BY SPNW Staff 03:16PM 11/09/2011

Ravens Throw Tall Order (Flacco) at Seahawks

Joe Flacco is an unlikely candidate to be leading a 6-2 team, but he has the Baltimore Ravens, who take on the Seahawks on Sunday at CenturyLink, on a roll.

6-6 Joe Flacco will lead the 6-2 Baltimore Ravens against the Seahawks on Sunday. / Wiki Commons

Since the Seahawks have not confronted the Baltimore Ravens since Dec. 23, 2007 (27-6 Seattle win), their constituents have not yet had an opportunity to watch in person one of the more intriguing young quarterbacks in the NFL, Joe Flacco. That situation will be remedied Sunday when Flacco and the Ravens come to town intent of pinning the seventh loss of the season on Seattle, and third in a row.

A New Jersey native, Flacco joined the Ravens in 2008 after they made him the 18th overall choice in the draft. As a rookie, the University of Delaware product threw for 2,971 yards, 14 touchdowns in 12 interceptions while starting all 16 games.

Flacco then became just the eighth rookie quarterback in league annals to start a playoff game and win it (defeated the Dolphins in Miami 27-9). A week later, he beat Tennessee (13-10) in Nashville, becoming the first rookie in NFL history to win two playoff games on the road.

In his second year with the Ravens, Flacco tossed for 3,613 yards, 21 TDs and finished with a passer rating of 88.9. That rating established a Baltimore franchise record, as did Flacco’s 63.1 completion percentage.

Last year, Flacco threw for 3,622 yards, 25 touchdowns and sported a 93.6 passer rating. Again, he led the Ravens to the postseason, becoming only the fourth quarterback in history to take his team to the playoffs in his first three seasons. He is also the first quarterback to win at least one playoff game in each of his first three years — 2008 (2-1), 2009 (1-1), 2010 (1-1).

Flacco’s numbers are generally down this season — 54.7 completion percentage, 76.9 passer rating — but the Ravens are 6-2 after whipping Pittsburgh Sunday, 23-20, in a game in which Flacco threw for 300 yards and hit rookie Torrey Smith with a 26-yard touchdown pass with eight seconds to play for the clinching score.

That enabled Baltimore to sweep the season series with Pittsburgh for the first time since 2006. Those same Steelers obliterated the Seahawks 24-0 in Week 3.

“We’re a good football team,” said Flacco, who stands 6-6. “We know how to win. We’ve been that for a handful of years now and we’re got a lot of guys who are focused on taking it game by game. Like I said, we’re experienced in that matter and when it comes down to it we’re a team that knows how to win and get the job done when we need to.”

Flacco has started 40 consecutive games for the Ravens since they drafted him, and after his effort Sunday some NFL opiners began talking in terms of Flacco having joined that category of quarterbacks generally called “elite.”

“I really try not to watch that stuff and pay attention to it, even when we’re doing good,” said Flacco, who launched his college career at the University of Pittsburgh, but transferred to Delaware after two seasons. “But obviously you hear rumblings and you’ve got your media guys telling you things, especially when they’re good things.

“I think they stay away from you and try not to tell you all the bad things that they’re saying, but you hear a little bit about it. Like I said, I haven’t really paid much attention to it. I haven’t heard it first hand, but obviously we knew that was a big win for us and as far as I’m concerned that’s what I’m going to take it as – a win against Pittsburgh that was a big division win. That’s about it. If I don’t already view myself as being a good quarterback then I think we’re in trouble.”

Whether Flacco actually belongs in the elite of NFL quarterbacks isn’t as interesting as the fact that he is making a major contribution to his team at all. Usually, quarterbacks of Flacco’s height — 6-6 — fail miserably.

Prior to the 2008 draft, a personnel director for an AFC team said, “I’ve got a problem with Flacco. You know why? He’s 6-6. I don’t know why it is, but history tells us that they’re not going to be any good.”

The best 6-6 (or taller) quarterback ever probably was Marc Wilson, a Bremerton native who played at Brigham Young and then, for eight years, with the Raiders (1980-87) and Patriots (1989-90).

In 160 NFL games that included 60 starts, Wilson threw for 14,391 yards and 86 touchdowns. Those are hardly Hall of Fame numbers, but compared to the 6-6 (or taller) quarterbacks who followed Wilson into the league, those stats are Cantonesque.

Since 1988, just eight quarterbacks 6-6 or taller have been drafted and played a snap. Most have been busts. The eight:

Quarterback College Drafted Team Rnd. Ht.
Dan McGwire San Diego St. 1991 Seahawks 1 6-8
Scott Mitchell Utah 1990 Dolphins 4 6-6
John Navarre Michigan 2004 Cardinals 7 6-6
Derek Anderson Oregon State 2005 Browns 6 6-6
Andrew Walter Arizona State 2005 Raiders 3 6-6
Jamarcus Russell LSU 2007 Raiders 1 6-6
Joe Flacco Delaware 2008 Ravens 1 6-6
Josh Freeman Kansas State 2009 Buccaneers 1 6-6

The Seahawks drafted the tallest of the bunch, selecting the 6-8 McGwire with the 16th overall pick in 1991. McGwire washed out of the league after 26 games.

Russell is a bigger bust than McGwire, considering that the Raiders made him the first player taken in 2007. Russell lasted 31 games.

John Navarre lasted two years and two games with the Cardinals, and Andrew Walter three years and 15 games with the Raiders. But Navarre went in the seventh round (2004), so nobody expected anything out of him anyway.

The best full career — so far — by a quarterback 6-6 or taller belongs to Mitchell, who played for five years and in 99 games, mainly with Detroit. He threw for 15,692 yards and 95 touchdowns.

Anderson, the Oregon State grad who threw five interceptions in a game against Washington in 2002, is currently in his fifth NFL season, and he’s already been with three teams. Anderson has done nothing since 2007 when he threw for 3,700 yards and 29 TDs for Cleveland.

The most recent 6-6 quarterback to play in the NFL, Freeman, appears no more unnerved by his own height as Flacco. In two and a half seasons, Freeman has tossed 43 touchdowns.

But Freeman’s Buccaneers are 4-4 while Flacco’s Ravens are 6-2, and likely to become 7-2 on Sunday.


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