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Joe Flacco’s Career, My Graphic Novel

My favorite measure of quarterback play is Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt. For new readers, ANY/A is simply yards per attempt, but it includes sacks (both in the denominator and with those yards lost deducted from the numerator) and adjustments for touchdowns (20-yard bonus) and interceptions (45-yard penalty).

I am going to use a modified version of that formula today, by basing my formula around yards per dropback rather than yards per attempt. The only difference? Spikes are discarded, scrambles (and yards gained on scrambles) are included, but those are both improvements to the formula.

With that said, here is Joe Flacco‘s modified ANY/A average in every game of his career, plotted from his first game in week 1 of 2008 through week 7 of 2016.  I have made the data points that represent playoff games larger and in yellow.  The four dots next to each and relatively high on the graph represent, of course, his Super Bowl run in 2012.


But given the amount of noise in a game-by-game dataset, let’s instead take a look on a rolling 10-game basis. In other words, I have reproduced the graph below, but added a black line that shows his average modified ANY/A on a trailing 10-game basis:


This helps bring some trends into focus: he peaked in the 10-game sample that included that Super Bowl run, then peaked again in the early part of 2014 (remember that insane game against Tampa Bay?), but has been on the decline ever since. However, these numbers are less useful in the abstract: how do they compare to league average?

In the next graph, I have put the NFL average modified ANY/A, on a trailing 10-game basis, in a red line.


Flacco is spending a lot of time below that red line, particularly of late. In some ways, it’s hard to see how poorly he’s done using that graph, because the Y-Axis is so expansive due to the randomness of each game. But so far this season, the Ravens rank 29th in modified ANY/A, ahead of only the Jets, 49ers, and Texans.

Where do we think Flacco goes from here? Does he rebound into an average QB? Does he continue on this downward trajectory and loses his job? Does he return to being an above-average quarterback? Will he ever again play like a superstar QB? What do you guys think?

  • Aaron

    Eyeballing it, Flacco looks about average cumulatively.

    Since the last peak, his lows don’t look that out of whack with the rest of his career, but his highs are way down and falling.

    Awesome graphs! Great way to look at the data.

  • Adam

    I think Flacco’s ceiling is league average and his floor is replacement level. Doubtful that he’ll ever lose his job because of the massive contract, but I see him hovering around the bottom quartile of starting QB’s for the rest of his career. The only thing Flacco does well is avoid sacks; his INT% and Comp% are average, while his Y/C and 1D% are hideously bad. When a QB’s signature play is the DPI bailout, that pretty much guarantees that he’s not a good quarterback.

    I also believe Flacco’s 2012 playoff run was ultra fluky, and his numbers during that stretch failed to accurately capture his level of play. In those four games, Flacco threw a ton of 50/50 jump balls, and he was exceedingly lucky that most were caught and none were intercepted. We all remember the prayer to Jacoby Jones against DEN, but there were other equally fortuitous completions. He threw a blind heave on 3rd-and-19 vs. IND that Anquan Boldin caught despite not even being the intended receiver, and his 56 yard TD in the Super Bowl was a laughably underthrown ball that may have been picked had it been an accurate throw. For Flacco to employ such a reckless style and walk away with 11 TD and 0 INT is among the luckiest series of events in NFL history.

    • James

      Oh my god, I forgot about the contract extension in March! He’s essentially uncuttable until after the 2018 season now.

      Looks like he’s going down the Jay Cutler career path of longterm mediocrity.

  • I wouldnt write him off just yet. While his highs are way down right now he is coming off injury and the Ravens I think are also coming to the realization that its time to just start over. The last two years he has probably been at a point where he is working with the least talent around him he ever had. They had that 2010 to 2012 run where the team was pretty good then they got into some cap troubles and lost their depth while the drafting went south. From a financial standpoint he may be the luckiest player in the history of the NFL.

    • dmwilson220

      As opposed to Sam Bradford or JaMarcus Russell?

  • Jookboks

    Flacco needs to be phased out, and three seasons from now he should definitely be gone. Ravens fans keep blaming his OCs, but he looks generally the same with all of the ones he’s had: inconsistent, streaky, unable to make touch throws when necessary, and the clutchness that we’ve grown to love isn’t there at all this year. He wasn’t a bad qb but he’s clearly a diminished average to above average one now. Time for Baltimore to move on

  • sacramento gold miners

    At 31, it’s too early to write off Joe Flacco. He may return to his 2014 form, and with more strong years, would have have to be in the HOF consideration down the line. While he may not be able to duplicate the 2012 postseason run, he’s had an impressive career. I think we’re underselling his comeback ability, and he’s been a key member of Baltimore’s success over the years.

  • Deacon Drake

    Without Rahim Moore, Flacco loses his job 2-3 years ago.