Last Thursday, ESPN NFL draft analysts Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay were asked to pick the one young quarterback with less than four years of NFL experience they would build a franchise around, and neither picked Joe Flacco. (Kiper selected the Detroit Lions' Matthew Stafford, while McShay chose the Atlanta Falcons' Matt Ryan.)
The exclusion illustrates the inconsistent play of Flacco, who has followed eye-opening performances against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 1 and the St. Louis Rams in Week 3 with lackluster showings against the Tennessee Titans in Week 2 and the New York Jets in Week 4.
Flacco is one of only four quarterbacks with at least two starts who is completing less than half of his passes, and his 49.3 completion percentage is better than only the Indianapolis Colts' Kerry Collins' 49.0 percentage.
But those numbers don't compare to the numbers that coach John Harbaugh apparently use to assess Flacco.
"The only real way, in broad terms, to assess it probably, is he's 3-1," Harbaugh said during his weekly news conference Monday. "To me, he's a 3-1 quarterback right now, which is pretty darn good. Can he be better, just like every guy on our team? … The standard thing is always what we talk about because we can all get better in everything we do. And Joe, just like everybody else, is going to tell you, 'Hey, I can get better.' We were watching tape this morning, and he's pointing out all the things that he thinks he can do better and all the things he was going to try to get accomplished today. So that's real. It's not really exciting, but it's really the fact of it. I think he's got to get better, just like our whole team has to continue to get better. But I think he's played well."
Harbaugh said Flacco has absorbed the offensive playbook and is making more of his own decisions.
"Yeah, he's doing a great job handling the protections, he's making plays on the run, he's making big plays at a record clip – especially for us, since we've been here [and] probably historically if you look at the Ravens, I would guess," Harbaugh said. "That's real. I mean, the big play part of it is big for us. Little areas, like coming out … Just little specific situation things we're doing well, other things we're not doing so well. So we just try to break all that stuff down and see where we can get better. But I think he's playing well enough to be 3-1, and I think our offense is more explosive than it has been in the past thanks to Joe and the other guys. I think we can attack you in more ways than we have been able to recently. But we've got to keep building on that. We've got to become more consistent. Obviously, the completion percentage, that's going to have to come up. We've got to all work on that together. Those are all the things that we're looking at, just like you guys are looking at."