|Written by Michael Amato|
|Saturday, 09 February 2013 14:51|
Joe Flacco has achieved 'Elite' Status... Whatever that means.
To say Flacco took a huge gamble prior to the start of the 2012 NFL season would be a major understatement. The Super Bowl winning quarterback reportedly turned down a long-term contract from the Baltimore Ravens that would have paid him $16M per year. Flacco, to the shock of many who had seen him play on a regular basis, felt like he could get even more money if he waited to sign a long-term deal.
In the end, Flacco appeared to know what he was talking about and is now looking at a potential $100M deal. He is certainly in line for a big pay raise, but how much better did he play this year? And more importantly, what did he really prove?
Let’s start off by saying Flacco’s play in the postseason was tremendous. He tied Joe Montana and Kurt Warner for the most touchdowns thrown in the playoffs with 11, and wasn’t intercepted once. Although his completion percentage was a very average 57.9%, he made use of big plays down the field and connected on several game changing scores with Jacoby Jones
Many, including ESPN’s Ron Jaworski, argue that Flacco has the strongest arm in the game today.
Despite the impressive play in the 2013 playoffs, this shouldn’t have come as a shock to too many people. Flacco has always performed well in the playofs, or at the very least, given the Ravens a legitimate shot to win the Super Bowl in recent years. He is the only quarterback in NFL history to win a playoff game in each of his first five seasons, and holds the record for most road playoff wins by a quarterback as well.
Take last year’s AFC Championship game, for example, when the New England Patriots beat the Ravens. Flacco played well enough to win on that occasion, but Lee Evans dropped a sure touchdown pass and Billy Cundiff missed a routine game-tying field goal late. All the press and accolades Flacco is receiving now could have just as easily happened last year.
NFL fans and media have a tendency to make a lot out of the results of one gam eor playoff run, when in reality it is a very small sample size. Quarterbacks aren’t always as good or as bad as we think they are. In actuality, they are often somewhere in the middle. When a team wins a big game we praise quarterbacks, and when they lose, we question where it all went wrong instead of looking at it rationally, we live on the peaks and valleys.
Let’s say Flacco didn’t connect with Jacoby Jones on the last minute prayer that tied the game against the Denver Broncos. If it fell incomplete or was intercepted, which it easily could have. The Ravens probably would have lost that game and would that have changed everyone’s opinion on Flacco? Probably, but it shouldn’t. That was just a few weeks ago and he is still the same guy.
My point is not to diminish what Flacco accomplished this season, but instead point out he was just as good last year, and the year before that. If you look at his numbers over the pats four season they are remarkably similar. Since 2009, his season high for yardage has been 3,817, and his season low was 3,613. When it comes to touchdowns, his high was 25 with a low of 20. Hit interception high was 12 and his low was 10. That’s about as consistent as it gets in the NFL, but because he won two more playoff games in 2012 he is now all of a sudden considered elite?
If there was an actual class system for quarterbacks and the highest level was elite, would we then put Trent Dilfer or Brad Johnson in that category? Or let’s not forget how close Mark Sanchez of the New York Jets came to getting to two Super Bowls a few years ago. Had the Jets won just two more games in either of their conference title years with Rex Ryan, would Sanchez have been considered elite? Of course not, because in all of those situations other factors like strong defenses were crucial part of those teams.
On the flip side, is Dan Marino, who held most of pro football’s passing records until recently, when defensive backs could no longer even blow on a receiver without being flagged, not considered elite because ne never won a championship? And of course there is Tony Romo, with stats vastly superior to Flacco’s and the majority of other quarterbacks in the NFL, who is still struggling to win a signature game.
Legacies in the NFL are certainly complicated. I’m not sure how Eli Manning would be viewed if not for the heroics of David Tyree and Mario Manningham. He may very well be in the same position as Romo right now. However, now all of a sudden everyone is a spelling major and figured out you can’t spell elite without Eli.
Prior to last season, Manning was asked if he was in the same class as Tom Brady, and he responded that he was, which turned a few heads. Before the 2012 campaign Flacco made a similar statement about his game. Both quarterbacks then went on to win Super bowls. I supposed it doesn’t really matter what anyone else thinks, as long as you have confidence in yourself. Which I’m sure a guy like Romo definitely does. Flacco has certainly proven his critics wrong, but sometimes it seems we get far to focused on the results as opposed to the journey. The same people that are reveling in the young talents of Colin Kaepernick, Andrew Luck, Russel Wilson and Robert Griffin III right now will probably be chastising them in a few years if they haven’t won a championship yet.
Whatever our definition of “elite” is, it is something that can’t be tangibly measured. It is an achievement that doesn’t matter to the players themselves, but only to those that have created the label in the first place.
Feel free to follow me on Twitter at @amato_mike
|Last Updated on Sunday, 10 February 2013 10:16|