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During the 2008 NFL Draft, rookie head coaches, **John Harbaugh** of the Ravens and Mike Smith of the Falcons, began one of the most important processes an NFL organization can undertake – finding their franchise quarterback.
Harbaugh said the Ravens took a "very hard" look at Boston College's Matt Ryan. The Falcons brought in Delaware's **Joe Flacco** for a workout and interview.
Ultimately, the Falcons snagged Ryan with the No. 3 overall choice. The Ravens, who had the eighth pick overall, traded back to 26th before moving back up to 18th to take Flacco.
Two-and-a-half years later, as the two quarterbacks prepare to face off for the first time in their careers, it's clear that neither team went wrong.
Not only did the Ravens and Falcons find their long-term signal-callers, the organizations and quarterbacks themselves have each found similar success.
"I think they're both very good quarterbacks," Harbaugh said. "They both have all the skills to lead their team to great heights."
When looking at the stats, it's eerie how parallel Flacco and Ryan's careers have been thus far.
The biggest difference is in their playoff results. Each quarterback reached the postseason in their rookie season, but Ryan lost in the opening round while Flacco advanced to the AFC Championship game. Flacco and the Ravens reached the playoffs again last year while Atlanta, who also had a 9-7 record, fell just short.
While their stats are similar, is the way they play the position more similar or different?
"Tough to say," Ryan said. "He certainly has a skill set that's probably a little bit different than mine. But at the same time, I think at the end of the day, more similar than different. We're just two bigger guys that throw well from the pocket. Both of us have been able to get outside the pocket and make plays, too."
Harbaugh also saw the similarities when speaking about Ryan with the Atlanta media.
"He's a great leader, a tremendous arm, great touch, very accurate," Harbaugh said. "And I think those are things that Joe and he have in common."
Flacco and Ryan got to know each other during the lead-up to the 2008 NFL Draft. They chatted about where they grew up, which wasn't far apart with Ryan hailing from just outside Philadelphia and Flacco being a Jersey boy.
They have spent some time together during off-the-field NFL functions, including at Kurt Warner's summer flag football tournament. Ryan said they got to know each other "pretty well."
"He's a really nice guy; I have a good relationship with him," Ryan said. "And really, I've been impressed with the way he's played the last couple of years."
Each quarterback said they pay attention to how the other one performs. It's a comparison that likely won't stop for many years to come.
Smith went as far as to mention the quarterback class of 1983, which included first-round quarterbacks and eventual Hall of Famers John Elway, Jim Kelly and Dan Marino.
"I think they'll be hooked together their entire career," Smith said of Flacco and Ryan. "I think when you come in at the same time, especially at the quarterback position – which is probably the most scrutinized position in all of sports – I think they will be. They'll always be compared to one another, and both of them have played very effective football through these first two-and-a-half seasons."
Flacco, said he doesn't care about others making the comparison, but that he's not thinking about it heading into Thursday's game.
"I'm sure someday we'll look at that, and hopefully we'll both have a couple of Super Bowls – or I'll have them all and he won't have any," Flacco said, inciting laughter. "But we're still young. … We're just out there each week trying to play well."