Yesterday, former NFL Quarterback and ESPN NFL analyst Mark Brunell reignited the fire that is the debate of Joe Flacco's 'eliteness'. Brunell unveiled his 'QB Rankings' on ESPN, he split his rankings into two tiers, and notably excluded Flacco from the first tier and deemed him 'second tier' material. Brunell's opinions likely inadvertently started what seems to be the annual offseason tradition of discussing Flacco's 'eliteness'. This whole charade seemingly put on by the media every offseason is laughable and quite ridiculous. The truth is, Joe Flacco isn't elite, he's a winner. And being a winner is a hell of lot better than being 'elite'. It's time to end this nonsense, once and for all.
"I hate that my brain has been Pavlov'd so that every time I see the word "elite" I think of Joe Flacco."
- Redditor /u/AwesomeTed
So What Does 'Elite' Even Mean?
'Elite', it's a silly term isn't it? It's meaning can be very broad too, especially in the NFL context. It can mean different things to different people. The definiton of 'elite', from the dictionary anyways, is: "a select part of a group that is superior to the rest in terms of ability or qualities." Now, who fits that description in the NFL? Well truthfully, it's hard to say. But the general consensus is that these four are the 'elite' QBs of the NFL:
- Peyton Manning
- Tom Brady
- Drew Brees
- Aaron Rodgers
Good arm strength. If the long ball isn't a threat, then your X receiver is just a decoy.
Able to take a hit. Because it's going to happen throughout the season.
They cannot crack under pressure and need to be able to stay in a ball game when the cards are against them.
He's gotta win. Preferentially in the playoffs.
- First rookie quarterback to win two playoff games
- Most wins by a quarterback in first six seasons: 62 (regular season only)
- 2nd most combined regular and postseason wins in first three years as a quarterback: 36 (tied with Dan Marino)
- Only quarterback to start and win a playoff game in each of his first five seasons
- Most touchdowns in a postseason: 11 (tied with Joe Montana and Kurt Warner)
- Most touchdowns without an interception in a postseason: 11 (tied with Joe Montana)
- First quarterback to have a passer rating over 100 in all four games of a single postseason
- Most consecutive playoff games with at least two passing touchdowns: 8
- Most consecutive playoff games with at least three passing touchdowns: 3 (tied with Bernie Kosar, Kurt Warner, and Aaron Rodgers)
- Most consecutive road playoff games with at least one passing touchdown: 7 (tied with Donovan McNabb and Brett Favre)
- Most consecutive road playoff games with at least two passing touchdowns: 5
- Fastest quarterback to record 5 touchdowns in a game: 16:03
- Most road playoff wins for a quarterback: 7
"I wish we'd been more willing to take risks," he says. "We were never willing to fail to get better. We always played safe. And we won, but we didn't really get better. I had no margin for error. I'd love to throw 40 touchdown passes a year. But I didn't even have a chance to do that."
Now ignoring his 2013 season, which was a disaster for the team on many levels, (but let's not get into that) we find his 2014 season, arguably statistically his best one yet. Gary Kubiak called the shots this year, in a West Coast scheme that worked very well for Flacco. He set career highs in TD and Passing YDS. He owned the offense, and turned in consistently good performances. If you read his 2014 game logs, none of his games really stick out as bad. His five touchdowns in the first half against Tampa Bay made headlines though, as he showed off the 'trifecta', his superb accuracy, decision-making, and deep ball. If not for injuries in the secondary, 2014 could have been Joe's second Super Bowl run. Although you can't call him out for not trying, as the Ravens narrowly fell to the Patriots in a tightly-contested AFC Divisional Round Game. The 2014 season gave Ravens fans, and the whole league, a glimpse of what Joe could've been in previous seasons. Unfortunately, not many outisde of Baltimore noticed, and Flacco's contributions went largely unnoticed.
Now onto the second argument, that Flacco is only a product of Baltimore's legendary defense. For this one, I'll just let the Coach prove the critics wrong.
"To suggest Joe has been on some great teams and we've won in spite of him, or regardless of how he played, is absolutely false." - John Harbaugh
While Joe did seem to be a 'game manager' for a while, he still led the team, unbeknownst to many. As Harbaugh says, in the 2009 AFC Wild Card Game against the Patriots, Flacco put up a paltry 4-10 for 34 yards stat line. Yet what many don't know is that Flacco's hip was "so badly bruised that half his thigh was the color of an eggplant", yet Flacco still played. According to Harbaugh, Flacco showcased his will to win by his actions on a fateful third down. It was late in the game, and New England was "threatening to creep back into the contest", "Flacco dropped back on third and seven, saw no one open, then scrambled for his life, extending the ball over the marker at the last second as a defender closed in on him. First down." Harbaugh says of Joe, "That is one of the greatest examples of why he's a winning quarterback." "People point to that game like he should be embarrassed because he only completed four passes. But Joe chases wins. He doesn't force things. He throws balls away to keep us in games."
So despite being on a team still hung over on dominating with defense in a league ever evolving towards offense, Joe still made his mark, and led his team to three AFC Championship games in five seasons. You can't simply succeed in the postseason with a good defense, you need offense too. Joe is the main reason we won that 2012 Super Bowl, and he is most certainly not a product of a good defensive team.
Finally, the final 'flaw' according to the press, his personality. I personally love 'Joe Cool' for who he is, I mean who buys McDonald's after signing the largest contact in NFL history for a QB? To add to the 'average' lifestyle of Joe, he married his high school sweetheart, and when his contract news broke, he was at a family pizza night. And what exactly is Flacco going to do with all of that contact money?
Joe Flacco on what he's going to do with all his new money: "Just gonna look at it I guess."— Will Brinson (@WillBrinson) March 4, 2013
I touched on this earlier, but Flacco is a Type B guy trapped in a profession where he's expected to be a Type A guy. The good news is, he's comfortable with who he is, as evidenced by this quote.
"You think I'm boring? I think that's cool," Flacco says. "I don't know if I'm an everyday person, but I don't think I'm an a—hole. If you think I'm boring, I don't see why it's a negative thing. All I've ever wanted was to be respected within the building."
- Joe Flacco
Plus his relaxed demeanor and personality puts everyone on the offense at ease, and makes him a much better QB. Flacco has said that he isn't a 'yeller', and believes that as long as his players are turning in a good effort, there's no point to disciplining them. "The game's over. Let's move on and get better.", says Flacco.
I love Flacco's personality, and so do many Ravens fans, and even the players. Why does he receives criticism for it? Who knows. It's kind of funny because the one time Joe flashed some confidence and said something out of character, he received so much criticism. He was what the media wanted him to be, yet was still persecuted.
So please never change Joe, never change. We love you for who you are.
As I said in the title, Joe Flacco isn't necessarily elite, but he's a natural winner. At times, Flacco can be elite, see the Super Bowl run, for example. But what really matters in this league is winning. No one cares if you're good, but can't win. In this day and age, fans want titles, and rings. Joe knows how to deliver both, he loves winning, and he knows how to do it. Just look at the records, look at the stat books, Joe Flacco is a winner. No doubt about it. I leave you with this quote, from the man himself.
"And hey, we might lose one or two games because we're being really super aggressive, but you know what? That's what's gonna get us to the Super Bowl. And that's what's gonna win it for us. And I love winning, and I'm gonna continue to win no matter what my numbers are. I don't care if I throw for 2,000 yards a year. I wanna throw for 5 or 6,000 yards a year, because I think that's what's best for our team."
- Joe Flacco