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24th August 2019

The Joe Flacco Conundrum

As the world already knows thanks to ESPN insider Adam Schefter, the Baltimore Ravens have agreed on a deal with the Denver Broncos to send former Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco to Mile High with the 119th pick (Acquired from the Houston Texans for Demaryius Thomas) going the other way.

This move all but puts the final nail in the proverbial coffin for Case Keenum who’s likely to be released unless Denver can somehow find a partner to trade with.

There are 3 questions that need answering here:

  1. Is Flacco good?
  2. Is Flacco an upgrade on Keenum?
  3. Will Denver Draft a QB?

Before we delve into the carnage of the NFL offseason let me warn you all that this is going to be an incredibly long piece. Read on at your own risk.

Taking a look over PFF’s illustrious database the first thing that sticks out for me is Joe Flacco’s remarkable consistency. He’s never dropped below 65.2 in QBR although he’s never surpassed 78.5 in the pros.

Statistically, Ravens had his best season in 2014, not 2012 as most will have you believe. In 2014 Flacco hit a QBR of 73.3 putting him 13th overall among quarterbacks.  

If you ask Flacco what his best year was he’d inevitably say 2012 and for good reason. During the postseason Flacco was untouchable, the former Delaware prospect hit an 82.2 QBR, 117.3 passer rating and an incredible 11TDs | 0INTs.

In fairytale fashion, Flacco leads the Baltimore Ravens to a 34-31 victory over the then quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers, Colin Kaepernick.

Throughout his historic post-season run Flacco put that cannon of an arm to good use with his Brees-esque accuracy on the deep ball; Completing a total of 15 from 31 attempts Flacco amassed over 522 yards (passer rating 134.1). Unfortunately, we haven’t seen anything close to that level of performance since then, in the post-season, regular season or otherwise.

We’re now 6 seasons removed from that Superbowl MVP winning performance. With the rate the game has progressed since then, it may as well be 100 years ago.

Flacco started the 2018 season in encouraging form as he earned an 83.0 QBR in weeks 1-4. If you remove a poor performance against the Bengals Flacco produced a 91.9 QBR and a 106.8 passer rating.

Weeks 5-9 offered something Broncos fans have become custom to since the Manning era ended. Joe Flacco didn’t rise about a 70.0 QBR before being benched for 1st round pick Lamar Jackson.

Case Keenum’s 2018 was equally as uninspiring as Flacco’s was. Denver finished the season 6-10 after having their playoff hopes trampled by a 4-game losing streak to close out the season.

Keenum holds a large portion of the blame for the first 6 losses of the season as he consistently failed to get into enemy territory. It wasn’t until the latter weeks of the season that Keenum was without Paradis and Leary on the offensive line as well as Emmanuel Sanders and the traded Demaryius Thomas.

Keenum’s rating for the season was rather uninspiring (70.0), although from a clean pocket Keenum matched Flacco with a 94.9 passer rating.

Comparing Keenum to Flacco provides statistics with astounding similarities. Over the past 3 years, both signal-callers have completed little over 63% of their passes. Keenum comes out with a slightly better rating thanks to his heroics in Minnesota throughout 2017.

So, what is the point in this trade? On the surface it looks like Case Keenum and Joe Flacco are glaringly similar, so why did the Broncos give up a top 120 pick for the 2012 Super Bowl MVP?

One word – Redzone.

Over the course of Flacco’s entire career, he’s thrown 25 redzone interceptions giving him a career redzone interception rate of 5%. Whereas he’s found the endzone 47% of the time.

If we scrutinize that even further and look at a sample of the past 5 years you’ll Flacco’s numbers fall dramatically as his 47% TD percentage falls to 23% whilst his Interception percentage also fell dramatically to 2%.

Looking at 3-year sample size, perhaps the most accurate statistical sample to base his future projections off of. Flacco has kept his TD% consistent at 22% whilst his INT% has also remained at 2%.

