Since being picked in the same draft class, Baltimore Ravens QB Joe Flacco and Atlanta Falcons QB Matt Ryan have been endlessly compared, to the point of stirring up just about the most vigorous debate in Falcoholic history (which spilled over onto Baltimore Beatdown here and here, with the winning blow struck here). They each led struggling teams to the playoffs as rookies, with Ryan winning the 2008 Offensive Rookie of the Year Award.
But the meme of this summer was that Ryan had taken a step back in his second year while Flacco just got better and better. I think that as this post shows, the real story is that Ryan has simply had to do more with less than Flacco has. The Ravens defense has been among the league’s ten best for the past decade, while the Falcons have been in the bottom third in pass defense for Ryan’s entire career.
The Falcons partisan would point out Ryan’s offense (and Ryan himself) dealt with more injuries and a tougher schedule in 2009 than Flacco did. Ravens fans would wonder whether we’d like to see Ryan face Steelers safety Troy Polamalu twice a year.
Still, the general perception was that round two went to Flacco.
So what about this year? Flacco’s completion percentage has dipped back to 60.8 percent, about the same as his rookie year, though his interception rate is the lowest of his career. Ryan is completing 62.5 percent of his passes, and has a lower pick rate than Flacco. Flacco’s yards-per-attempt average is up to 7.2, while Ryan’s has bounced back to 6.9.
Both have tried to break in some weapons this year, too. Flacco gained a new toy in WR Anquan Boldin, which hasn’t exactly gone as sensationally as expected, while the return of Falcons WR Harry Douglas hasn’t been anywhere near as big a boost to Ryan’s numbers as some had hoped.
In the public’s eye at least, Thursday night’s game will settle the matter for the time being. Even if the winning quarterback plays a bad game. Because the public is like that.