Keep the Quarterback – Trade the Owner
Commentary by PalmerSucks
November 12, 2013
Before I get to the main event, I’ve just got to relay the latest from Joe Flacco. When asked about his disappointing 2013 performance (as of last week his passer rating had him ranked 24th, behind E.J. Manuel, the guy you just saw stink it up against the Stillers), here’s what the MVP had to say:
“It’s tough in the NFL to go out there and try to be Superman.”
Yes, the quarterback who demanded he be paid like the top dog now wants to remind everyone that hey, nobody’s perfect, and just because he’s making the big bucks doesn’t mean he should be judged like it, for God’s sake! “Hey, just because I signed the richest contract in NFL history, you expect me to play like Aaron Rodgers or something? Get real!”
I’ve got to give it up to the Average One: he’s got balls the size of church bells. If I were a Ravens fan, that comment would really grind my nuts. I’ve said it before: Joe Flacco wants to be paid like a quarterback, yet enjoy the accountability of the punter. You ask me, that’s not a good combination for a supposed team leader.
And forget “Superman”; Flacco’s not even performing like Clark Kent. Last week against Cincy he wouldn’t have even broken a stinking hundred yards passing if not for the game going into overtime. His QB rating going into Sunday’s game was 79.3, lower than what he put up his rookie year. In 2013, Joe Flacco is Joe Flopp-o.
Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome has had a remarkable run of success making personnel decisions. However, overpaying for Flacco now threatens to wipe out every smart move he’s ever made. As I’ve posted before, Flacco’s mega contract has taken the Ravens from being the dominant AFC North team for the next five years, and turned them into also-rans.
It couldn’t happen to a nicer team.
(For more on Average Joe’s contract implications, take a look at: http://www.cbssports.com/general/writer/gregg-doyel/24214643/flacco-got-paid-for-this-pay-attention-cincinnati-bengals Finally the mainstream media is catching on.)
The big news this weekend was the rumor started by Ian Rapoport that Ben Roethlisberger might seek a trade after this season. This created quite a stir, and was quickly denied by both Roethlisberger and his agent. So how credible was the original story?
Before we decide that, I think it would be helpful to take a look at Rapoport’s employee bio:
“NFL Media insider Ian Rapoport has covered the league since 2009, previously serving as Patriots beat reporter for the Boston Herald for three seasons. Now a Dallas-based reporter, he also has covered the Alabama Crimson Tide for the Birmingham News and Mississippi State for the Jackson Clarion-Ledger.”
First of all, Rapoport isn’t listed as a reporter, but as a “media insider.” It’s important to note the difference. When Rapoport covered the Patriots, he worked for the Boston Herald, and when he covered the college teams he also worked for newspapers. Back then he was an actual reporter, unlike now.
Nowadays “NFL media insider” Ian Rapoport works for… NFL.com. As in the NFL, the very organization about which he’s supposedly writing objective accounts. That kind of set-up would be like Ed Bouchette working for the Stillers and reporting on the team. Or some business reporter working for General Electric and sending off stories to the Wall Street Journal. Should we take either one seriously?
But what stuck out to me about Rapoport’s story scrolled across the screen on the NFL Network was the phrase “team sources say.” Obviously the Stillers – not Roethlisberger -- wanted to get the message out that Ben Roethlisberger was unhappy in Pittsburgh, but why now, and for what purpose?
Maybe the idea was to lay the foundation for Haley’s early departure. Maybe the idea was to gauge public reaction to word of a Big Ben blockbuster trade. We can’t know for sure, but remember, the guy who reported this works for the NFL itself. So maybe it’s more important to ask “who” than “why.”
Who makes up the NFL? A collection of team owners. That means ultimately Rapoport is doing the bidding of the owners, whether intentionally or not, when he sends such stuff off into the media. That’s why I believe this whole controversy originated from the top, not some underling in the front office.
Roethlisberger further responded to the rumor by stating that not only does he want to stay a Stiller, he would retire if the team tries to trade him. Statements like that tend to make me believe he’s sincere about wanting to stay in Pittsburgh. It’s Stillers management I don’t trust.
Remember, this is the same team that claimed Bruce Arians decide to “retire” when in fact he was basically cut. Arians so retired, he’s currently the head coach of the Cardinals.
Despite their denials, it wouldn’t shock me if the Stillers tried to deal Big Ben in the off season. The team management is that believable.
I’ve made some jokes here about “Artie Jones,” but the fact is, no other owner in football is imitating the guy in Dallas, like the guy in Pittsburgh. In Texas they jokingly refer to Jerry as “Coach Jones” and this week Coach came out with the kind of quote that no owner should ever make publicly:
“You need to probably man up more in the secondary than we’ve been doing, rather than relying on zone. Because if we can’t get pressure and we’re relying on the traditional zone as you might mentally picture it, then that’s a recipe for what happened to us the other night.”
Really, Coach? So then how should the team cover the Y flanker on a Bang 8 -- with a three-deep double overload look or a straight two drop? And could you please answer slowly, because we don’t want to miss a word from such a chalkboard wizard as yourself.
Don’t laugh too hard, Stillers fans. I happened to catch Rapoport’s interview this week on a well-known Pittsburgh sports radio show, and both he and the host referred to Artie’s use of the term “run-pass ratio” (no doubt part of his ongoing campaign to bring back the ground-and-pound glory days of “Stillers football.”)
That’s another reason why I don’t trust the Stillers when they claim to have never thought about trading Ben Roethlisberger. They cut loose Arians and his downfield attack and brought in Haley, who’s done his best to turn Big Ben into a dink-and-dunker. So why pay a franchise guy all that money when you can bring in some cheaper quarterback, who’ll be handing off 35 times a game anyway?
Rapoport did say that his Stillers source stated the team wouldn’t explore trading Ben unless there was another franchise-type QB available in the draft. Well, unless the Stillers have a legit shot at landing Johnny Football, there is no other college QB who fits that description.
The Stillers have a lot of issues. Ben Roethlisberger isn’t one of them. Despite playing behind the league’s worst excuse for an offensive line, he’s managed to maintain a career QB rating in the 90s. What is a problem is the Stillers’ stubborn insistence on ignoring the modern-day game that practically begs teams to take advantage of rules that favor the passing game. It’s as if the league were handing out free hundred-dollar bills, but the Stillers refuse to take them, because they’re too proud to accept charity.
That sort of philosophy no doubt starts at the top.
Remember Mike Tomlin, the guy who talked such new ideas when he was hired? Now he too talks about playing “Stillers football,” that legendary combination of power-running offense and a physical, playmaking defense. Trouble is, the Stillers have the personnel for neither, particularly on the defensive side, where age (and some failed drafts) have taken their heavy toll.
Artie Jones – er uh, Rooney, should do what his father did so well: let the coaches coach, the players play, and keep the game planning in the owner’s box. You want to get involved with operations? Fine – do your actual job and get rid of certain “untouchable” coaches after a disaster of a season like this one. Get involved with the scouts, like Dan Rooney did. Huddle in the war room on draft day, toss in your input, knock yourself out by all means. Have a blast enjoying all that guaranteed money from the socialist – I mean uh, cooperative capitalist – business model that is the NFL.
Just please stop talking about “run-pass ratios.”
Otherwise, Stiller Nation will be dealing you to Arizona for Bidwell, a fifth of Imperial and a conditional seventh-rounder.