Last April when Matt Ryan was selected 3rd by the Atlanta Falcons and Joe Flacco selected 18th by the Baltimore Ravens, no one believed that these franchises had a shot at going to the playoffs, let alone boasting better than .500 records. By Sunday night, the left for dead Falcons, clinched a playoff birth and the Baltimore Ravens held their destiny in their own hands, and they can thank those two quarterbacks drafted only 8 months ago.
Neither quarterback was invited to the Downtown Athletic Club a year ago. Neither quarterback was playing in a New Years Day bowl game in 2008. Neither quarterback was the uncontested, odds on favorite, #1 overall pick. Somehow, both Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco are not only dominating headlines of the 2008 NFL season, but they are trailblazing through the month of December with their franchises strapped to their back.
With 1 game remaining in the 2008 season, Matt Ryan has clinched a playoff birth and is guaranteed the Offensive Rookie of the Year. The former Boston College standout went into Minnesota on Sunday, lead the Falcons to a victory against a team looking for a division clinching win, a team which won 6 of their last 7 games, and a team who was 5-1 at home heading into Sunday. How much more does he have to prove? Ryan was 13 of 24 passing with a touchdown, against one of the NFLs most furious defenses. Simply put, Matt Ryan has ice water running through his veins. In his rookie season he's passed for 3,000 yards, 15 touchdowns, and has thrown for over 250 yards, 5 times. The young rookie has gone in Lambeau, San Diego, and now Minnesota and came out victorious, all three teams were pre-season playoff teams. Finally, in the 4th quarter of games this season, Matt Ryan has thrown for 696 yards, four touchdowns, and has a 92.3 passer rating. In the first quarter this season, Ryan has thrown for nearly 1,000 yards and has a 103.4 passer rating. Why is this important? To get the Falcons going his coaches put the ball in his hands and trust it, to win games in the 4th, it is the rookie, Matt Ryan, they turn to. Not Alex Smith (2005 #1 overall pick), not Matt Leinart or Vince Young, and not JaMarcus Russell (2007 #1 overall pick), has seen this type of success this soon. When I told you Matt Ryan should have got more hype for the Heisman last season, this is why. No quarterback coming out in 2009 or that came out in 2008 will have the type of career Matt Ryan is prepared to have, put it in the bank.
In the words of T.O. "I love me some Joe Flacco", okay so T.O. might not have said that, but he totally could have. In any other NFL season, Joe Flacco would be garnering serious consideration for Rookie of the Year, it just so happens that, the only other quarterback drafted ahead of Flacco, has put the Atlanta Falcons back on the map. Sure, both Flacco and Ryan have their defenses to thank for some of their success, but if I recall correctly, and since I have a memory like an elephant, I believe I do, no Raven quarterback since Trent Dilfer could put this team in the playoffs. The Baltimore Ravens opened up training camp with several choices to make under center. For starters, Kyle Boller is still in a Ravens uniform. Behind Boller is former Heisman Memorial Trophy winner, Troy Smith. Due to injury to Boller and sickness of Troy Smith, Flacco becomes the man under center. Since the Ravens declared him their starter, the first year player out of near by Delaware, has never looked back. In Flacco's last ten starts, the rookie is 8-2, the losses being against the home field advantage bound Giants and the second seed in the AFC playoffs, the Pittsburgh Steelers. Flacco has the same number of touchdown passes as fellow rookie starter, Matt Ryan (14), and only three more interceptions. The fiercest defense in the NFL, led by Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, has Flacco to thank for their AFC dominance in 2008. The 6'6" New Jersey native has thrown for over 2,500 yards and has had a 80.1 or better passer rating in 8 of 15 starts. How many rookie quarterbacks do you know that start off their career 2-3 and are 10-5 after 15 games? The mechanical Joe Flacco led the Ravens to a 33-24 victory in the Cowboys last home game at Texas Stadium, with playoff life on the line, Joe Flacco completed 17 of 25 pass plays. The second greatest Joe to come out of Delaware (Joe Biden would be #1) Flacco is staring down destiny right in the jaw.
With Ryan's win in Minnesota and Flacco taking care of business in Dallas, are there still people who question which quarterbacks are in the NFL to stand up and be accounted for. Move over Brady & Manning (Peyton), Joe and Matt may have something to do about this by seasons end.