Average Joe, poor coaching, or something else?

You can point fingers in a lot of directions after the loss to Pittsburgh. Why didn’t Cam call more plays involving Ray Rice? Why didn’t Joe protect the ball better? Why did Harbs challenge that incomplete pass call? Why couldn’t the defense stop a third string QB? The list goes on. In the grand scheme of things, this was just one loss guys! Only one team in history has been perfect.

So since no team is perfect, a good team wins more often than it loses, right? The Ravens have done this every year in the Flacco/Rice/Cameron/Harbaugh/era, right? So what’s the problem? In the eyes of the owner and the management, nothing. This is evident by back to back 12 win seasons, playoff wins each year, the contract extension Cam Cameron received, and the willingness to extend Flacco, although the team and his agent couldn’t agree on a price tag.

For sake of argument though, usually when the Ravens lose, which is not often mind you, it’s Joe Flacco’s fault, or Cam Cameron’s fault. To be fair in Cameron’s defense, if Flacco would throw for 300+ yards, three or four touchdowns, complete 70% of his throws, we wouldn’t complain when Rice isn’t getting his carries.  Let us examine each ones body of work.

In Cameron’s case, I’ve always been intrigued by his past. I want to say that he held Drew Brees back from stardom in his time in San Diego. Under Cam’s watch, Brees was pretty average with the exception of a Pro Bowl season in 2004. Brees  averaged 3,032 yards passing, 19.8 TDs and 13.5 INTs in his first four seasons with Cam, before heading to New Orleans. In his next four years as a Saint, Brees’ numbers sky rocketed to 4,575 yards, 30.5  TDs and 14.8 INT per year. This doesn’t include his record 5,476 passing yards season last year.

In Flacco’s first four years with Cam, he averaged 3,454 yards 20 TDs and 11.5 INTs per season. Pretty much similar to Brees’ first four seasons. But I know what you’re saying. “But Mike, Sean Payton’s system let Brees throw the ball more, they didn’t have a run game.”

Fair enough. Maybe it would be fairer to analyze completion percentages, and QB ratings. Drew Brees, 62.1% under Cam. 66.9% without him. Flacco posts a 60.5%. Brees notched an 84.6 rating with Cam. 97.9 without him. Joe Flacco with an 86.3 rating. Again, similar to Brees’ time under Cameron.

Problem is that until Cameron moves on, which isn’t happening this year or next, or Flacco moves on, which I don’t see anything leading me to believe he won’t be the franchise quarterback, we won’t really know if this is the case.

What is it that makes a good coordinator? I’m no coach, but i’d say a guy who draws up game-plan designed to get his best player the ball often. Gears it towards his players strengths. How about a guy who attacks weaknesses in the opposing defenses. Someone who makes changes on the fly depending on what the game dictates. Anything else? Cameron does none of this. Flacco has the worst completion % on passes over 20 yards, and all day he had Flacco throwing deep. With a ten point lead, the game dictates running the football. Ray Rice was absent in the fourth quarter.

Then again, maybe Drew Brees just took four years to develop. Or Maybe Joe Flacco is just average and that is OK. People still wanna say Eli Manning is average, and that average guy has two titles.

So what makes a great QB?  It’s not Super Bowl rings alone, because by that logic, Jeff Hostetler and Mark Rypien (whos daughter, Angela, happens to be a lingerie football league quarterback, and is certainly worth a Google image search) would be better than Dan Marino. Ben Roethlisberger is not a better QB than Peyton Manning because he has two rings to Peyton’s one. I wouldn’t say Eli is superior to Brees or Aaron Rodgers. Is it video game stats that make a great QB? Matt Stafford threw for 5,000+ yards last year, but he isn’t necessarily great, right? I’d like to say that a great QB, time and time again, can put the team on his back in the face of adversity, and lead them to victory. Think Peyton Manning, down 24-0 at the half to the  Chargers, and winning 35-24 earlier this year. He starts off following the Broncos game plan, then come out of halftime like vintage Manning, up tempo, moving guys around, changing plays, doing what HE thinks, not his coordinator thinks, is best.

Joe Flacco has been this guy, but he’s not often enough this guy. We have seen him lead nine game winning drives in his career.

I remember a story about Dan Marino once, his team trailed by 20 or so in the 2nd half of a game, and the coaches were calling in run plays. He kept audibling out to pass plays, and finally told his coach, “we’re down by three scores. I’m airing it out until we take the lead.” Marino did just that, Dolphins win. That’s what great QB’s do. Say “this isn’t working,” and take matters into their own hands and win the game.

Joe was so bound and determined to complete that deep bomb to Torrey Smith, that he wasn’t gonna stop until they connected. They never did. He was too stubborn to try some higher percentage passes. Cam Cameron is too stubborn to alter his game-plan as the game goes along.  You can tell exactly what his focus will be after one quarter. If we fans know it, you know the opposing defense knows it.

A great quarterback in Sundays game, no matter what suggested plays his coordinator is putting in his ear, would have led a methodical, slow, run and dink and dunk, boring drive down field to take the lead, capitalizing on Reed’s INT. Boring but effective. With six minutes left in a tie game, a great QB would engineer a scoring drive or at the very least ensure the opponent doesn’t get the ball back. Had the defense made a stop, maybe Joe gets a second chance at that.

I’m not ready to say Joe Flacco is great. Even if they did win Sunday. But he is good, and good can be good enough. Cam Cameron on the other hand doesn’t even get the fundamentals and should have been out of the game years ago. If he coached the Lakers, Kobe Bryant would be allotted only five shots a game and he’d be benched in the fourth quarter of a tight game.

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About the author

Mike Randall   

Ravens Analyst

Mike was born on the Eastern Shore, raised in Finksburg, and currently resides in Parkville. In 2009, Mike graduated from the Broadcasting Institute of Maryland. Mike became a Baltimore City Fire Fighter in late 2010. Mike has appeared as a guest on Q1370. Now a Sr. Ravens Analyst for BSL, he be reached at mike.randall@baltimoresportsandlife.com.

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One Response to Average Joe, poor coaching, or something else?

  1. Andrew Whitehead says:

    Exactly right Mike.

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