Late For Work 6/17: Why Flacco Is As Good As Rivers

Plus report on Harbaugh, Smith is ‘irresponsible’ and Flacco bashing getting ridiculous.

Posted by Sarah Ellison on Friday, June 17th, 2011 at 10:02 am | Categories: Late For Work, Sarah Ellison

Why Flacco Is As Good As Rivers

Here is a refreshing break from the recent onslaught of criticism piled on Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco (which is I will get to in another section below).

After doing some serious number crunching, ESPN’s KC Joyner argues that Flacco is in San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers’ elite league as a deep passer. Many consider Rivers to have one of the best deep balls in the league.

“It is thought by many that [Flacco] is a superb game manager who has yet to make the jump to being an elite passer,” wrote Joyner. “However, a closer look at the metrics shows that Flacco has already made that jump.

“In fact, they show that Flacco displayed a Philip Rivers-type ability to get his team’s vertical passing game in gear regardless of the talent level of his receivers.”

Despite losing many of his top receivers to injury last season, Rivers ranked fourth in the league in vertical yards per attempt (passes thrown 11 or more yards downfield) at 12.1, and seventh in stretch vertical yards per play (20 or more yards) at 14.8.

While Flacco’s receivers were healthy, Anquan Boldin, Mason and T.J. Houshmandzadeh are not known for being deep-threat targets. Still, the entire trio ended up with double-digit vertical YPA marks, a feat only five other teams accomplished last season.

Additionally, Flacco posted a 12.5 vertical YPA and 15.1 stretches vertical YPA on throws to targets other than the top trio.

“This clearly shows Flacco took a huge step forward last season, but he has yet to get full credit for it, in large part because people still focus too much on his superb game-management skills,” wrote Joyner.

“His reputation in that area precedes him, but it shouldn’t prevent Flacco from getting credit as an elite quarterback for showcasing a Rivers-like ability to jerry-rig an elite downfield passing game.”

Report On Harbaugh Not Wanting Smith Is ‘Irresponsible’

Sports Illustrated’s Peter King emphatically debunked the speculative report that Head Coach John Harbaugh didn’t want to draft cornerback Jimmy Smith.

“That story about John Harbaugh not wanting Jimmy Smith?” tweeted King. “Wrong.”

“Totally wrong.”

King is referring to comments given by Howard Eskin of WIP radio in Philadelphia, who said the chaos that ensued at the 26th pick during the draft was caused by Harbaugh’s reservations about Smith, not necessarily because of the well-documented trade snafu with the Bears. Eskin said he “thinks” confusion was created when Harbaugh was communicating with Eagles representatives after they passed on Smith, trying to find out more about the cornerback

This morning, I talked with Ravens Senior Vice President of Public Relations Kevin Byrne, who is typically in and out of the war room throughout the draft, who said of Eskin’s comments, “This is totally wrong and irresponsible. It’s dumbfounding.”

It’s especially dumbfounding when you add in NFL Network Jason La Canfora’s report, which points out that the Ravens already had Smith’s name on the card, ready to draft him.

“It’s a ridiculous statement to imply the head coach would not be in on the pick or that any confusion was due to them not being sure about Jimmy Smith,” said La Canfora. “It was because Chicago botched the trade. They were ready to take Jimmy Smith right away. They had the card ready. There was no debate amongst the Ravens themselves.”

Eskin, who was described by The Baltimore Sun as a “rabble-rouser” radio host who likes to stir things up, admitted he hasn’t discussed the situation directly with Harbaugh.

But, communication with Harbaugh is a pretty important element if you’re going to make an assertion as big as this one.

It’s flawed to think Harbaugh would make a last-minute assessment on Smith based on the Eagles’ opinion and their decision to pass him up at No. 23. Harbaugh and the Ravens did extensive homework on Smith prior to the draft (as they do with every pick), which is one reason why King says there is no truth to Eskin’s theory.

“Jimmy Smith spent 2 hrs w/Harbaugh, alone, before the draft, and told people internally after the meeting he really liked the kid,” wrote King.

"This was a risky pick bc of Smith’s checkered past. To take a guy like that in the first round, your coach has to be on board. Harbaugh was.”

Bashing Getting Ridiculous

Another AFC North rival didn’t have a problem jumping on the Flacco-bashing bandwagon.

Asked for his assessment of quarterback Joe Flacco, Bengals linebacker Dhani Jones called into question the four-year veteran’s decision-making skills.

"Capable quarterback [but] if you put a lot of pressure on him, he makes bad decisions," Jones told the NFL Network. "Any time we were able to line up in the box, we were able to confuse him. He was always throwing picks. He was always making bad judgment calls."

Flacco had one of the worst games of his career in the Week 2, 15-10 loss to Cincinnati last season, throwing a career-high four interceptions.

In the 14 games after that game, Flacco threw only five more picks the rest of the regular season and posted the second-highest passer rating in the NFL behind only Tom Brady and ahead of Aaron Rogers. How about that sample size Dhani?

Jones’ assessment comes on the heels of Steelers linebacker LaMarr Woodley’s comments, saying Flacco wouldn’t win a Super Bowl “in this lifetime.”

Now it’s getting ridiculous,” ESPN’s James Walker said of the criticism launched at Flacco.

Like Walker, one of Flacco’s most-trusted receivers is getting fed up too.

To those who are hatin on Flacco – dudes hatin on dudes ain’t good!!! Lol. Don’t do it on tv, tell that to that man!!” tweeted Derrick Mason.

“Those who have a prob with what I said, know how to get in touch with me!! This is a small fraternity so u can get at me, it’s not … I’m a phone call away!! Let’s discuss why u hatin on him.. These 80 babies are something else and grown ppl should know better!!”

Quick Hits

  • Considering the Ravens will be interested in a pass rusher when league business opens up once again, here’s a situation to keep your eye on. Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora wants out of New York, so much so that the pass rusher will file a sworn affidavit in federal court in Minnesota next month as part of the antitrust lawsuit against the NFL. [ESPN]
  • Walker saw our “Bold Predictions” question to Ravens fans this week – who will be Baltimore’s starting cornerbacks next season?  – and offered his own two cents. “I predict Jimmy Smith and Domonique Foxworth. I don’t see Baltimore landing any major additions (Nnamdi Asomugha?) in free agency, and Foxworth was the No. 1 option before suffering a knee injury last year.” [ESPN]
  • Jason La Canfora believes the Ravens are one of 11 legitimate Super Bowl contenders next season. [NFL Network]

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