Kevin C. Cox
If you were tracking the progress of Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco at the beginning of their venture into the NFL, you've likely come across some eerily similar statistics over the course of the past five years. Forever destined to be compared to one another, both quarterbacks are now in search of landing multi-year contracts with their respective franchises. Expect an exorbitant amount of cash will be shelled out in the coming offseason.
According to John Clayton, both players are targeting $20 million a year. Here's what he had to say about Ryan.
The Falcons have initiated contract extension talks with Matt Ryan, who will clearly seek the $20 million target, but he has one playoff win to Flacco's eight. Both entered the league in 2008 and turned their franchises into annual playoff contenders.
Playoff victories are the most important aspect to any quarterback's resume, but is it a fair determination of bargaining price? When you look at the body of work in the regular season, Ryan is the better of the two.
*Note that Flacco also played two more regular season games than Ryan in that span. Also worth mentioning, Flacco recorded 34 fumbles to Ryan's 17.
Ryan was the No. 3 overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft to a franchise coming off a 4-12 season where their head coach literally abandoned them 13 games into his first year, leaving a note in each of their locker's to break the news. Oh yeah, their starting quarterback was also sentenced to 23 months in prison the morning before. Nothing out of the ordinary. Flacco went to a team that finished 5-11 in 2007, but let's not act like Baltimore's situation was just as depressing. The Ravens won 13 games in 2006.
Both franchises hired new head coaches in 2008 as well. Starting to see a few stars aligning? Just looking at the overall records, though, will not tell the full tale. Check out the defensive numbers from the first year Ryan and Flacco came into the league. The Raven's ranked second in yards allowed per game. The Falcons defense finished 24th.
Flacco won two playoff games in his first season. His numbers in those two wins? An average of 149 passing yards and two total touchdowns. He really fueled the Ravens to victory, picking apart secondaries left and right. Ryan of course lost to the Cardinals in his first postseason game.
Fast forward to 2009. Flacco won another playoff game. His numbers in the Ravens 33-14 victory over the Patriots? Four completions, yes, four, for 34 yards and an interception, resulting in a remarkable passer rating of 10.0. But, he improved to 3-1 in games that really mattered.
Now, this isn't just a Flacco trollfest. The guy can step up in tough situations. His three performances in this year's playoffs were all impressive, and he is legitimately one of the reasons the Ravens are preparing for the Super Bowl. His six road wins in the postseason are the most in NFL history for a quarterback. You can't argue with that.
What you can argue with, though, is which passer is truly better. And when you look at the overall body of work, Ryan wins that contest. Pro Football Focus rated Matt Ryan at a 39.3 overall in 2012, ranking him their sixth-best quarterback. Flacco received a 4.7 rating, placing him tied with Kevin Kolb for 20th overall. I wish that was a joke.
Unfortunately for Atlanta, Flacco's success in the playoffs continues to drive up Ryan's asking price. If Flacco is going to receive a contract of $20 million per year, Ryan certainly deserves the same. If the Ravens franchise Flacco, he'll be paid $14.6 million in 2013. It will be difficult to deny him a huge payday with the Lombardi Trophy clutched in his right hand at the table.
Some will argue Ryan doesn't deserve the same kind of money because he hasn't delivered when it mattered most. Obviously those of you who watched Atlanta's playoff games know differently. With a new offensive coordinator he was able to capture that first win, and came within just minutes of a second. Ryan threw for 396 yards and three touchdowns with a 71.4 completion percentage against the 49ers. Please tell us more about how he's not a playoff quarterback.
You can have dissenting opinions on both quarterbacks, but at the end of the day they will both be demanding nearly the same price. The Falcons seem prepared to level with Ryan. If Flacco wins the Super Bowl, we can go ahead and accept $20 million a year is right around the corner.