Eli Manning vs. Joe Flacco: Which QB Is Better?
A few weeks ago, recently departed New York Giants defensive lineman Chris Canty picked up his own big wooden spoon and decided to take a turn at stirring the pot of typical offseason quarterback debate by saying that he'd pick Joe Flacco over Eli Manning. Now, to be fair to Canty, the comment wasn't unprompted. He was asked in an interview with NBC Sports which Super Bowl MVP quarterback he'd rather have and he answered the question exactly as you'd expect him to answer it. After all, Canty was signed by the Baltimore Ravens this offseason after spending the past four years with the Giants. What was he supposed to do, trash the quarterback of the team he was just signed to? No, of course not. Which is why loaded questions like these are pointless and serve little to no purpose.
Nonetheless, people who cover them (like myself) only add fuel to the fire, so if that's the case, then I guess I'm standing here with a gas can. So let's discuss it a little more. While Canty's comments were obviously biased in favor of the organization that now signs his paychecks (and understandably so), that doesn't mean we can't dive a little bit deeper into the comparison between the two. Joe Flacco won his first Super Bowl title last season after leading the Ravens on an improbable playoff run and defeating the favored San Francisco 49ers. Flacco was awarded MVP of the game after completing 22-of-33 passes for 287 yards and three touchdowns. The season before that, Manning picked up his second Super Bowl title and second Super Bowl MVP by beating the Patriots in the Deja Vu Bowl while engineering more late-game heroics.
Despite the fact that the two quarterbacks have been more statistically similar over the course of their respective careers than one might realize, the truth remains that if I would have written the headline for this piece 12 months ago, I would have been laughed at. As a matter of fact, if I would have written this headline after Week 14 of the 2012 season I still would've been laughed at. Flacco had a coming-of-age of sorts during the 2013 playoffs, similar to the one Manning had during the 2008 playoffs en route to his first Super Bowl title. After four trips to the playoffs in his first four seasons that amounted to nothing but a heartbreaking loss to the Patriots in the 2012 AFC title game, Flacco suddenly found another gear in last season's playoff run and earned himself an enormous contract.
Flacco may be the reigning Super Bowl MVP and his triumphs are still fresh in everyone's mind, including Chris Canty's, but does that mean Flacco is the better quarterback between him and Manning? Here's the simple answer: no. We tend to do this every year, taking the hottest new sensation in the league and praising him way past hyperbole and into the realm of oblivion. In fact, the day after the Ravens hoisted the Lombardi Trophy, Merril Hoge, who is an ESPN analyst that gets paid for his "expert" opinions, declared Joe Flacco to be the "best quarterback in the NFL" ahead of not only Eli Manning, but also some other scrubs you've probably never heard of named Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Peyton Manning. This statement was so far beyond ridiculous that it was not even worth the trouble of writing an entire column to refute it.
But that incident serves as an example of how we tend to be blinded by recent successes and how our judgment is often clouded by what's happened recently. Eli Manning is only 16 months removed from his last Super Bowl MVP award, but guess what? Joe Flacco is only four months removed so, by nature, his is the one we remember more vividly. His run seems more improbable and more impressive than the same improbable run that Eli has made not once, but twice. Why? Because it's more recent.
So we can't blame Canty for his comments, not only because he's now a Baltimore Raven, but also because he's suffering from the same kind of blindness that the rest of us often suffer from. Can Flacco throw a better deep ball than Manning? I don't know, ask Victor Cruz. He's been on the receiving end of quite a few Manning deep balls in the past few seasons. Basically, what I'm trying to say is that some debates need a little time to breathe. For this particular one, we'll come back to it when Flacco adds a second ring to his hand. Until then, I'm going to go with Eli.