Did the Broncos just trade a future mid-round draft pick for a quarterback almost identical to the one they already have? On the surface, at least, it appears so.
Perhaps that’s why, when news broke that Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco was coming to Denver, most Broncos fans reacted with eye rolls, or shoulder shrugs, rather than fist pumps. I join them in their melancholy, and somewhat puzzled, response.
Yes, Flacco has won a Super Bowl. Yes, he still possesses a stronger arm than most quarterbacks in the league. And yes, he has twice the experience (10 years) as Keenum (five years). In an effort to further justify the move, at least in my own feeble mind, I briefly compared the two quarterbacks from a statistical perspective.
Flacco has a career completion percentage of 61 percent; Keenum, 62 percent. Flacco’s career quarterback rating is 84.1; Keenum, 84.5. I looked at more numbers, but down the line, there are just no discernable differences between the production levels of the two players.
If you extended Keenum’s numbers out to 10 years, you would have – well, Flacco. So why would the Broncos simply add another Keenum to their roster? Or add another Flacco to the one they already have?
Maybe for a “Fleenum?”
After all, when it comes to statistical averages of players, it’s not like you can add the two sets of numbers together and come up with great numbers, especially since only one of the quarterbacks can play at any given time.
I joke that when my dog and I are together, if we combine our IQs, we approach the threshold of average human intelligence. But even I know it doesn’t work like that. As much as I’d like to, I can’t have her IQ points. Just as you can’t add Flacco and Keenum’s individual quarterback ratings together to equal 168.5.
So what gives?
My most uneducated guess is that this goes back to relationships. Last week I mentioned that players follow money, and coaches follow players. In this case, new head coach Vic Fangio is seemingly grabbing a commodity in Flacco that he became familiar with during his time in Baltimore as special assistant to the head coach from 2006-2008, and linebackers coach in 2009.
Fangio obviously thinks Flacco compares favorably to Keenum, and John Elway apparently agrees. Or maybe Elway just wants to pacify his new head coach with a quarterback of his very own. Either way, we have two quarterbacks of almost identical abilities coming to camp in a few months. Go figure.
Fangio’s good fortune with linebackers continues
While my admittedly unscientific research did not yield justification for the Flacco trade, it did bring to light an interesting aspect of Fangio’s long and illustrious coaching career – specifically with regards to linebackers. When serving as defensive coordinator for the San Francisco 49ers from 2011-1014, Fangio coached linebackers NaVorro Bowman and Patrick Willis, who each attended three Pro Bowls under his tutelage. During that same time, his defensive players combined to attend 16 Pro Bowls.
More recently, with the Chicago Bears, Fangio saw four of his defensive players attend the Pro Bowl in 2018: defensive tackle Akiem Hicks, cornerback Kyle Fuller, safety Eddie Jackson and linebacker Khalil Mack. The Bears’ defense, by the way, was ranked first in the league in total scoring.
Going back to Fangio’s days as defensive coordinator for the Carolina Panthers, Fangio guided four defensive players to the Pro Bowl: linebackers Sam Mills and Lamar Lathon, cornerback Eric Davis and defensive end Kevin Greene. That was just the Panthers’ fourth season in the NFL, and prior to that the team had never sent a defensive player to a Pro Bowl.
Fast forward to next season, when Fangio takes over as head coach for the first time in his NFL career. Fangio will inherit Von Miller and Bradley Chubb, who dueled for the team lead in sacks all season in 2018. Seeing a pattern here? I’m going out on a limb and guessing that the Broncos’ defense will be just fine in 2020.
Brave of me, I know.