The Baltimore Ravens have only been around sine 1996, but the younger NFL franchise have already won two Super Bowls. The team has typically been known for a stout defense, but good quarterback play is still required to win it all.
Here are the three best signal-callers in Ravens history.
3. Trent Dilfer (2000)
Originally the sixth overall pick in 1994 by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Dilfer spent six years in Florida, making one Pro Bowl, but never living up to his draft slot. The Raven signed him to a one-year deal in 2000 offseason, thinking he’d serve as the backup to Tony Banks, who had gone 6-4 as a starter the year before. Banks started the first eight games of the campaign, winning five of them, but he went without a touchdown four weeks in a row, and after tossing three interceptions in a loss to the Tennessee Titans, head coach Brian Billick made the decision to switch starters, and inserted Dilfer, who lost his first start against the division rival Pittsburgh Steelers.
That would be the last time Baltimore lost a game that season. Dilfer’s regular season numbers weren’t spectacular; 1,502 passing yards, 12 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions. But he was the definition of a game manager, and it’s hard to argue with the results. The Ravens finished 12-4 and made the playoffs as a wild card team. Behind their legendary defense, the Ravens breezed through the playoffs and beat the New York Giants in the Super Bowl, 34-7.
Dilfer wasn’t great, but he was good enough to win a ring, and that’s all that matters.
2. Joe Flacco (2008-18)
Flacco was selected 18th overall in 2008 out of Delaware and started all 16 games as a rookie. The Ravens went 11-5 and advanced to the AFC Championship game, where they lost to the Steelers. Over his 10 years as a full-time starter, Flacco missed only six games, leading his team to six playoff appearances and holds most team passing records with his 38,245 yards and 212 touchdowns.
He never made a Pro Bowl, and perhaps was never an “elite” QB, except for his legendary run in the 2012 postseason. In four games, Flacco completed 73 of 126 attempts for 1,140 yards, 11 touchdowns, and zero interceptions, on his way to a Super Bowl MVP when the Ravens defeated the San Francisco 49ers, 34-31. His performance earned him a six-year contract worth $120 million, although he was never able to replicate that dominant stretch.
Flacco suffered an injury halfway through the 2018 season and was replaced by rookie Lamar Jackson, and after the season Flacco was traded to the Denver Broncos for a fourth-round pick. He started eight games in Denver before landing on injured reserve due to a neck injury, and is now set to back up Sam Darnold with the New York Jets. He’ll always be remembered for some of the best playoff-quarterback play in NFL history.
1. Lamar Jackson (2018–present)
In former general manager Ozzie Newsome’s final draft, he took a risk on Louisville QB Lamar Jackson. The Ravens had already selected tight end Hayden Hurst in the first round, and traded up with the Philadelphia Eagles to secure Jackson with the last pick of Day 1. That move looks like it just might be the best decision that Newsome has ever made.
Jackson was an electric runner in college and showed off a strong arm, but he had plenty of issues as a passer. Poor pocket present and shoddy accuracy were two of the most serious. He started the final seven games of his rookie year, throwing for six TD’s and three picks. He had a very rough outing in the playoffs as Baltimore was smashed by the Los Angeles Chargers, which is why no one expected what Jackson would do in his sophomore campaign.
In 15 starts (he sat out Week 17 because they Ravens had already clinched home-field advantage), he won 13 games, throwing for 3,127 yards, 36 touchdowns, and only six picks. He added 1,206 yards and six scores on the ground. The Ravens again failed to show up in the playoffs, losing 28-12 to the Titans, but the improvements that Jackson made to his game were incredible. He was accurate and poised from the pocket, and his devastating running ability served to complement his passing, rather than overshadow it. Jackson made his first Pro Bowl, was named an All-Pro, and won MVP.
It’s been one year, but that one year was so good that Jackson is already the best QB in Baltimore history. And he’s still just 23 years old, younger than 2020 first overall pick Joe Burrow. If he can just get over the playoff hump, the Ravens will be a dangerous team for a very long time.