In debating whether the Ravens' Joe Flacco deserves to make top-five quarterback money, ESPN's Michael Smith brings up an interesting point:
Should starting records count for quarterbacks? Smith is strongly against using wins and losses as a leading indicator on a quarterback's standing in the league.
"There is nothing more overrated for a quarterback than a starting record," Smith said. "I hate it. I despise it."
This is a timely topic because agent Joe Linta contends Flacco should be among the top five quarterbacks based on wins and losses. Flacco's 44 victories are the most by a quarterback in his first four seasons in NFL history.
I agree that using a starting record as a stand-alone statistic is misleading. But discounting a starting record for a quarterback is wrong, too.
You have to put the starting record in the same statistical mix as completion percentage, passing yards, touchdowns and interceptions to determine whether a quarterback is among the top tier or bottom one.
There is a reason why the Colts went 138-54 (.718) in a 12-year stretch with Peyton Manning and 2-14 (.125) without him last season. But his 64.9 completion rate, 399 career touchdown passes, 54,828 yards passing and 94.9 quarterback rating also provide evidence why he is regarded as one of the best of all-time.
If this game was truly only about wins and losses for quarterbacks, the Ravens would have re-signed Trent Dilfer after he went 11-1 and won a Super Bowl.
So, what does this all mean for Flacco? Based on passing statistics, he's firmly in the middle of the second-tier quarterbacks. His quarterback rating was worse than Kevin Kolb last season. His completion percentage was lower than Matt Cassel. Flacco had less passing yards per game than Josh Freeman in 2011 and fewer touchdown passes than Mark Sanchez.
When you combine his starting record (44-20) in with his solid yearly averages (3,600 yards passing and 20 touchdown passes), Flacco has to be rated at the top of that second tier. Of course, starting records can be skewed at times. Flacco won five games last season when passing for under 200 yards. But he also lost the AFC championship game because Lee Evans failed to hold onto the ball in the end zone. For the most part, records balance themselves out. The better quarterbacks usually win more games than the average ones.
That's why a starting record for a quarterback is an important statistic. It's just not the only important one.