Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco was coming off a season in which he suffered a torn ACL that forced him to miss games for the first time in his career when he entered the 2016 season. That didn’t prevent him from coming back and setting records, inauspicious though they may be.
According to Scott Kascmar over at Football Outsiders, Flacco threw more ‘failed completions’ during the course of the 2016 season than anybody else since at least 1989, and likely in NFL history, given that quarterback throw the ball vastly more often in today’s game than they did in the 80s and further back.
Flacco actually posted the best completion percentage of his career in 2016, which is, all things considered, relatively unimpressive given that he didn’t even crack 65 percent. He attempted nearly 60 more passes than he ever had between in a season—an eye-popping 672—and completed over 70 more than he ever has—436.
The only problem with that is the fact that of those 436 completed passes, according to Kascmar’s tracking, a full 144 of them were failed plays. That worked out to a failed completion percentage of roughly 33 percent, and was 24 failed completions more than Matt Ryan’s 120 that he threw in 2013.
For those who do not know or may not remember, failed completions and successful plays are an informal measurement of—well, pretty much exactly as they sound. There is a generally agreed-upon benchmark for success on any given down.
On first down, the offense is expected to gain at least 45 percent of its needed yardage in order for it to be deemed successful. In the vast majority of cases, this would mean a five-yard gain. A second-down play is expected to generate at least 60 percent of the remaining yardage needed for a first down. Third- and fourth-down plays obviously need to gain all the needed yardage for a new set of downs in order to be considered successful.
That means that Flacco only threw a successful pass on 292 of 672 pass attempts, meaning that only 43.5 percent of his pass attempts resulted in successful plays. And there was no target that he threw to that was more prone to generating unsuccessful completions than his veteran tight end, Dennis Pitta, who caught a career-high 86 passes after returning from major hip injuries the past few years.
A quarterback coming off a major knee injury and a tight end with bad hips whom many believed was not going to be able to even play anymore is obviously not an ideal combination when one considers the likelihood of generating explosive plays.
The Ravens are pretty much stuck with Flacco, as should go without saying, but this statistic only paints a starker picture of the possibility that the team will choose to release Pitta. He had the fifth-highest failed completion rate in the league, and the second-highest among players with at least 50 receptions.