Joe Flacco had more playoff success as a rookie than any other starting quarterback in NFL history. However, as he enters his second year, the question is whether Flacco can take the next step and become one of the NFL’s elite quarterbacks.
If the first two preseason games are any indication, Flacco believes that he is ready to be more than simply the “serviceable rookie” from a year ago and instead make the passing game a legitimate offensive option for the Ravens.
In the Ravens’ nationally televised game against the Jets, Flacco was solid on the field (8 for 18, 120 yards), but seemed especially confident when being interviewed by ESPN’s Michelle Tafoya. Flacco acted and sounded like a quarterback ready to make a splash in 2009.
Throughout NFL history, how a quarterback performs in his second year as a starter often provides great insight into whether he will develop into a superstar or simply be a “serviceable” quarterback.
After moving from semipro football to the starting lineup for the Colts in 1956, Johnny Unitas made it clear in his second season that he was destined for greatness. He made his first Pro Bowl appearance and passed for 2,550 yards and 24 touchdowns in just 12 games.
Both Joe Montana with the San Francisco 49ers in 1981 and Ben Rothlisberger with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2005 culminated their second season as a starter with a Super Bowl victory.
Dan Marino fell one victory short of Super Bowl success during his second year under center for the Miami Dolphins in 1984, but his record-setting season of 5,084 yards and 48 touchdown passes went unmatched for 20 years.
The man who eclipsed Marino’s touchdown mark, Peyton Manning, took the Indianapolis Colts from a 3-13 record during his rookie season to a 13-3 mark the following season. He made his first Pro Bowl appearance while completing 62.1% of his passes for 4,135 yards and 26 touchdowns.
Because the Ravens had the fourth best running game in the league a year ago, Flacco didn’t have to take matters into his own hands very often as a rookie. Statistically, he was solid with a 60% completion percentage, 2,971 yards, 14 touchdowns and only 12 interceptions while starting every game.
Watch for offensive coordinator Cam Cameron to give Flacco more chances to shine in 2009. With a veteran receiving unit that includes Derek Mason, Mark Clayton, Kelley Washington and Todd Heap, Flacco has plenty of receiving options and seems poised to make his move towards greatness this season.