After the 2011 season Joe Flacco publicly announced that he believed that he was the best quarterback in the NFL. This, in essence, was the true beginning of the "is Joe Flacco and elite quarterback" debate league wide. While Flacco has never had the rep of being outspoken, he has always been very confident in his abilities.
After taking a ton of heat for his comments, Flacco delivered in the best way possible, leading a Ravens team to a Super Bowl 47 victory and MVP. After briefly becoming the richest player in NFL history, the argument amongst most fans and a few analysts still stand: Is Joe Flacco an elite quarterback?
There are many ways to approach this debate, but let's take a look at obstacles throughout his career.
Joe Flacco Can't Beat Big Ben
It was no less than two years ago in which Flacco had yet to beat Ben Roethlisberger. Lamarr Woodley famously proclaimed that Joe Flacco would never win a Super Bowl in this lifetime, giving the Ravens added bulletin board material going into their week 1 matchup.
"So in order for them to get to the Super Bowl, they have to beat us, and we're not gonna let that happen once we get that close. So that's not gonna happen in this lifetime."
- Lamarr Woodley
So much for that.
Flacco threw for three TD's as the Ravens dismantled the Roethlisberger-led Steelers 35-7. Fast forward to week 9, where the two teams battled again at Heinz Field. With 2:24 remaining, backed up against their own 8 -yard line, Baltimore was down 20-16. Flacco orchestrated a 13 play, 92-yard drive capped off with a 26-yard well place ball to Torrey Smith in the back of the end zone with only 8 seconds remaining.
Flacco went 1-1 against the Steelers last year, but beat Big Ben again in the sole game that he played in.
His Numbers Don't Match Up
"Flacco's numbers are not elite." This is something that is heard far too often, mostly by uneducated fans, or pure Flacco haters. While Flacco doesn't throw for 4,000+ yards and 30+ touchdowns year after year, his number stack up nicely against qualified competition.
Let's take a look at how Flacco's regular season numbers stack up against two other elite quarterbacks after their first 5 years in the league, Tom Brady and Eli Manning. All 3 of these quarterbacks won a Super Bowl within their first 5 years in the league.
Yes, Flacco did start more games in this time span, but his win percentage and quarterback rating are where he needs to be for this argument.
Let's take a look at his playoff numbers as of late. Flacco completed what some would call the greatest postseason ever by a quarterback, throwing for 1,140 yards with 11 touchdowns, no interceptions and a quarterback
rating of 117.2
If those aren't elite numbers, I don't know what are.
Flacco has now compiled 61-30 career record including playoffs over his 5 year career, good for a .670 win percentage. His .675 regular season win percentage ranks only behind Matt Ryan for quarterbacks who have played at least 80 games in NFL history.
Counting his Super Bowl, Flacco has won 9 playoff games in his first 5 years in the league which is tied for most with Brady in a quarterbacks first 5 years.
However, Flacco is the only quarterback in NFL history to win a playoff game in each of his first 5 years. Pointing to quality standpoint, Flacco is 14-5 against playoff teams over the last two years, including playoffs.
The one knock on Flacco is that he doesn't put up massive numbers in his Ravens offence. Traditionally, he has played on run first teams centred by pro-bowler Ray Rice. Former offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, who was often criticized for conservative playcalling, also held him back.
Flacco was a noticebly different quarterback with Jim Caldwell calling the plays, which could continue his trend of elite numbers next season. Look for Flacco to take the next step in his career and finally eclipse the 4,000 yard mark, while also throwing 30 touchdowns.