Joe Flacco has been making noises all offseason about feeling that he is a top-5 quarterback, and how he feels that he also deserves to be paid like one. In February his agent made the statement that based on wins and losses, Flacco has to be one of the top five in the league.
Things only got worse when, on Monday night, Flacco was interviewed on Baltimore’s WNST radio station and made the comment “I think I’m the best. I don’t think I’m in the top five, I think I’m the best. I wouldn’t be very successful at my job if I didn’t feel that way.”
Wow. Thats quite a statement. And his agent is right, if quarterbacks are getting paid only on wins and losses, he has to get paid like a top five quarterback. However if we look closely, or even not closely at all, we can see that Flacco isn’t necessarily the reason the Ravens are winning. Sure he is helping make things happen, but they still have all-world linebacker Ray Lewis, ball-hawking free-safety Ed Reed, and a behemoth at nose tackle in Haloti Ngata who is regarded as one of the finest if not finest NTs in the NFL.
I’m not saying that Flacco has been nothing more than a ‘game manager’; Flacco has some very good skills. He is athletic enough to get outside the pocket, and has a rocket arm. But lets not make it seem like he is putting the team on his back. That defense with elite players on each the defensive line, linebacking corps, and secondary, they are dangerous to behold. But don’t take my word for it, look at Flacco’s statistics and tell me if they sound elite. In 2010 he threw 3600 yards, completed 62% of his passes, threw 25 touchdowns with only 10 interceptions, for a 93 passer rating. Everyone expected significant growth, especially with the addition of Torrey Smith and Lee Evans at wide receiver. There is no doubting that Flacco took a step back in 2011. He threw 20 touchdowns, 12 interceptions, 3600 yards, and only completed 57% of his passes. That was one percent more than Mark Sanchez, a man widely regarded as being very far from a top-5 talent in the NFL.
That brings us to Matt Ryan. Is he deserving of the label of a top-5 quarterback? A top-10 quarterback?
I think Ryan is a top-10 QB, and I would personally rank him seventh or eighth. He has gotten better every year (with the exception of a little hiccup in his 2nd NFL season) threw 28 and 29 touchdowns, completed 62 and 61%, 3700 and 4100 yards, with only 9 and 12 interceptions, each in 2010 and 2011 respectively. His passer rating went up to 92.2 in 2011. Not only this, but you’d realize by watching all of the Falcon’s games that Ryan suffered a lot of dropped passes that would have improved his statistics. I don’t think there is any doubt that Ryan is the better of these two quarterbacks that were both drafted in 2008, and if either of them were to be considered top-5, you would have to choose Ryan. The guys on the Scott Van Pelt show on ESPN radio both agreed they would definitely pick Ryan over Flacco.
This also leads us to intangibles and leadership. Obviously Ryan is a better decision maker and play-caller than Flacco on the field, but Ryan’s leadership shows itself in his lack of talk. While Joe Flacco is running all over the place telling anyone who will listen that he is worthy and deserves a big contract for all of his efforts, Matt Ryan is silent and minding his own business. He isn’t going around making huge statements, and chooses to do his work and dealings with the team in private, rather than broadcasting it and proffering it up to national scrutiny. Joe Flacco has presented himself as a target for the rest of the NFL, and Ryan is flying under the radar.
What should Flacco should have said? Probably that he wants to be a top-5 QB, and that he will work to become the No. 1 QB in the NFL. I don’t think you would hear the great quarterbacks in the NFL who are top-5 like Manning, Brady, or Brees ever admitting that they are tops at their position, or in the top few. I like that Ryan isn’t saying much, and truthfully he has nothing to say. For all the accolades we put on him, he has won a lot less in the postseason than Flacco. But the idea is in the head of other teams that Flacco has an inflated ego, and there is no doubt that teams will try to silence him by placing his team in the loss column.