INDIANAPOLIS - Numbers-wise, Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco was below average in 2013.
He ranked 32nd among quarterbacks in quarterback rating, threw more interceptions (22) than touchdowns (19), and he completed less than 60 percent of his passes.
But to Lions coach Jim Caldwell, Flacco made progress despite what the numbers may suggest.
Caldwell worked with Flacco in 2012 and 2013.
He was the Ravens' quarterbacks coach both years, and he was the team's offensive coordinator from December of 2012 through this past season.
"If you look at numbers strictly, they can be a bit deceiving at times," Caldwell said Thursday at the NFL Scouting Combine. "But when you take a look from the inside out, we had an opportunity to work with him day after day. He's been improving by leaps and bounds each and every year, and I would anticipate that's going to continue"
Flacco thrived under Caldwell late in 2012 on the way to leading Baltimore to a Super Bowl title.
He threw 15 touchdowns and just one interception in the six full games he played in after Caldwell took over as offensive coordinator, including 11 touchdowns with no interceptions in four playoff games.
The success didn't carry over to 2013, but that could have had to do with more than just Flacco.
The Ravens traded wide receiver Anquan Boldin before the season, and Flacco was also forced to play most of the season without tight end Dennis Pitta, who missed all but the final four games as he recovered from a fractured and dislocated hip.
Baltimore also dealt with pass protection issues throughout the season, evidenced by the fact that Flacco was sacked the second-most times among quarterbacks in 2013.
It also didn't help Flacco that the Ravens' running game was non-existent for most of the year. Baltimore averaged the fewest yards per carry in the NFL (3.1).
"Not every year is going to be a perfect year," Caldwell said of Flacco. "Also, guys can't do it alone at that spot. But I do think he made progress. Sometimes it's tough for you to see just in terms of numbers."
Not that Flacco doesn't deserve blame for some of the issues from last season. He admittedly made poor decisions and bad reads on several of his interceptions. But Caldwell thinks Flacco will bounce back this coming season under new offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak.
"He's improved. He's done extremely well. He's got a great grasp of protections. He's got a great grasp of systems. He's got a great grasp of being able to get you into the right runs and things of that nature. And those things aren't easy to come by," Caldwell said.
"He works at it. He cares about it. He's committed to it. And I think you're just going to see him, even in a new system, whatever they ask him to do, you're going to see that he's going to be able to do."