Ravens Forced to Stick With Their Franchise QB
Several years ago an older gentleman who I would see at one of my favorite watering holes in Canton and who was a retired college professor, regularly expressed his frustrations with Brian Billick and Kyle Boller. He said that Billick was guilty of something he referred to as “escalation of commitment”.
Escalation of commitment refers to a pattern of behavior in which an individual or group will continue to rationalize their decisions, actions, and investments when faced with increasingly negative outcomes rather than alter their course. The related term sunk cost fallacy has been used by economists and behavioral scientists to describe the phenomenon where people justify increased investment of money, time, lives, etc. in a decision, based on the cumulative prior investment (“sunk costs”), despite new evidence suggesting that the cost, beginning immediately, of continuing the decision outweighs the expected benefit.
Billick, on the recommendation of Phil Savage, helped persuade Ozzie Newsome to move up in the 2003 NFL Draft and pick Boller despite the fact that the California Bears’ signal caller was projected as a 3rd round pick and despite the costs to make such a move – a 2003 second-round pick and a 2004 first-round pick.
We all know how that worked out and it left the entire organization still longing for a franchise quarterback while wasting years of a great defense. In 2008 the Ravens believed they found their guy – Joe Flacco from the University of Delaware.
Flacco has never been among the league leaders in passing. But he is tough, always available and he fit what the organization wanted – a caretaker of the football who had the ability to make big plays and big league throws when called upon.
And throughout his rookie contract Flacco did exactly that.
He delivered results while accompanied by a talented roster.
During the 2011 and 2012 seasons the Ravens tried to lock up Flacco to a long-term deal that was more team-friendly than the one they eventually settled on following Super Bowl 47. The Ravens were so enamored with the franchise quarterback concept and of course Flacco, that they painted themselves into a corner. Without an alternative, without what they believed to be a player that they could hand the reins of the offense over to (Tyrod Taylor was the back up), the Ravens were held hostage by Flacco and his agent Joe Linta.
They paid a then record price.
With fewer dollars to spare to augment the roster with playmakers to support their investment in Flacco, the team suffered. Since Super Bowl 47 the Ravens record is 27-30 and now with a bleak cap picture in 2017 and what appears to be a relatively barren cupboard of young talent, the Ravens more than ever need Flacco to step up and play to the level of his contract.
But even if he does, even if he plays at a level that exceeds that of his contract, will it be enough? From the list below, what players are really delivering value for the Ravens? Which will continue to deliver value?
Which will be with the club in 2017?
Flacco and Webb have severely underperformed. Arguably Zuttah has underperformed. Jimmy Smith has come on after a slow start. Dumervil looks done as a Raven (he carries an $8.375M cap figure in 2017) and the rest have struggled with injuries missing a combined 14 games.
Nearly 47% of cap dollars delivering in such a sub-standard way is a recipe for disaster, particularly when the last several drafts haven’t really produced any difference makers – at least none that have yet to surface.
And so it brings us back to Joe Flacco.
When you sign up to be the franchise quarterback and accept the big deal, you also accept the pressure that goes along with it when things go awry.
Things have gone awry.
Yet the Ravens still have no choice but to continue to escalate their commitment to Flacco. They STILL have no alternative and they’ve painted themselves into a corner for the quarterback they hoped he would be, and NOT the one he is. They’ve paid elite money to a rather average quarterback who had a hot streak at the craps table and they ponied up a boatload of cash, twice, and at least through 2018 there’s no turning back.
In 2017 Flacco carries a cap figure of $24.55M. To let him go as some on talk radio have suggested, would destroy the cap and trigger $47.3M in dead money and hit the cap for a ($22.75M). In 2018 Flacco’s cap figure bumps to $24.75M and if released then, the dead money is $28.75M resulting in a cap loss of $4M.
Get used to No. 5 being behind center in Baltimore for at least two more seasons.
Maybe the coaches will develop the young players and they’ll make measurable contributions to support Joe.
Maybe the Ravens will draft some difference makers in 2017 and 2018.
Maybe the front office will manage contracts better.
Maybe Flacco will one day become the quarterback the Ravens paid for.
Until any of these things materialize, the organization will continue to rationalize their investment in a franchise quarterback that hasn’t delivered dividends since his big pay day.
Escalation of commitment…
It isn’t far removed from the urban definition of insanity now, is it?