No matter who's coordinator in '17, Flacco can't carry Ravens offense by himself

The Ravens' 2017 offensive coordinator needs to realize that Joe Flacco can't carry an offense.

Regardless of whether the Ravens name a new offensive coordinator for next season, head coach John Harbaugh needs to identify a philosophy and stay within the offense's parameters.

Here's one thing that can't happen again in 2017: Quarterback Joe Flacco can't be unchained. He attempted 672 passes in 2016, second only to the New Orleans Saints' Drew Brees (673), but Flacco is no Brees.

He is no Tom Brady, Derek Carr or Aaron Rodgers, either. He's just an Average Joe right now, No. 24 in the NFL with a quarterback rating of 83.5. So let the 2016 season serve as a lesson learned.

Flacco can't carry an offense. Never has, and never will. Ideally, the Ravens would have a balanced offense, or they'd rely heavily on the run.

When Flacco had balance in 2012, with an offense that attempted 560 passes and 444 rushing attempts, they won the Super Bowl. Back in 2014, when coordinator Gary Kubiak's offense produced record-setting numbers, Flacco threw 554 passes and handed the ball off 448 times.

The Ravens rushed the ball only 367 times this season. His 4,317 passing yards this season were some of the most uneventful in NFL history. He had 20 touchdowns but 15 interceptions. His completion percentage was 64.9, No. 11 overall. Of the 10 games in which Flacco threw more than 40 times, the Ravens won just three: against the Cleveland Browns (twice) and Miami Dolphins.

Enough said.

This is not to put the blame for the Ravens' 8-8 season entirely on Flacco. The defense couldn't mount a consistent pass rush, and the secondary couldn't shut down most of the good quarterback-receiver combinations in fourth quarters. The Ravens might make some changes in those areas, but not at quarterback, where Flacco makes more than $20 million per year.

So the next-best thing is to come up with a better game plan. Take the ball out of Flacco's hands and put it in the belly of the running backs more.

If the Ravens can retain right tackle Rick Wagner next season, they should have a good offensive line with right guard Marshal Yanda and young players Ronnie Stanley at left tackle and Alex Lewis at left guard. They have two tough, downhill running backs in Kenneth Dixon and Terrance West, but the Ravens have to be committed to running the ball.

They had opportunities in the final four weeks of the season, but the Ravens wanted to play Marty Ball, the dink-and-dunk, short passing game designed by Marty Mornhinweg. Despite all those yards Flacco threw for, the Ravens averaged only 9.9 yards per catch, a lot of those to tight end Dennis Pitta (8.5 per catch). That's a joke.

Like any quarterback, Flacco is better when the running game is going well and can set up the play-action passing attack. General manager Ozzie Newsome also could help Flacco by bringing in a No. 1 receiver. With Steve Smith Sr. retired, who is the Ravens' top guy? Mike Wallace? Certainly not Breshad Perriman.

The Ravens need to find an impact player at the position, one who can put some excitement into the offense and take pressure off Flacco.

Harbaugh has to come out soon and either endorse Mornhinweg or start the search for a permanent replacement, like the San Diego Chargers' Ken Whisenhunt or former Minnesota Vikings coordinator Norv Turner. This time, though, he needs to find a coach who is firm in his handling of Flacco's mechanics. No more babying the guy.

Harbaugh also needs to tell the coordinator exactly what he wants in his offense, and it wouldn't be a bad idea to begin looking for Flacco's heir apparent this offseason. Despite having five coordinators in five years, the offense has looked the same, and the criticisms of Flacco haven't changed, either.

He is inaccurate, his mechanics are bad, he struggles going through his progressions and he lacks pocket awareness. Despite those concerns, Flacco still is one of the league's top quarterbacks as far as wins and losses go, and he can lead a team to success if he has the right talent around him.

But just don't leave him unchained. He's not that elite of a quarterback.

mike.preston@baltsun.com

twitter.com/MikePrestonSun

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