I will try to resist the urge to jump off of a bridge or scream at the Raven’s inability to score, but I cannot help but continue to wonder if Joe Flacco is reaching his ceiling already, and if he isn’t quite the quarterback that Cam Cameron is willing him to be. I say willing him because despite Flacco’s struggles, Cameron kept calling on him to make the difficult throw after he had demonstrated to the coaching staff that he just didn’t have it yesterday. It’s like last season, when the Ravens tried to become a spread passing team for the first few weeks before the coaching staff finally capitulated and put the game in the hands of Ray Rice. The coaches seem to play Joe as though he is a finished product, and as though he is prepared to take his game to the next level and join the second tier of quarterbacks (Tony Romo, Eli Manning, Brett Favre, Donovan McNabb, etc.). It is just puzzling me- I have seen coaches push their quarterbacks, but Flacco’s development hasn’t justified the play-calling.
Luckily for us amateur football commentators, Flacco’s flaws are rather obvious- failing to get past his first read, holding onto the ball too long, and overthrowing his receivers. Unfortunately, those are three cardinal sins of playing quarterback in the NFL. His four interceptions against the Bengals wasn’t just the result of Leon Hall, Johnathan Joseph, and Morgan Trent playing outstanding in the secondary- though it didn’t help. Flacco was simply off the mark, and hasn’t demonstrated any of the accuracy he supposedly developed in the offseason.
However, some of the blame has to be placed on the coaching staff. In a 15-10 game that was within 3 points for most of the time, there was no reason to be throwing the ball 39 times, especially not when your quarterback looks shaky. Regardless of the strength of the Cincinnati defense, coaches have to be flexible and account for the fact that when Ray Rice is running like Ray Rice and Joe Flacco is throwing like Chad Hutchinson, you give the ball to Rice and let him work in space. Allow Flacco some room to throw on play action, or give him some comfortable completions to get his confidence back.
The most troubling part of all of this is the fact that offensively, it cannot be placed on anyone else. Even if the Ravens don’t have the most explosive wideouts, they have three of the most reliable, sure handed receivers in the game in Derrick Mason, Anquan Boldin, and T.J. Houshmanzadeh. Add in Todd Heap and exciting rookie tight end Ed Dickson alongside Ray Rice out of the backfield, and I would be hard-pressed to find a single skill position player who couldn’t make a strong impact on any game. Regardless of Cincy’s talented linebacking corp and cornerbacks (and they are great regardless of what happened against New England in Week 1), they can not shut down all of the Ravens offensive options.
As a fan I have a tendency to be very patient with my teams and players. I have confidently supported Rich Rodriguez at Michigan (alongside most Michigan fans), and I have stood by the Orioles through the worst of this season (and their top prospects), and I have kept the faith in Gary Williams when his shine was starting to wear off in College Park (Ralph Friedgen is another story). But count me among the fans who didn’t see a whole lot in Joe Flacco last season to convince me that he was on the path to becoming an elite quarterback. Quarterbacks do have a natural progression, but I think we were all hoping that this QB was ready to make the leap in year 3.
The season is young, and the team is still loaded with talent offensively- if the coaches realize what they have in that talent, they won’t have to rely on Flacco becoming an elite quarterback.