I would say it’s a fair assumption as a result of consistency in his sample size that for every 100 attempts Flacco has in the endzone 22 will find the endzone whereas only 2 will be intercepted.

If we take a Look at Case Keenum’s numbers over the same period we’ll see it’s far worse.

Over the course of his career, Keenum has thrown 7 redzone picks giving him an interception percentage of 2% and whilst that is a better return than Flacco has produced Keenum has only found the endzone less than a quarter of the time 24%.

Keenum’s career TD% from the endzone is almost twice as bad as Joe Flacco’s.

Looking at the past 5 years Keenum’s INT% has remained consistent with 3% (7INTs) whilst his TD% has also kept the pace with 23%.

If we remove Keenum’s Miracle season with the Vikings and treat it as the outlier we’ll notice that Keenum has barely flinched at all notching a 20% TD ratio and a 3% INT rate.

Taking a look at the 3-year sample you’ll see Case Keenum’s statistics have one again barely moved as he offers a 24% TD Ratio and an INT rate of 3%.

In terms of sheer completion, both Flacco and Keenum have once again been deadlocked. Keenum throws a completion 50% of the time (removing 2017) and Flacco hits his man 49% of the time.

What gives? I implied Flacco was an animal in comparison to Keenum right? Well, let’s take a look at what both QBs have had to work with since 2013 (the year Keenum first started a game).

*Whichever team Quarterback has the strongest supporting cast loses.

2018

Case Keenum | 16 starts | 18TDs | 15INTs |

CK- 2018 (rank): Demaryius Thomas (43rd), Emmanuel Sanders (36th), Courtland Sutton (44th), Jeff Heuerman (n/a), Tim Patrick (n/a) and DaeSean Hamilton (n/a).

CK O-Line rank: 11th (34 sacks)

Rush Offence Rank: 5th

Joe Flacco | 9 starts | 12TDs | 6 INTs |

JF- 2018 (rank): John Brown (67th), Michael Crabtree (75th), Jordan Lasley (n/a), Chris Moore (n/a) and Willie Snead IV (57th).

JF O-Line rank: 6th (32 sacks)

Rush Offence Rank: 10th

Verdict: 2018 is a clear victory for Flacco.  Although Keenum ’s line was minimally worse he had 3 Receivers in the top 50 whereas Flacco didn’t have any and Keenum also benefitted from a strong run offence..

Flacco 1-0 Keenum


2017

Case Keenum | 14 starts | 22TDs | 7INTs |

CK- 2017 (rank): Stacy Coley (n/a), Stefon Diggs (9th), Michael Floyd (n/a), Adam Thielen (11th), Laquon Treadwell (n/a) and Jarius Wright (n/a).

CK O-Line rank: 19th (35 sacks)

Rush Offence Rank: 18th

Joe Flacco | 16 starts | 18TDs | 13INTs |

JF- 2017 (rank): Quincy Adeboyejo (n/a), Michael Campanaro, Jeremy Maclin (78th), Chris Moore (n/a), Breshad Perriman (n/a) and Mike Wallace (47th).

JF O-Line rank: 4th (27 sacks)

Rush Offence Rank: 7th

Verdict: 2017 is another victory for Flacco. Although his line may rank 15 places above Keenum, the Vikings WR core boasted 2 guys in the top 15 whereas Flacco and the Ravens had one WR in the top 50. Their rushing offence was more impressive, however.

Flacco 2-0 Keenum


2016

Case Keenum | 9 starts | 9TDs | 11 INTs |

CK- 2016 (rank): Tavon Austin (94th), Kenny Britt (28th), Pharoh Cooper (n/a), Paul McRoberts (n/a), Brian Quick (79th) and Mike Thomas (n/a).

