When Baltimore Ravens QB Joe Flacco said he thought he was one of the top five quarterbacks in the league, most people just laughed. Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Eli Manning, Ben Roethlisberger. Those are the best in the game, right? They all have at least one Super Bowl ring and the huge contract that comes along with it.
But where will they be on February 3, 2013? Sitting at home watching the fifth-year pro from that little University of Delaware play for a ring of his own. In his five seasons, all Flacco has done is lead his team to the post season each year, including three trips to the AFC Championship Game.
Now, Flacco gets to play on the game's biggest stage and has proved once and for all, he can be as good and in the past two week's case, better than the best of this generation. Joe went on the road and won the past two games as nine-point underdogs against the Denver Broncos and New England Patriots. Along the way, he clearly out-played both Peyton Manning and Tom Brady.
In addition, he also outplayed likely NFL Rookie-of-the-Year Andrew Luck of the Indianapolis Colts and two weeks before that, two-time Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning of the New York Giants. The last three times Flacco has gone up against the New England Patriots, Flacco has had better games than Brady and the Ravens have beaten them twice (and it should have been three straight).
Yesterday, football fans around the world saw Flacco at his best, especially in the second half. His final game stats line was this: 21 for 36 for 240 yards, three TD passes and a QB Rating of 106. Meanwhile, Tom Brady was 29 of 54 for 320 yards and one TD pass, but he also threw two interceptions, earning him a QB Rating of only 62.
The key for any quarterback's success is protection. If the offensive line can give a QB time, they should be able to go through their reads and find an open receiver. With an arm as strong, if not stronger than any in the league, Flacco found his targets all over the field in the second half, going 15 of 24 for 159 yards and all three TD passes.
In the end, Flacco backed up what he said last year and so many others scoffed at. Now he looks to win one more game to ensure his place in not only Ravens history, but NFL history as well. His short career and accomplishments have earned him the right to be in the discussion of the best in the league, and along with that, the accompanying payday.
Pay the man.