On the surface, comparing Joe Flacco to Tom Brady seems a little premature.
Or is it?
After Flacco and the Baltimore Ravens bested Brady and the New England Patriots on Sunday night, it looks like Flacco is poised to become the AFC’s top quarterback in regards to both on the field play individually, as well as team success.
Since Flacco came into the league as the 18th overall pick in the 2008 NFL draft, he has started every game the Ravens have played. Counting the playoffs, Flacco has started all 76 games that the Ravens have played, and is over .500 in both the playoffs and regular season. His 76 starts, including the playoffs, in his first four-plus seasons are the most in NFL history. He has accumulated 51 wins in those 76 contests.
Moreover, Flacco has the NFL record for most wins as a quarterback in his first four regular seasons, as his 45 wins are three more than his draft classmate Matt Ryan‘s 42. Both Flacco and Ryan were taken in the first round of the 2008 draft.
Back to Flacco and Brady though.
Since 2008, Flacco has bettered Brady in numerous ways. Head-to-head Brady’s Patriots are up 3-2 over Flacco’s Ravens in their past five meetings. However, one of those losses for the Ravens was last season’s AFC title game. If not for Lee Evans dropping an easy, game-winning touchdown with 20 seconds left in the fourth quarter, or Billy Cundiff missing a chip-shot to force overtime, Flacco and the Ravens might be the team up 3-2 over Brady and the Patriots.
I digress though, as drops and missed field goals are part of the game, and the Patriots did come away with a 23-20 victory. However, despite the Patriots up 3-2 in the past five meetings, Flacco’s numbers have been far superior to that of Brady’s.
Flacco has thrown for 1271 yards, nine touchdowns and four interceptions while completing 65 percent of his passes against Brady and the Patriots. Conversely, Brady has thrown for 1278 yards, five touchdowns and seven interceptions while completing 62 percent of his passes in those same games.
So despite throwing for nearly the identical amount of yards, Flacco has nearly twice as many touchdowns, fewer interceptions and holds a higher completion percentage.
In regards to wins and losses in the playoffs since 2008, Flacco and the Ravens are 5-4 while Brady and the Patriots are 2-3. During that span, Flacco has become the only quarterback in NFL history since the 1970 merger to both make the playoffs in his first four seasons, but more importantly win a playoff game in each of his first four seasons. He is also the only quarterback in NFL history to win two playoff games in his rookie season.
Had Evans held onto the ball, we may be talking about Flacco like everyone did Eli Manning after he won his first Super Bowl. Everyone was afraid to label Eli as elite, but fast-forward a few years later and Eli is considered one of the top signal-callers in the game.
Flacco appears to be on the same path as Eli. He has had his ups and downs, but Flacco has been more consistent than the younger Manning was in his first four seasons. Another interesting fact is that Eli won his first Super Bowl at the age of 27, which Flacco is currently. A championship this year would put Flacco on the cusp of greatness as he is just entering his prime.
Brady meanwhile is 35-years-old, and his best football appears to be behind him. In no means am I counting Tom Brady out; that would just be moronic. If Brady and the Patriots won the Super Bowl in any of the next three-to-four years it wouldn’t shock me. However, father time catches up with everyone as the Brady-Peyton Manning era in the AFC is on the back-nine, while quarterbacks like Ben Roethlisberger and Flacco are taking up the mantle in the AFC.
So when we ask ourselves if Flacco is overtaking Brady in the AFC, it may sound crazy, but is it really that far-fetched? Most people a few years back wouldn’t have thought Eli Manning would be 2-0 against Brady in Super Bowls, so why count out Flacco?
If Flacco keeps progressing the way he has to this point, his fifth season may be very “Super” and help to put Flacco in that elite status as he nips at the heels of Brady.