CK O-Line rank: 29th (49 sacks)

Rush Offence Rank: 32th

Joe Flacco | 16 starts | 20TDs | 15INTs |

JF- 2016 (rank): Kamar Aiken (77th), Michael Campanaro (n/a), Vince Mayle (n/a), Chris Moore (n/a), Breshad Perriman (n/a), Keenan Reynolds (n/a), Steve Smith Sr. (30th) and Mike Wallace (47th).

JF O-Line rank: 8th (33 sacks)

Rush Offence Rank: 21st

Verdict: 2016 is a victory for Keenum. His offensive line was considerably poorer and his WRs collectively rank lower than the Ravens’ whilst also having the worst ranked run offence in the NFL.

Flacco 2-1 Keenum


2015

Case Keenum | 5 starts | 4TDs | 1INTs |

CK- 2015 (rank): Tavon Austin (87th), Kenny Britt (31st), Bradley Marquez (n/a), Brian Quick (n/a), Nick Toon (n/a) and Wes Welker (n/a).

CK O-Line rank: 1st (18 sacks)

Rush Offence Rank: 14th

Joe Flacco | 10 starts | 14TDs | 12INTs |

JF- 2015 (rank): Kamar Aiken (77th), Daniel Brown (n/a), Jeremy Butler (n/a), Kaelin Clay (n/a), Chris Givens (n/a) and Chris Matthews (n/a).

JF O-Line rank: 2nd (24 sacks)

Rush Offence Rank: 18th

Verdict: 2015 is a victory for Flacco. Both had consistent offensive line play but the presence of Kenny Britt meant Keenum had a stronger core around him whilst both run games were middle of the pack.  

Flacco 3-1 Keenum


2014

Case Keenum | 2 starts | 2TDs | 2INTs |

CK- 2014 (rank): DeAndre Hopkins (15th), Andrew Johnson (86th), Darmis Johnson (n/a), Keshawn Martin (n/a) and DeVier Posey (n/a).

CK O-Line rank: 8th (26 sacks)

Rush Offence Rank: 24th

Joe Flacco | 16 starts | 27TDs | 12INTs |

JF- 2014 (rank): Kamar Aiken (n/a), Marlon Brown (n/a), Michael Campanaro (n/a), Jacoby Jones (n/a), Steve Smith Sr (45th) and Torrey Smith (9th).

JF O-Line rank: 4th (19 sacks)

Rush Offence Rank: 18th

Verdict: 2014 is a no contest. Although Flacco’s line was minimally better as was his receiving core, Case only played in 2 games and the sample size is not big enough..

Flacco 3-1 Keenum


2013

Case Keenum | 8 starts | 9TDs | 6 INTs |

CK- 2013 (rank): DeAndre Hopkins (34th), Lestar Jean (n/a), Andre Johnson (n/a), Keshawn Martin (n/a) and DeVier Posey (n/a).

CK O-Line rank: 11th (42 sacks)

Rush Offence Rank: 24th

Joe Flacco | 16 starts | 19TDs | 22INTs |

JF- 2013 (rank): Marlon Brown (41st), Tandon Doss (n/a), Jacoby Jones (65th), Torrey Smith (33rd) and Deonte Thompson (n/a).

JF O-Line rank: 16th (48 sacks).

Rush Offence Rank: 32nd

Verdict: 2013 is very close. Flacco had a worse offensive line, worse running game and only marginally better wide receivers Flacco takes this one by a hair. .

Flacco 4-1 Keenum


Final Verdict: Joe Flacco has had a worse supporting cast in 4 out of the past 6 seasons. Keenum on the other hand has had a worse supporting cast on 1 out of the 6 seasons with the 2014 season ranking as a no contest.

Single Score Syndrome

Taking a look over the Denver Broncos results’ in 2018 you’ll notice as we previously pointed out that Denver lost 10 games. However, what you may not have known is that Denver lost 6 games by a single score (@Kansas, vs Rams, vs Kansas, vs Houston, @ 49ers and vs Browns).

