The Joe Flacco + Vikings Takes Were Really Stupid

Theory Even Linked
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The Cleveland Browns’ 2023 campaign ended with a thud on Saturday evening, eviscerated by the upstart Houston Texas at NRG Stadium by a score of 45-14.

Houston advanced to the postseason’s Divisional Round and will play the Kansas City Chiefs or Baltimore Ravens next weekend.

The Joe Flacco + Vikings Takes Were Really Stupid

Along the way, resurgent starter Joe Flacco encountered a horrendous game for the Browns, diming two pick-sixes en route to a blowout and likely back to retirement, where he was unearthed several weeks ago.

The Joe Flacco
Scott Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

And once and for all, “the Vikings should’ve signed Flacco” can be put to rest and shouldn’t have existed in the first place. Indeed, Flacco sparked the Browns’ offense, but Cleveland’s enterprise was propped up by tremendous defense all season — not Joe Flacco.

When Flacco began to emerge as the so-called reason that Cleveland was thriving, countless Vikings fans used his career reclamation to skewer the Vikings’ front office. KSTP’s Darren Wolfson tweeted on the X app at the end of December about Flacco and the Vikings, “He wanted to be here. Vikings received that message before October 29 turned into October 30. They weren’t interested.”

Scott Galvin-USA TODAY Sports.

Minnesota fired off a low-risk trade for Arizona Cardinals quarterback Joshua Dobbs instead, who promptly helped the club win two games before regressing soon after and finding a spot on the bench.

Of course, the Wolfson tweet generated a firestorm of jealousy among Vikings loyalists, absolutely insisting Minnesota blundered by not obliging Flacco’s request. The problem, though, was that Minnesota already had its version of Flacco — Nick Mullens, who was injured at the time of the Dobbs trade.

Moved to Tears
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To the naked eye, Flacco performed marvelously until the playoffs. Yet, when one pulls back the curtain, the Browns’ defense did all the heavy lifting. In the end, Mullens and Flacco were two peas in a pod and, in fact, Mullens was more efficient. It’s just that Minnesota’s defense died the moment he was named the Vikings starter.

Here are the numbers:

QB EPA+CPOE Ranking,
as a Starter in 2023:

Joe Flacco = 21st
Nick Mullens = 10th

And the defense:

Defense Ranking,
per EPA/Play,
w/Flacco & Mullens as Starter:

Browns = 4th
Vikings = 31st

It’s abundantly straightforward. Flacco was a flawed-but-productive quarterback with a Top 5 defense at his side. Mullens was a flawed-but-productive with a Bottom 2 defense.

Defense matters — even in an era when fans desire offense, offense, and more offense. Fantasy football analysis does not evenly translate to real-life football, and many viewed Flacco through a fantasy lens and then morphed the opinion into a criticism of the Vikings. It was really stupid.

Nick Mullens got his first start as the Minnesota Vikings QB on Saturday at Cincinnati. Minnesota lost 27-24, but Mullens was productive while causing a couple of turnovers. He joined the Vikings in late summer of 2022 and has served as the team’s QB2 since.

Had Minnesota’s defense not declined the very day Mullens took over as the starter at Cincinnati, everyone would’ve praised Mullens as they did Flacco. It’s the nature of the beast.

Finally, some defensive context regarding the 2023 Vikings:

Vikings Defense,
Per EPA/Play,
NFL Ranking,
2023:

First 3 Games = 26th
Middle 10 Games = 1st
Last 4 Games = 31st

Nick Mullens was wronged, and the Vikings didn’t need Flacco. Mullens was Flacco and then some.


Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sal Spice. His Vikings obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ Basset Hounds, and The Doors (the band).

All statistics provided by Pro Football Reference / Stathead; all contractual information provided by OverTheCap.com.

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