Late For Work 7/22: NFL Front Office Executives Rank Joe Flacco

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NFL Front Office Executives Rank Joe Flacco

This isn't your typical quarterback rankings list created by some average Joe Schmo reporter.

This one was based on an ESPN survey given to 35 anonymous league insiders, who evaluate talent for a living.

And they say Joe Flacco is a second-tier quarterback, which is defined as "less consistent and need more help, but good enough to figure prominently into a championship equation."

The results were met with varying reactions.

"Geez what's a guy have to do to earn respect?" tweeted former Ravens receiver Qadry Ismael.

"There really shouldn't be much of an argument about it," wrote ESPN's Jamison Hensley. "This is a fair ranking, especially when you read how the tiers were defined. … By those standards, Flacco is the very definition of a second-tier quarterback. He has his extreme ups and downs in the regular season, but he raises his game in the postseason to make sure his team is in the title chase." 

Flacco landed firmly at No. 10, putting him behind six Tier 1 quarterbacks that "can carry their teams week after week and contend for championships without as much help." Those six were 1T) Aaron Rogers, 1T) Tom Brady, 3) Andrew Luck, 4) Ben Roethlisberger, 5) Peyton Manning and 6) Drew Brees.

Three Tier 2 quarterbacks ranked ahead of Flacco: Phillip Rivers, Russell Wilson and Tony Romo. Behind Flacco in the second tier were Matt Ryan, Eli Manning, Matthew Stafford and Cam Newton.

When reading some of the comments from the polled front office executives and coaches (eight personnel directors, six general managers, four head coaches, five offensive coordinators, five defensive coordinators, three salary-cap managers, two ex-GMs, two ex-head coaches and one offensive assistant coach), they criticize Flacco for his inconsistency during the regular season and suggested he benefited from a strong defense and ground game.

One personnel director considered Flacco's historic Super Bowl run an anomaly and gave more credit to the defense and his receivers, including Torrey Smith.  Flacco enjoyed his best statistical season last year, but another director credited Gary Kubiak's run-first system.

Sorry, but this is where I diverge.

I can get on board with the idea that Flacco can be inconsistent during the regular season – it's hard to debate that – but to suggest that coordinators, offensive systems, receivers or the defense have carried Flacco is, frankly, silly.

"What continues to get overlooked is the supporting cast around Flacco," wrote Hensley.

Flacco's had four different coordinators in as many years, and he makes the transitions look easy. He's helped coordinators become head coaches again. And Baltimore receivers are more regularly criticized than considered top-5 or even top-10 talent. It seems like a convenient time to credit them when arguing against Flacco. Last season, Flacco had the most passing yards lost (472) due to dropped passes by his receivers than any other NFL quarterback, according to Pro Football Focus. 

The Super Bowl defense was ranked No.  17 – below average – in 2012. It didn't carry Flacco.

"Baltimore's defense isn't as good as many believe based on the franchise's reputation. The Ravens allowed the most passing yards in team history in 2014," wrote Hensley.

"Unlike the two quarterbacks ranked ahead of him, Flacco doesn't benefit from a top-end receiver like Dez Bryant or a dominant defense like the one in Seattle."

How To Feel About Pitta Reportedly Starting On PUP?

Yesterday it was reported that tight end Dennis Pitta will "likely" begin training camp and the regular season on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list.

He could come off the training camp PUP at any time, but if he starts on the regular-season PUP, Pitta would miss at least the first six games of the season.

How should Ravens fans feel about the news if it turns out to be true?

"The Ravens have made it clear for months that they were not counting on veteran tight end Dennis Pitta this season," wrote CSNBaltimore.com's Clifton Brown. "So it's no surprise." 

Baltimore Beatdown's Daniel Park is taking the report as a major sign of things to come, writing, "According to me, Pitta is a goner."

Maybe Park will ultimately be right, but I think that's going too far at this point. The Ravens have certainly made backup plans in case Pitta can't play, but as Hensley wrote "observations about Pitta's status have changed nearly every month."

In May, the Ravens used two draft picks on tight ends, including trading up in the second round to snag Maxx Williams, who was touted as the best tight end of the 2015 class.

But in June, there was more optimism. One month after the draft, Pitta inspired hope of a return because of the progress he showed during minicamps. He looked fluid and strong running routes on his own to the side of team practice.

Starting camp on PUP allows the Ravens to take a wait-and-see approach, because once he practices, he can't go back on the list. In the meantime, Brown believes it's time for Williams to step up. He'll compete with second-year Crockett Gillmore for playing time.

"Pitta's uncertain status is one of the major reasons the Ravens traded up to get Williams," Brown said. "The Ravens are hoping Williams quickly becomes a go-to guy for quarterback Joe Flacco, knowing that Pitta's future is uncertain."

Time To Temper Expectations For Williams

While Brown is purchasing his ticket for the Williams train, The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec is pumping the brakes.

He wrote a story yesterday with the headline: "It's probably best to temper expectations for Maxx Williams"

Zrebiec noticed a recent trend with top-drafted tight ends taking a little longer to develop. In the past four drafts (2011-2014), 11 tight ends were selected in the first or second rounds, and all 11 averaged under 24 catches for 264 yards and one touchdown during their rookie season.

"[N]either [his age] nor the rookie second-round pick's uneven play during the various offseason workouts are the only reasons why it's probably best not to put too many lofty expectations on Williams," Zrebiec wrote. "The recent history of highly drafted tight ends suggests that players at that position face a steep learning curve and don't often enjoy immediate success."

Al Saunders Has HIGH Praise For Harbaugh

Al Saunders has worked with NFL legends going all the way back to 1970.

The list includes Don Coryell, Dick Vermiel, Joe Gibbs, and Marty Schottenheimer. It's an incredible resume, and it just so happens to also include working as John Harbaugh's offensive consultant in 2009 and 2010.

Harbaugh typically hates comparisons, but he might make an exception and maybe even smile when he reads how Saunders compared him to some of the best in football history.

"I've worked for Don Coryell. I've worked for Dick Vermeil. I worked for Joe Gibbs," Saunders told Gur Samuel of SB Nation, per Baltimore Beatdown. "I worked for Marty Schottenheimer in the National Football League. I've worked for John McKay and I've worked for Johnny Majors in college. And all of those would be considered some of the finest coaches in the history of the game.

"I think John Harbaugh is one of those guys. I think he has the football acumen. His father was a coach, his brother is of course Jim, his brother in law is a head basketball coach in Indiana. He has a tremendous feel for players, he has a great way to motivate people. He's an intellectual guy, he allows for personalities to express themselves. I think he has every quality to be a Hall of Fame Head football coach in the National Football League."

Quick Hits

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