and had thrown only six touchdowns compared to seven interceptions. To be fair to Flacco, his performance in the 2011 playoffs were a slight improvement. Although he had a shaky performance in the divisional round against the Texans that nearly cost them the game, he did have a 96.1 quarterback rating overall and gave his team a shot to send it into overtime on a field goal. It’s not fair to blame Falco for that loss; the Ravens lost because Billy Cundiff couldn’t hit a chip shot. Still, one can’t say that Flacco put the Ravens on his back last postseason either. Despite having a solid statistical performance at New England, Flacco was still only able to put up 20 points against one of the leagues very worst pass defenses.
Even Flacco’s Ravens teammates on defense have occasionally expressed frustration to the media regarding his performance. None more so than team leader Ed Reed, who had what was perhaps the most vocal criticism ever by a teammate of Flacco’s on SiriusXM radio following the narrow playoff victory over Houston. “Joe was kind of rattled a little bit by that defense,” Reed said. “They had a lot of guys in the box on him and they were giving it to him. I think a couple of times he needed to get rid of the ball. It just didn’t look like he had a hold on the offense. … It was just kind of like they (were) telling him (what) to do — throw the ball or get it here, you know, get it to certain guys.” “He can’t play like that,” Reed continued. “One specific play that sticks out to me was when Ray Rice came out and got pushed out of the backfield and (Flacco) still threw him the ball and he had Torrey Smith on the outside. I can see that sitting on the sideline or sitting in the stands. You don’t know what someone else is seeing.” That doesn’t necessarily sound like a player that’s dying to play with Flacco for the short remainder of his career. The Ravens should give Flacco another year to prove himself before arbitrarily awarding him with a new lucrative long-term contract. He certainly hasn’t proved himself yet. $15 million a season for average?