Defending Joe Flacco's starting record

September, 29, 2012
9/29/12
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Bill Barnwell from Grantland writes that Joe Flacco's impressive record as a starting quarterback is the result of having one of the top defenses in the NFL in the first four years of his career.
Joe Flacco's win total isn't really that impressive. Flacco's Ravens won 44 of 64 regular-season games from 2008 to 2011. By my count, an average NFL quarterback with a similarly effective defense would have won 42 games with that same defensive output. Flacco's winning ways, if you want to give him credit for them, were worth about a half-win per season.

It would be naive to think that Flacco hasn't been helped tremendously by playing with one of the stingiest defenses in the league. At the same time, it's not right to discount Flacco's impact in these victories.

[+] EnlargeRavens quarterback Joe Flacco
Mitch Stringer/US PresswireSince entering the NFL in 2008, The Ravens' Joe Flacco leads all quarterbacks with 51 victories.
Using Barnwell's standard, should we downgrade Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's 20 wins over the past two seasons? He did have the luxury of having the top-ranked scoring defense on his side in 2010 and 2011.

Taking a closer look at Flacco's numbers, 63 percent of his wins have decided by more than a touchdown. S0, it's not like the Ravens were relying solely on defense and winning by a field goal each week.

When the games have been close, Flacco has made a difference. He has led five fourth-quarter comebacks since the start of the 2010 season, including one against New England on Sunday. In comparison, Aaron Rodgers has no fourth-quarter comebacks during that stretch.

I would agree that Flacco regressed last season. In five of the Ravens' 12 regular-season wins in 2011, Flacco threw for less than 200 yards. He clearly wasn't carrying the Ravens to victories on a consistent basis. Still, Flacco threw another winning touchdown pass in the final minute at Pittsburgh (and against the NFL's top-ranked defense) and would've led the Ravens to a Super Bowl if Lee Evans held onto that catch in the end zone.

Over the course of his career, Flacco has proven to be a winner. Since entering the NFL in 2008, Flacco leads all quarterbacks with 51 victories. It's two more than Drew Brees and five more than Rodgers. Am I saying Flacco is a better quarterback than Drees or Rodgers? Of course not. But you also have to disagree with the notion that any average quarterback would have put up the same record as Flacco.

Jamison Hensley

ESPN Ravens reporter

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