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Just The Sports: 2007-12-16

Just The Sports

Friday, December 21, 2007

Joe Flacco

During the Division I-AA semi-final and final games of the FCS playoffs, Delaware senior quarterback Joe Flacco was repeatedly compared to former Miami (Ohio) and current Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger based on the words of Todd McShay, ESPN's golden boy of football scouting. Of course, since scouts are notorious for overvaluing the physical tools of a player, the basis for the comparison between Flacco and Roethlisberger had everything to do with their physical presences and less to do with how effective they have been actually playing college football. Still, even in this limited sphere, saying these quarterbacks are similar is understandable. Each quarterback cuts an imposing figure on the football field: Flacco is 6'6 and 230 pounds while Roethlisberger is 6'5 and 241 pounds, both are proficient in evading the pass rush, and both are attributed with having strong throwing arms, though Roethlisberger may receive this claim in error.

As for the unspoken driving reason for drawing similarities with Flacco and Roethlisberger, my guess is it derives from their matriculating at colleges not known for producing NFL-caliber players. Despite having to play with less glamour, Flacco and Roethlisberger excelled during their time. In his three years at a starting quarterback, Roethlisberger completed 65.4% of his 1,305 pass attempts for 8.2 yards per pass attempt. Flacco is no match for Roethlisberger in experience because he only started for two seasons and threw a little less than 400 fewer passes in meaningful time (938), but his completion percentage of 63.4% and 7.5 yards per pass attempt keep him in the same class as Roethlisberger, if a little behind. When taking into account strength of schedule, Roethlisberger gets the nod over Flacco again. He played nine BCS conference opponents during thirty-eight contests; Flacco opposed zero BCS conference foes in twenty-six games.

A more apt comparison for Flacco to a current NFL quarterback, even if it does eschew physical attributes, is to Tony Romo. Romo, like Flacco, played on the Division I-AA level (Eastern Illinois in the case of Romo) and his success quarterbacking the Dallas Cowboys shows the jump from I-AA to stardom for a quarterback is not beyond the realm of possibilities. Like Roethlisberger, Romo started three seasons for his university so he, too, has an advantage in experience over Flacco, which seems like an anomaly since Romo attempted fewer passes as a starter than Flacco, but Romo played in less of a pass-happy offense. In addition, during his collegiate career, Romo's 9.0 yards per pass attempt far outpaces Flacco's 7.5; Romo's completion percentage of 62.7% in his starting quarterback tenure is all but identical to Flacco's 63.4%.

Though Flacco's collegiate statistics compare favorably to Roethlisberger and Romo, his inexperience as a starter should raise red flags in front of anyone who projects him as a full-time starter. This is not to say that I am predicting Flacco will be a failure because I am not, but there is nothing mind-blowing about what Flacco did as a Delaware Blue Hen. Flacco will probably succeed with an NFL team, but it will not be right away as Roethlisberger did. He will most likely have to sit on the bench for a few years as Romo did and there's still no guarantee he will be as good as Romo.