Going into the AFC Championship Game against the New England Patriots this past Sunday, Baltimore Ravens QB Joe Flacco was under the microscope from just about everyone, from fans, analysts, coaches and teammates. He was also being closely watched by the team's Front Office, that knows he is heading into the final year of his rookie contract and has made it perfectly clear he feels he deserves a new deal now, rather than wait until his current one expires.
The Ravens know this is true and while they have other pressing needs with current contracts running out on RB Ray Rice, guard Ben Grubbs and shortly with DT Haloti Ngata, Flacco's name must be at the top of this list on getting something done during this off season.
Many people looked back on what has not been his best season of the four he's had in his NFL career and say he has regressed in some ways. His pure numbers were more like his rookie season than like the two preceding ones. His completion percentage and TD passes were down, despite throwing more passes than anytime in the past three seasons.
However, he quieted a lot of critics Sunday, having his best post season game of the nine in his career. Flacco has led this Ravens team to the playoff in all four of his years, winning four games on the road, five total and to the conference championship game two of his four seasons. He clearly outplayed Patriots QB Tom Brady, throwing and completing the exact same number of passes, but for 70 more yards, two more passing TD's, one less interception and almost 40 more points of QB Rating.
Joe did virtually everything he was asked and challenged to do in the Ravens heart-breaking 23-20 loss. He hit receivers in the hands and at times right in the numbers, yet at times, including one critical time that could have given the Ravens the victory and a berth in Super Bowl 46. There is no one that can justify putting the loss on his shoulders but you know he feels he could have done better despite having the best game of any of the four quarterbacks in the two conference championship games.
He may not be in the class of those few "elite" quarterbacks such as Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees. However, he is without a doubt a Franchise QB and not only proved it Sunday, but has proved it on a weekly basis since the day he stepped on the playing field to start his first game of his NFL career. Joe has not missed a single start since 2008, something only a few other QB's can boast during this span.
Knowing that you have such a durable, much less solid QB, is an amazing advantage compared to so many other NFL teams. While other QB's may put up better stats, few can say they've accomplished anything close to what Joe has done during his career. Yes, football s a team game and he might not be nearly as good if he was on a different team, but you can say that about virtually every other NFL QB.
Joe will get his payday, you can be sure of that. He will remain the Baltimore Ravens QB for a long, long time and he will take us to the playoffs and more than likely at least one Super Bowl in the next few years. He and his team is just that good. Don't be surprised if the team let's a solid guard like Ben Grubbs go to save the money, put the Franchise Tag on Ray Rice for one year, and sign Flacco to a long-term contract during this off season. Joe deserves it. He's earned himself a raise.