Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco raised some eyebrows when he seemed unenthusiastic about the team’s offensive gameplan in Sunday’s victory over the New York Jets, and Tuesday he doubled down on his disapproval of the “wildcat" plays that offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell added to the team’s inconsistent attack.
That’s OK. Everybody has a right to an opinion and it’s sometimes refreshing to hear an influential player set aside the usual teamspeak and deliver a candid appraisal of some aspect of the game. But the fact that Flacco is grousing about the playcalling less than one year after O-coordinator Cam Cameron was fired in-season is hard to ignore.
In this case, he certainly had a legitimate gripe about the number of times he was lined up as a wide receiver with nothing to do while backup Tyrod Taylor ran the offense. Trick plays work on occasion and they can keep the opposing defense off balance, but they are no substitute for a coherent, well-executed offense.
Trouble is, the Ravens have not had anything resembling a well-balanced pro-style offense for much of this season and they had reached a point when one loss likely would have put an end to their chances of reaching the playoffs and attempting to defend last year’s Super Bowl title. John Harbaugh and Caldwell decided to mix things up a bit in the hopes of confusing a pretty good New York Jets run defense, and it’s hard to argue with that decision after watching the Ravens erratic running game throughout the first half of their schedule.
Flacco had to grin and bear it on Sunday, but said on Tuesday that he had made his objections known to the coaching staff and hinted that the “wildcat” experiment was a one-time deal. Guess we’ll find out if that’s the case when the Ravens take the field in Thursday night’s showdown against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Here’s where I have a problem with what he said. Even if it was agreed behind closed doors to reduce the number of those plays in the future, Flacco should not have put that on the street two days before facing the Steelers in another must-win divisional matchup. Those plays resulted in only limited success, but they still represent an added dimension that Steelers coach Mike Tomlin and defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau has to consider during a very short practice week.
Generally, I think NFL coaches spend way too much time playing “spy vs. spy” with their future opponents, but tendency analysis is a very big part of every team’s game week preparation.
It’s a big positive that Flacco has evolved over the past six seasons as a true leader in the Ravens lockerroom and a guy who is not afraid to express himself when he doesn’t agree with the coaching staff. Obviously, Harbaugh would love to keep any dissent behind closed doors, but it would be a rare group of 60 or 70 highly motivated players and coaches that agrees on everything all the time.
Flacco is definitely correct about one thing. The use of the “wildcat” for more than a small handful of plays is not exactly a vote of confidence in your key offensive playmakers. The fact that both the Ravens and the Jets put it on display so much in the first half of Sunday’s game was an indication that both head coaches felt that their offense did not match up well against the opposing defense.
Maybe they were right, and – for the Ravens – the end probably justified the means, but it still looked like a sign of desperation, which didn't sit well with the starting quarterback.
Can’t blame him for that.