PITTSBURGH, PA - NOVEMBER 06: Joe Flacco #5 of the Baltimore Ravens throws the ball just as he is being hit by James Harrison #92 of the Pittsburgh Steelers during the game on November 6, 2011 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
In a season where no less than five starting quarterbacks have been lost for the season, at least two more have missed significant playing time and at least six others have changed signal-callers due to ineffectiveness, Baltimore Ravens QB Joe Flacco is becoming Baltimore's new 'Iron Man,' a title previously only bestowed in this city on the Baltimore Orioles' Cal Ripken.
Flacco is in his fourth season as the Ravens starting QB and has never missed a single game in the regular season or the playoffs. His 57 straight regular season starts (64 including playoffs) rank him third among all starting QB's, behind only New York Giants QB Eli Manning's 112 straight (119 including playoffs) and San Diego Chargers QB Philip Rivers' 89 (96 including playoffs). All of them are still far behind the all-time leader, Brett Favre's 297 straight starts and runner-up Peyton Manning's 208 starts, but with the QB's dropping like flies in 2011, it's beginning to look even more impressive every week.
Indianapolis Colts QB Peyton Manning did not start the season due to off-season neck surgery and the result has been disastrous as the Colts are winless at 0-10 this season. Miami Dolphins QB Chad Henne and Oakland Raiders QB Jason Campbell were lost for the season due to injury weeks ago and just this past week, Kansas City's Matt Cassel and Houston Texans' Matt Schaub went on Injured Reserve, ending their 2011 seasons from injuries.
The Texans loss of Schaub is particularly devastating, as Houston is leading the AFC South with a 7-3 record and had been considered one of the favorites to reach the Super Bowl prior to his injury. Backup QB Matt Leinart will replace Schaub, and even though the Texans have a great running game and one of the better defenses in the league, no one is expecting a long playoff run at this point.
Arizona Cardinals QB Kevin Kolb is still out with injuries and St. Louis Rams QB Sam Bradford missed a chunk of games so far in 2011. Ineffectiveness has also resulted in the changing of the guard at QB in quite a few other stadiums around the league. The Seattle Seahawks, Carolina Panthers, Minnesota Vikings, Washington Redskins, Denver Broncos and Jacksonville Jaguars have all made changes at QB this season and other than the great story in Denver with Tim Tebow, none of the other teams are anywhere near .500 in their winning percentage.
Despite only being in the NFL for less than four full seasons, Joe Flacco is already tied for 8th place among active quarterbacks with 38 wins, two more than even Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers. Including the post-season, Flacco has more regular season wins than any other QB over that span at the beginning of a career.
While a lot of that success has to be shared with the teammates around him, Flacco's consistency in stepping up under center every game is virtually unrivaled in this day and age, when you see and hear about so many other teams changing QB's for both injury and ineffective reasons. While you can debate Flacco's consistency in accuracy and winning, one thing you cannot argue is his durability, for which all Ravens fans should be thankful.