|Posted by Radatz on June 24, 2017 at 2:40 PM|
How valuable are top-tier quarterbacks really? It seems a silly question to answer in the wake of a decade-plus of Brady-Manning classics and in a league that hasn't seen a team win without one since the 2002 season. But you have to do it right.
Consider the Ravens. After 2012, when Joe Flacco led them to a Super Bowl win, he became Viper Joe. His huge contractual reward was questioned even then, both by yours truly and by many others, most of them better informed I dare say. It's not that Flacco wasn't good. He was in fact magnificent, using an unusually strong arm to pinpoint drop-in throws far downfield through windstorms on the way to the title. There was little doubt he'd been a huge part of Baltimore's success ever since his arrival. Perhaps they knew that rebuild time was approaching and they couldn't rebuild the premier position on call. They had Harbaugh, whom they may have considered Belichick's heir apparent in the football world. They knew Ray Lewis was done. They had to keep him.
But history shows now that it was a double-edged sword indeed. The contrast between Flacco's five pre-contract seasons and the past four is astounding. After a middling 8-8 record in 2013 that missed the playoffs, they went 10-6 again in 2014 (their record in 2012, by the way) and nearly got past New England again. But they didn't. 2015 was an abysmal 5-11. 2016 was another 8-8. To summarize, since the Viper Joe deal, the Ravens have missed the playoffs 3 times and lost once in the divisional round. They have had one winning season, one losing season and two .500 seasons. Their record is 31-33 (32-34 including the one playoff year). They have Flacco, but the cost of keeping him has produced some bitter fruit so far. And he's 32 now. You could guess that the 'plan' (if they had one) wasn't anticipated to take this long.
Can we toss Andrew Luck into the mix? His new contract in 2016 was predictably astronomical. There was little denying that he was the major (and perhaps sole) cause of Indy's abortively short post-Manning rebuild. Was it a result of unanticipated early success lulling the now-fired Grigson into forgetting about rebuilding? Perhaps. But the early reward for Indy was to have Luck hammered into mediocrity in 2016, finally sent for surgery. Not a glowing account of one's support package. And the abuse seems to have taken a toll on Luck's decision-making. He's not getting better any more. Was there a choice? Maybe not. Was it too much? Maybe.
Which brings us to Derek Carr. Sages are saying his bonanza new contract was actually a Bradyesque deal designed not to cap-cripple the team. Carr's lip service is certainly along those lines. But will it do to Oakland/LV/Wherever what Flacco's deal apparently has done to the Ravens? Insufficient data.
He is hailed as a franchise QB, and may very well be that. But here's the rub. Flacco's contract, itself possibly a bad idea in retrospect, came after he had led his team to five consecutive playoff appearances, three conference championship games and a Super Bowl. Carr's claim to fame so far is having led the Raiders to contention in the AFC West. All the rest is speculation and nostalgia from a huge media center in the Bay area. This scribe recalls him dropping the ball when his pinky was broken and leaving it for the dogs. His team folded like an accordion without him, showing little regard for the opportunity still beckoning. It's not exactly a Flaccoesque pre-bonanza track record.
Nobody knows how things turn out. It could be that the Raiders made an investment. Or it could be that the rest of the team, widely hailed as a juggernaut, is simply a fabrication by PR experts tapping the nostalgia of great seasons gone by.
Ultimately the Raiders had no choice it seems. And pinkies notwithstanding, it's not likely that Carr is either easily distracted or gutless. In fact, he's developed noticeably. The question that will be answered is whether what he has around him is overrated. If so, his contract will be an impediment to his support package's development. And if not, it may be an impediment to its continuity.
It will be an interesting season.
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