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Ideally, he never sees a snap, but if he does, the Colts are in great hands. Joe Flacco is set to back up Anthony Richardson for the 2024 season.

 

Dec 24, 2023; Houston, Texas, USA; Cleveland Browns quarterback Joe Flacco (15) throws the ball during the game against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

 

All elite memes aside, this signing makes a lot of sense for Indianapolis.

 

ANTHONY RICHARDSON PLAYSTYLE

 

A lot of people are confused or maybe even disappointed at the move because they were expecting the backup to have similar traits to Anthony Richardson. Well, first of all, that’s virtually impossible. Anthony Richardson is an alien. Secondly, here’s the reality that is certainly tough to face as a fan of a team: if your backup QB is taking snaps, 90% of the time you are screwed. The other 10% is reserved for the Nick Foles Cinderella run.

The best trait a backup QB can have is the ability to give your team a chance every Sunday. That trumps everything.

Indianapolis, frankly, is spoiled in that regard. Gardner Minshew in 2023, Matt Hasselbeck in 2015, and even Jacoby Brissett in 2019.

 

CRAFTY VETERAN WITH A GUN-SLINGING MENTALITY

 

Turnover machine, reckless, careless, etc., are all words people have used to describe Joe Flacco. However, I think there’s much much more to Joe Flacco’s game.

After 10 years in Baltimore, Joe Flacco was relegated to the backup role. No QB wants to be in this position. Nonetheless, it’s clear Joe has embraced it. All over his film, you see polished footwork to pair with an elite understanding of defensive structures/ability to process. Joe parlays it with a gun-slinging mentality. He is fearless in a lot of ways. In his mind, there is no window too tight or play he can not make.

 

Ultimately, I see a crafty veteran whose gun-slinging mentality proves he’s willing to do whatever it takes to win a football game. For better or for worse. That is all me, you or the Colts can ask of their backup.

So besides having a 16-year career in the NFL, what makes Joe Flacco a veteran? And what can he do to help Anthony Richardson do to get better?

 

Footwork. Footwork. Footwork.

 

While not the sexiest thing to talk about in QB play, it’s what separates the good from the great.

Gardner Minshew, despite all the praise I have given him and will continue to give him, did not have the polished footwork you would expect or hope for. It’s what limited Indianapolis in the under-center and drop-back pass game in 2023.

 

Let’s take this deep shot on the 1st play of the Week 16 matchup vs. Houston.

Cleveland is trying to take a shot play from 8 man chip protection. Because you are dedicating 5 of your eligibles to pass protect, you only have 2 receivers on a route. The Browns are running a popular route concept on shot plays that has a billion names, but for simplicity let’s call it a Yankee variation. A Yankee concept at its core is a 2-man route concept where one receiver will run a big post, and the other will run a crosser. You like it traditionally vs. MOFC coverages because it puts stress on the deep safety to either bracket the post or cut the crosser.

 

 

Anyway, this is all irrelevant to the main point of the play, I’m just trying to set the scene here. Footwork is always tethered to the route concept. In the practice field/QB meeting rooms, they will rep this constantly. When Steichen dials up a shot play, it is specifically designed for a certain footwork. That way, the offensive line knows the angle of pass sets they need to take, and the routes should develop in a way that lets the QB get through his reads and be in a position to throw.

In essence, a football play is a well-synchronized and coordinated movement from all 11 players.

 

On this shot play, Flacco is taking a 7-step drop with a hitch. Notice Flacco’s feet, especially at the top of the drop. He is taking a smooth and controlled drop while maintaining a strong base during the hitch.

What coaches are looking for to evaluate footwork, is “heel-clicking”. When a QB is taking his drop, he is trying to avoid bringing his feet together or “clicking his heels”. The reason for this is that it’s wasted motion and screws with timing and accuracy since you lose the strength of your base.

Because of the tight hitch, Flacco can keep his base and generate the torque and power to deliver a good ball to Amari Cooper.

This is something that Anthony Richardson struggled with coming out of college and was able to clean up during his short stint in the pros. This is something that Shane Steichen and Joe will look to help Anthony with moving forward.

 

DISCLAIMER: There’s no real place to put this in this article, but this is the exact savvy veteran stuff that most guys haven’t mastered. This ball fake is so nuanced and so good, so I am including it.

 

 

Ok carrying on…What else does Joe Flacco bring to the table? The ability to process defenses.

It’s all over his film, but let’s take a look from this year’s matchup vs. the Chicago Bears.

 

 

If you pause the clip before the motion, you’ll see the Bears are coming out in a fairly ambiguous look. At the start of the snap it looks a lot like Zone Coverage.

The Browns are in a Trey formation which puts the TE on the single receiver side to get a man/zone tell pre-snap. David Njoku (#85) is being covered by Bears CB Tyrique Stevenson. That is usually a giveaway that you should be expecting zone coverage. Additionally, the Bears are playing the initial 3×1 formation like Stubbie. Stubbie, popularized by Nick Saban and others at the collegiate level, is a coverage check to 3×1 formations. At its simplest form, a corner will play the #1 receiver M/M while the nickel, LB, and FS play triangle coverage over the #2 and #3.

 

As Amari Cooper goes in fly motion (F receiver to the Y) the Bears check their coverage. They are checking to a Cover 1 rat sim pressure where T.J Edwards is blitzing and DE Dominque Robinson is the rat player who will drop to the middle of the field as an extra support player.

However, the Bears and Flacco are locked in. Amari Cooper is motioning into a route concept many call “Lion” or Dbl Slants. Because in Cover 1 the CBs are going to play primarily from outside leverage, especially with the motion, Flacco immediately gets his eyes to the man-beater side of the route concept and connects with Amari Cooper for the easiest completion you’ll see.

 

The exotic stuff doesn’t phase Flacco.

Ok, so we’ve seen the crafty veteran, now time for the gunslinger stuff that everyone will undoubtedly talk about.

I think this sums it up pretty well.

 

 

Here is the 82-yard pick-six from the Wildcard round. The Browns have a double move on the outside vs. a premier Cover 1 look from HOU.

His right tackle is brutally beaten off the line, and Amari Cooper is doing no favors by taking forever to get off the line.

All excuses, but fair ones. Nonetheless, QBs are put in this position at least once or twice a Sunday.

This is where Flacco turns into Flacco. Down in the playoffs, he blindly chucks up the double move from Elijah Moore praying that the DB isn’t sitting on it the entire way… he was.

 

BOTTOM LINE

 

The bottom line is this: Flacco should ideally never see the field in Indy. If it does we have problems much larger than his play style or athletic traits.

Nonetheless, he has a lot of savvy veteran all over his film that should no doubt benefit Anthony Richardson.

You don’t have to have 4.4 speed to teach Anthony Richardson how to ID pressure or how to take a 5-step drop from the gun.

Joe Flacco in Indy may benefit Indy without ever stepping on the field.

 

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