Monday Night Football analyst Ron Jaworski still lives in New Jersey and is friendly with Delaware football coach K.C. Keeler, so it is fair to say that the former NFL quarterback has closely followed the growth and development of Ravens’ signal caller, Joe Flacco, a Garden State native and a former Blue Hen.
Jaworski has seen both the good and bad from Flacco, and firmly believes that the fourth-year quarterback hasn’t peaked.
“I think Joe has as much natural, God-given talent as anybody playing the position right now,” Jaworski said in a phone interview with The Baltimore Sun Wednesday. “Joe is an outstanding passer, he’s mechanically sound. There’s no question he is going to get better although in looking at this year, I think there’s been a little plateau to his game. I don’t think his game elevated as much as I expected it to this year and I think there are a lot of reasons for that.”
Jaworski cited the uncertainty of the Ravens’ offensive line at the beginning of the season, some changes with the team’s offensive schemes, an inexperienced receiving corps and the abbreviated training camp that prevented Flacco from working more with his receivers, like newcomer Lee Evans.
“I think all those things contributed to Joe being flat as far as his development this year,” Jaworski said. “I saw Joe improving each and every year as he developed. This year, I would say it’s been flat. I haven’t seen the quantum leap that I expected, but as I said earlier, I think there have been reasons for that.”
One of the big knocks on Flacco this season has been his career-low 57.6 completion percentage this season. Jaworski admits that he’s surprised with some of the throws that Flacco has missed.
“Mechanically he’s fine, but being totally realistic when I look at these tapes, he’s missed some throws that he’s got to hit,” Jaworski said. “There have been some wildly inaccurate throws and that’s uncommon for Joe. I think Joe should be probably be a 62 to 63 percent passer in this style of offense. Normally with quarterbacks like Joe, I’d say you have to be about 67, 68, somewhere in there. He’s not in that [Drew] Brees, [Aaron] Rodgers’ category where they are up there around 70. This is a downfield passing attack. This is not a dink-and-dunk, bubble-screen style. Yeah, there is a screen game, normally to Ray Rice, but if you look at those guys throwing 70 percent, their passes are behind the line of scrimmage pretty much. This is not the Ravens’ style under Cam Cameron. They are more of a shot team, a down-the-field team. Those are not high-completion percentage throws even for the best.”
Still, Jaworski vehemently defended Flacco, praising him for his ability, durability and toughness, and wondering why he gets so much criticism both in Baltimore and nationally.
“I’m shocked, literally shocked that Joe hasn’t been accepted more and not even in Baltimore for that reason, but around the country,” Jaworski said. “What do you hear about [the Denver Broncos’] Tim Tebow right now? Oh, he’s a winner. What the hell has Joe Flacco done? Playoff wins, on-the road wins, you have to be kidding me. How can you not respect what this guy has done? Does he have warts? Certainly but all the quarterbacks in this league do.”
Jaworski said that Flacco is plenty good enough to lead the Ravens to a Super Bowl. In fact, he believes that the Ravens are in an ideal position to get to Indianapolis.
“I really believe they are in a perfect position right now,” he said. “You’d like to maybe have the second game at home and who knows? But you have the Texans coming in with a third-string quarterback and by the way – T.J. Yates, yeah I know, he’s a third-string quarterback as a rookie but he’s given them some nice consistent play so you want to discount that before you put this one in the ‘W’ column and I’m sure the Ravens aren’t doing that. But I think fans have a tendency to say, ‘It’s the Texans without [Matt] Schaub, an injured [Andre] Johnson and no Mario Williams.
“They’re still a good football team but they got them at home and the Ravens are a tough team to beat at home. Even if New England does win, New England is a beatable football team. They really are. This offense should be able to move the ball against New England up and down the field in my opinion. So I think the stage is set for the Ravens to get back to the Super Bowl.”