Grantland’s Bill Barnwell has ruffled some feathers here in Baltimore before, but nearly nothing nearly as bad as the backlash he received for his latest column on Joe Flacco. Barnwell’s piece, titled “The Myth of Joe Flacco” statistically analyzes the Baltimore Ravens quarterback and discredits him for the success that he has had throughout his four year NFL career.
Through a formula that calculates how frequently an NFL quarterback wins with a given number of points allowed (similar to wins above replacement in baseball), Barnwell estimates that Flacco is only a slightly above average QB given the Ravens defensive output. “Flacco’s winning ways, if you want to give him credit for them, were worth about a half-win per season,” Barnwell writes.
He compares the credit that Flacco receives for being a winner to that of Mark Sanchez who he says made a run through to the AFC Championship in 2009 with “an incredible streak of five consecutive missed field goals in the playoffs.”
A point that Barney makes that could be even more bothersome to Ravens fans than Flacco potentially being overrated is his opinion of the comparison between Flacco and Matt Ryan. “Like Flacco, Ryan had a reputation as the guy who handed the ball off to a successful running game during his rookie season, but he appears to have grown into a more complete quarterback than Flacco by now, playoff performance (and win totals) aside,” he writes.
He adds that Ryan has earned 2.3 wins above expectation per 16 games for the Atlanta Flacons.
It’s important to note that Barnwell acknowledges the limitations of what his calls his “simple metric,” but he stands firm on believing that using Flacco’s win-loss record as a measure of his success isn’t fair given the strong defenses that have supported him.
It’s hard to argue Barnwell’s point with this formula, but he omits Flacco’s best playoff performance against the New England Patriots last season and ignores the fact that the Ravens defense is currently ranked 25th in the NFL this season. Perhaps the metric works for 2011, but one could argue that 2012 is a completely different story.
I would like to see a similar measurement for NFL coaches as I believe that despite John Harbaugh’s record, the Ravens head coach has underperformed given the talent he acquired when the took the Ravens head coach job in 2008. I have no idea if there is some sort of WAR stat for coaches though.