Numbers Don't Lie: Joe Flacco

Posted on June 10, 2014 by Rob Michels

Photo Credit: Photo Courtesy of

NFL Network’s show Top 100 Players of 2013 just ranked Flacco the 58th player in the NFL. That was simply not true. If you sit back and really dissect the numbers from 2013 on Flacco they make you want to cringe. The Ravens signed him to a $120 million dollar contract before last season and he simply didn’t play up to it.

Most Ravens fans don’t want to hear this talk but it’s got to be said. I’m a huge fan of Joe Flacco and have enjoyed watching him during his career in Baltimore and I understand the offense was terrible. The team lacked receiving threats and the offensive line was simply atrocious. These were two things that definitely contributed to Flacco’s season.

Let’s take a look at how poorly Joe Flacco performed. Most of my numbers I’ll use are from Pro Football Focus (subscription needed), which does a fantastic job breaking down players.  I advise all football fans to invest in PFF.



Footwork for a quarterback might be the single most important thing. Peyton Manning’s become the Hall of Famer he is today because he is simply elite in the pocket.  Each offense is unique so quarterbacks are taught different footwork. All offenses teach the three (4-6 yards) and five step (7-8 yards) drops. Even in junior high quarterbacks are being taught three and five step drops.

Flacco rarely used a three step drop but when he did he was ineffective. According to PFF only 8.4% of Flacco’s drop backs were three steps, which resulted in a -2.6 grade. That’s lower than Matt Flynn, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Christian Ponder. His quarterback rating on a three step drop was 65.8. Flacco’s work load on three step drops was among the lowest in the league. I’d like to see more quick hitters from Flacco this coming season.

Flacco INT vs Bears GIF

Five step drops were where Flacco made a living, problem is he was inconsistent here too. According to PFF, he had a -3.2 grade on five step drops. He had 412 five step drops which resulted in 13 touchdowns and 11 interceptions, as well as a quarterback rating of 76.2. That’s just not acceptable for a quarterback making a guaranteed $20.1 million a year.

In his defense, Flacco was hurried a lot being sacked 24 times on five step drops. The line didn’t give him much time to work. Flacco never was able to get into a rhythm in the pocket and the numbers show that. With an improved offensive line I expect Flacco to have more time and have better footwork in the pocket.



Accuracy for a quarterback usually starts with footwork. With inconsistent work in the pocket Flacco’s accuracy was poor most of the time. Flacco had a 59% completion percentage last year which was among the leagues poorest.

PFF does a great job breaking down quarterback’s throws to the left, middle and right. Flacco was terrible on throws to the left. According to PFF, Flacco was the second worst quarterback in the league on throws to the left behind only Chad Henne. On 120 throws he completed only 48.3% of them and had a 61.8 quarterback rating. PFF graded him out with a -6.0 on throws to the left.

Flacco saw some consistency on throws to the middle, grading out with a +0.4 by PFF. That grade was around the average for the league. Drew Brees lead the way with a +19.9 grade to the middle of the field. On 298 throws his completion percentage was 76.5% and resulted in a quarterback rating of 91.9. Those are actually solid numbers with Dallas Clark and Ed Dickson being the middle of the field threats.

Towards the right side of the field Flacco lead the league according to PFF with 165 attempts.  Problem was he among the worst to the right side.  He graded out with a -2.5 by PFF and had a completion percentage of 57%. He threw only four touchdowns to the right side and eight passes get intercepted.  Separation from wide outs was a problem last season but his touchdown to interception ratio is simply unacceptable.

Accuracy was a problem for Flacco last season and towards the right and left side of the fields he struggled a lot. Simply put outside the numbers he was one of the worst quarterbacks in the league. Flacco has elite arm strength but with a career 60.2% completion percentage his accuracy has always been inconsistent.


Against Pressure/Blitz:

The offensive line was tough to watch last season in both the run and passing games. Flacco got little help from the guys in front of him. Every quarterback deals with pressure differently. Ben Roethlisberger does a fantastic job of evading blitzes and continuing plays. Blaine Gabbert had a ton of talent coming into the NFL but crumbled at the sight of pressure. It makes or breaks a quarterback and for the most part during his career Flacco’s been good against pressure.

Last year was a different story as he was ranked as the third worst quarterback against pressure by PFF, grading out with a -18.5 grade.  Carson Palmer and Matt Schaub were the only quarterbacks fazed by pressure more. He was pressured on 241 drop backs which was among the highest in the league. Against pressure Flacco threw three touchdowns to ten interceptions.

When Flacco saw no pressure and wasn’t blitzed he did well which happened on 323 drop backs. According to PFF he had a quarterback rating of 83.8 and a completion percentage of 65.7%. So with no pressure Flacco was able to thrive and play well. That isn’t a surprise, with the talent Flacco has he should be tearing into teams that don’t blitz him or get to him.

Footwork, accuracy and pressure were three reasons that quarterback Joe Flacco struggled with last season. He was inaccurate for most of the season and overall graded out as the 37th best quarterback in the NFL with a -13.2 grade by PFF.

Flacco has all the tools to be an elite quarterback. To give him credit he’s been elite at times during his career. It’s hard to forget his playoff run in 2012, which he threw 11 touchdowns to zero picks and defeated quarterbacks Andrew Luck, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Colin Kaepernick. That run earned him with the $120 million contract the Ravens gave him.

Winning is something that Flacco does well and sometimes that trumps all the numbers. Some fans will read the title of this article and instantly disagree.  To those fans I suggest subscribing to Pro Football Focus and educating yourself on the numbers.  Pro Football Focus to me is the best site on the internet but you don’t have to agree.  

All and all I expect a bounce back season from Flacco with new weapons and an improved offensive line. New offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak plans to pound the rock so Flacco might not be asked to do as much as he was last season.

Posted in: Offseason
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