Case Keenum and the Denver Broncos ended 51% of their drives with either a punt or a field goal. If Flacco is able to provide any form of an upgrade on those punt/FG drives, to which all the evidence detailed in this article suggests he will, it could earn Denver other 4-6 victories over the season making them a 10-6/12-4 team – Even if you argue against this, cutting it down to 3 more wins out of those 6 one-score losses would have made Denver a Wild Card team  in 2018.

Many people will have you believe the Denver Broncos need an elite QB to take them back to the promised land and whilst that certainly will help, it’s clear that Elway and co. are more fond of the approach that won them the Superbowl in 2015 and not the high-flying approach that saw them humiliated 2 years prior by a defence orientated Seahawks team.

In fact 7 of the previous 10 Super Bowl champions won as the result of fantastic defensive football. The belief that a GOAT level QB is the only way to win a Super Bowl in 21st-century football is nothing short of a myth.

2019 Coaching Staff:

  • HC: Vic Fangio
  • OC: Rich Scangarello
  • OA: Rob Calabrese
  • OL: Mike Munchak
  • OL: Chris Kuper
  • RB: Curtis Modkins
  • WR: Zach Azzanni
  • QB: T.C. McCartney
  • TE: Wade Harman

  • DC: Ed Donatell
  • DA: Chris Beake
  • DL: Bill Kollar
  • OLB: Brandon Staley
  • MLB: Reggie Herring
  • DB: Renaldo Hill
  • DQC: Nathaniel Willingham

  • ST: Tom McMahon
  • STA: Chris Gould
  • S&C: Loren Landow

When I cast my eye over the Denver Broncos coaching staff I see a few things that are incredibly impressive.

Mike Munchak is arguably the best offensive line coach of all time if not the greatest still active in the game.

Bill Kollar is one of the best defensive line coaches to ever set foot on the gridiron.

Ed Donatell is an accomplished defensive coordinator and has had success where ever he has been (usually with Vic Fangio).

Vic Fangio is a defensive mastermind. I couldn’t tell you whether or not he’s better than Wade Phillips but the fact Fangio is being mentioned in the same breath as Wade tells you he’s a very, very good coach.

Rich Scangarello is the one that intrigues me, it will be his first time leading an offence but if his pressers, previous interviews and coaching mentors are anything to go by Denver will be getting an updated version of the system Joe Flacco ran with Gary Kubiak. Expect slightly more misdirection and a lot more motions at the LoS but at the heart of it, this is a zone running, play-action team.

The last name I want to mention is Tom McMahon. McMahon is incredibly detail orientated and considered a strong special teams coach. A lot of what I’ve read about him the past few years suggests he’s on the cusp of being a top 10 special teams coach. In an era where the margins between a win and a loss are so thin having an elite special teams coach will make the world of difference.

This article started off by assessing the Flacco situation and has come to a close discussing the coaching set-up. I made a point to have the discussion flow in this direction simply because Denver has been upgrading across the board this offseason. If they manage to keep hold of Matt Paradis then for me, that only cements Denvers’ return to the playoffs.

In the opening stages of this piece I set out to answer 3 questions, I believe I’ve answered two of them.

Is Flacco good? He’s in the good-to-average camp.

Is Flacco an upgrade on Keenum? Yes, not by a landslide but by enough to make a solid difference.

Will Denver Draft a QB?The Broncos will take a quarterback in this year’s draft but I’m incredibly confident that a QB will not be taken with their 1st round selection. Having watched more than 60 hours of QB footage so far this season and having read a lot of the speculation surrounding Elway in attendance at particular games, I believe that the Denver Broncos will take Brett Rypien out of Boise State in day 2 or 3.

However, I do believe there’s an outside chance of Tyree Jackson or Will Grier if Rypien is taken earlier than expected.

If you’ve made it this far thank you, you’re a real trooper.

I’ll finish with this –  

Those 6 one score losses just got a whole lot more winnable heading into 2019.

Are the Denver Broncos waving goodbye to a former star Linebacker? Click here to read more.

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