Now that the Denver Broncos officially have traded for quarterback Joe Flacco, I can officially say the first guy I thought of was the late Y.A. Tittle.
Not John Elway nor Vic Fangio.
Nor Joe Montana.
Tittle, who passed away in 2017, was the first person who entered my mind, and my hope then and now was that this trade works out like that one.
Some might bring up Montana, but that is not a legit comparison.
San Francisco had committed to Steve Young, and it was widely felt that Montana had something left in the tank.
But the real parallel is Flacco and Y.A.Tittle.
Like Flacco, Tittle played for a team that chose to move on at the quarterback position. At that time, the 34-year-old’s Tittle’s age was a major concern. Elway said at his introductory press conference that he believes Flacco is “just really coming into his prime.” It’s safe to say the San Francisco 49ers didn’t feel the same way about Tittle.
But both Tittle and Flacco had enormous chips on their shoulders after being traded. Tittle still had more to prove — and Flacco certainly does, as well. Elway likes that a lot about Flacco, and so should we.
Since many modern fans are wondering who the heck Y. A. Tittle was, let’s take a look back.
He was a first-round draft choice —like Flacco — and played two years in the All-America Football Conference for Baltimore, coincidentally, before joining the San Francisco 49ers, for whom he played from 1951-60.
Ten years, similar to Flacco’s 11 years in Baltimore.
But Tittle was considered washed up at 34, and in 1961 the 49ers traded him to the New York Giants for a frankly mediocre guard named Lou Cordileone.
In fact, an outraged Tittle said, “Who the heck is Lou Cordileone?”
All Tittle did in his next four years with the Giants was lead them to three straight NFL title games, make the Pro Bowl three times and be named NFL Most Valuable Player in 1963.
Tittle was named a first-team All-Pro in 1961, 1962 and 1963.
He was the subject of one of the most iconic football photos of all time, kneeling on the field with his helmet off and a bloodied head in a great title game matchup with Chicago.
Meanwhile, back to the moment, Flacco comes to Denver as a Super Bowl champion with a 10-5 record in the playoffs.
Flacco has a record seven road playoff wins, which is more than the Broncos have as a franchise.
He also brings the same confidence and choppiness to the Broncos that Tittle brought to the Giants in 1961.
Y. A. Tittle played well enough in his new city to be selected for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1971. There is no way I am trying to set a bar that high for Joe Flacco, but I could not shake the other comparisons from the moment the trade was first mentioned.
With a solid team and something to prove on the part of a new quarterback — who has rightly singled out winning as the primary goal — there is plenty of room for positive comparisons in the Mile High City.