Elite: A group of people considered to be the best in a particular society or category, esp. because of their power, talent, or wealth.
It finally happened. Joe Flacco brought his team to the ultimate goal of any man who has ever dreamed of playing in the National Football League. After five “long” seasons, Mr. Flacco and company are world champions after knocking off the favored San Francisco 49ers and their hotshot gunslinger of the future, Colin Kaepernick.
So I guess that means that Flacco joins the ranks of the “elite” NFL quarterbacks, right? I mean, he already owns the most road playoff wins for a quarterback ALL TIME in only his fifth season. After all, he has won a playoff game in each of his first five seasons. And he threw for an immaculate 11 touchdowns with ZERO turnovers in the playoffs. So, he’s elite now, right?
First and foremost, do not mistake me saying that Flacco is not elite as saying that he is not one of the best young quarterbacks playing the game. Wins speak for themselves and there is no denying that he is about to get paid the big bucks, possibly the biggest contract of all quarterbacks (keep an eye out Aaron Rodgers). However, a look into the numbers is all one needs to see to know that the word elite might be a bit out of the reach of Flacco’s skill-set.
To begin with, this year and this postseason run were both incredible for Flacco. But the numbers can be a bit deceiving. Despite the beauty of his numbers, he still had a total QBR of less than 50, at 46.8 in the postseason. That lends belief that while his mistakes were few, he was helped by big plays and the commitment of offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell, not to mention the running game, where Ray Rice continued to be a workhorse and Bernard Pierce appeared to break out.
In fact, let’s talk quarterback numbers. In the 2012 season, Flacco’s QB rating was a pedestrian 87.7, a number surpassed by 11 other quarterbacks, including Philip Rivers and Tony Romo, not to mention ROOKIES Russell Wilson and Robert Griffin III. This year was his highest yardage total of his career, but he still did not break the 4,000-yard mark, as he has yet to do in his career. Thirteen other quarterbacks had more yards this year than Flacco. Also, his 59.7 percent completion percentage was the second-worst in his NFL career. Eighteen quarterbacks had a better completion percentage..
Furthermore, Flacco was inspired just as the rest of the Ravens and the city of Baltimore were by Ray Lewis’ postseason push, deer antler spray or not. Things happened to go the Ravens way. Jacoby Jones was able to take advantage of a second-year mistake by Rahim Moore to grasp victory out of the jaws of defeat. Bernard Pollard once again became a Patriot killer, this time, with Stevan Ridley his victim. And while I agree with the call that was made, there is a very strong case to be made by 49er fans that there was some holding on their final offensive play of the Super Bowl.
Everyone catches breaks. It’s not possible to go the distance in this competitive era without catching a few. The Patriots were 18-0 until they faced the New York Giants and were victims of one of the greatest, albeit luckiest, catches in the history of the NFL. Half of the football fans in the world would not have been able to tell me who David Tyree was before that game began and now his lucky break has given him football-god status.
Flacco and the Baltimore Ravens are no different. They are champions, they played like champions and they deserve to be champions. But this postseason run was about the Ravens, this was not about the rise of Flacco to elite status. He is a very good quarterback on a very good team. But to use the word elite is to compare him to modern-day greats Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees, as well as historic greats like Dan Marino, Jim Kelly, Steve Young and John Elway.
Just compare Flacco’s numbers to the stats of Brady, Brees and Manning. Those three have
career passer ratings of 96.6, 94.3 and 95.7 respectively. Flacco’s career passer rating is a
more average 86.3. Over the past seven seasons Brees has averaged 4,796 passing yards per
season, and Brady and Manning aren’t too shabby either with career season yardage numbers
of 4,066 and 4,250 (based on full seasons played). Flacco’s season average for yards is 3,500
on a team that has made the playoffs in each of his five seasons.
Numbers aside, Flacco also has never made the “esteemed” NFL Pro Bowl. Brees, Manning
and Brady have combined for 27 Pro Bowls in their illustrious careers. Those three have also
combined for 11 All-Pro selections, another accolade that has so far eluded the new champion
Flacco is about to be a very, very, very rich man. There is no denying that. And he deserves to be paid; likewise, the Ravens can ill-afford to be rid of their star quarterback who just led them on one of the most impressive postseason runs in NFL history, knocking off two number 2 seeds and a number 1 seed in the process. But that is all he will be. A good, maybe even great, rich quarterback. Not an elite one. He needs more championships and a steady stat line before he can be elite. After all, if Eli Manning, who has two Super Bowl rings and two Super Bowl MVPs cannot be considered elite, why should Delaware’s treasure be any different?
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