Joe Flacco, Gary Kubiak, NY Jets, Offensive Scheme, Mike LaFleur
Joe Flacco, New York Jets, Getty Images, Jet X Graphic

New York Jets QB Joe Flacco puts up his best numbers in the Shanahan scheme

With starting quarterback Zach Wilson recovering from knee surgery, the New York Jets are preparing for the possibility of 15th-year veteran Joe Flacco starting at least one game to begin the 2022 season.

As a Super Bowl MVP with 191 career starts, 108 career wins, and a 9-to-3 touchdown-to-interception ratio over the last two seasons, Flacco is one of the most reliable backup quarterbacks in the NFL right now. The Jets can feel good about their odds of winning games with Flacco under center.

Flacco’s resume is enough to make him an intriguing QB2 on its own. But Flacco becomes an even more enticing Plan B for the Jets when you dig deeper into how compatible he is with this particular team.

Above all, here’s what makes Flacco such an ideal backup for New York: He’s a great fit for their scheme.

Throughout his career, Flacco has only gotten to play two seasons in an offense that derives from the Mike Shanahan coaching tree: 2014 under Gary Kubiak and 2021 under Mike LaFleur. It’s no coincidence that the 2014 season was arguably his best year as a full-time starter, while in 2021, he posted very efficient numbers in a limited sample size.

This offense brings the best out of Flacco.

Joe Flacco’s 2014 season under Gary Kubiak

Gary Kubiak was instrumental in the rise of the Shanahan offense. He worked under Mike Shanahan as the Denver Broncos offensive coordinator for 11 seasons, beginning with Shanahan’s first season as the Broncos head coach in 1995. Kubiak parlayed his work in Denver into a head coaching job with the Houston Texans, which he held from 2006 to 2013.

Kubiak was fired as head coach of the Houston Texans in 2013. The following year, Kubiak became the Ravens’ offensive coordinator.

Prior to Kubiak’s arrival in Baltimore, Flacco had just endured a disappointing 2013 season in which he gave an ugly encore to his 2012 championship season. Flacco threw more interceptions (22) than touchdowns (19) and posted a career-low 73.1 passer rating that remains his worst-ever mark by a fairly wide margin.

In 2014, Kubiak brought his variation of the Shanahan scheme to Baltimore, and it rejuvenated Flacco’s career.

Here are some of Flacco’s numbers from the 2014 season and where they rank among his 12 seasons as a Week 1 starter:

  • 27 touchdown passes (1st)
  • 3,986 passing yards (2nd)
  • 91.0 passer rating (2nd)
  • 68.2 ESPN QBR (1st)
  • 77.2 PFF grade (2nd)
  • +15.5% DVOA (1st)
  • 6.66 net yards per pass attempt (1st)
  • Team ranked 8th in scoring with 25.6 PPG (Both 1st)

Flacco expanded on his excellent regular season with a strong pair of games in the 2014-15 playoffs. He completed 46 of 74 passes for 551 yards, 6 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions (100.7 passer rating). In Baltimore’s 35-31 Divisional loss to New England, Flacco threw 4 touchdown passes, which remains the most ever thrown by a visiting quarterback in a road playoff game against the Patriots.

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Joe Flacco’s limited, but effective 2021 season with the Jets

Jets offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur carries on the core elements of the Shanahan offense. He worked under Mike Shanahan’s son, Kyle, for seven seasons with three different teams.

Kyle spent four seasons in Washington as an offensive coordinator under his father before carrying on the scheme to Cleveland (OC), Atlanta (OC), and San Francisco (HC), with LaFleur following him to each stop and picking up the scheme along the way. Kyle helped LaFleur gradually climb the coaching ladder, as he worked his way up from an offensive intern in Cleveland, to an offensive assistant in Atlanta, to the passing game coordinator in San Francisco.

While Flacco did not play much in 2021, he was efficient over his short time on the field. He completed 27 of 42 passes for 338 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions (113.0 passer rating). These numbers comprise one start against the Dolphins and another short appearance against the Bills in which he relieved Mike White at the end of the game. The Jets lost 17-24 to Miami, although two missed field goals made the Jets’ offense look less productive than it actually was.

Flacco’s Week 11 start against the Dolphins came during a stretch of the season in which Miami’s defense was playing at a dominant level. Entering the game, Miami allowed only 19 points over its previous two games. Ultimately, over their final nine games of the season, the Dolphins allowed the second-fewest point points per game (15.6) and second-lowest opposing passer rating (66.1) in the NFL.

Over this 9-game stretch of defensive excellence by Miami, Flacco’s 291 passing yards against the Dolphins was the best mark by an opposing quarterback. He also joined Ryan Tannehill as the only Dolphins opponent to throw multiple touchdown passes over this span, and his 101.5 passer rating trailed only Tannehill’s 127.5.

Combining Joe Flacco’s numbers in the Shanahan scheme

Overall, Flacco has played 20 games (19 starts) in the Shanahan scheme – this includes his two games in the 2014-15 playoffs.

Here are his numbers across the 20 games:

  • 417/670 passing (62.2% completion rate)
  • 36 touchdown passes (5.4% TD rate)
  • 14 interceptions (2.1% INT rate)
  • 4,875 passing yards (7.3 Y/A)
  • 22 sacks (3.2% sack rate)
  • 93.5 passer rating
  • 2 rushing TDs
  • 1 lost fumble

That’s pretty darn good. For the sake of comparing that sample to a single QB season with a similar volume of attempts, Justin Herbert threw 672 pass attempts in the 2021 season, and his numbers weren’t too far off from Flacco’s numbers: 38 touchdowns, 15 interceptions, and 5,014 yards. Patrick Mahomes threw 658 passes and recorded 37 touchdowns, 13 interceptions, and 4,839 yards.

Of course, it would be smart to avoid overvaluing these numbers for a couple of key reasons. Number one, most of this production was accumulated when Flacco was 29 years old, and he’s 37 now. It’s likely that he has experienced some physical decline over nearly a decade. Number two, his 2021 numbers came over a small sample and cannot be fully trusted as a sign of what’s to come.

Take all of this data with a grain of salt. Still, it’s promising to see that Flacco has a track record of success when playing in the Jets’ scheme. It inspires confidence that he could enjoy a respectable 2022 season for however long the Jets need him to be on the field.

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Michael Nania is one of the best analytical New York Jets minds in the world, combining his statistical expertise with game film to add proper context to the data. Nania scrapes every corner, ensuring you know all there is to know about everyone from the QB to the long snapper. Nania's Numbers, Nania's QB Grades, and Nania's All-22 give fans a deeper and more well-rounded dive into the Jets than anyone else can offer. Email: michael.nania[at] - Twitter: @Michael_Nania
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7 months ago

Looks good! Think Joe’s maturity gives them a great chance to win this game. He will take his time and what the defense is giving him! Still can’t wait! Just extend This season, giving the young man a good start!

Matt Galemmo
Matt Galemmo
7 months ago

Was the ‘flood’ concept an important part of the 2014 Raven’s offense? Can Flacco be expected to be successful on naked bootlegs today?