It’s Official: Ravens Quarterback Joe Flacco is Elite
It’s not just that Joe Flacco won a Super Bowl. That did happen and certainly helps, but it’s the fashion in which he did it, the swagger he carried, and the journey along the way.
While Super Bowl 47 was probably more about Ray Lewis and the battle between the Harbaugh brothers, it ended up being about Joe Flacco’s rise to the top of the league. Three touchdowns and no interceptions in the biggest game of his life were surely the icing on the cake. But if you look a little closer, this was a story that was in the making for quite some time.
Flacco had been getting criticism for years. He wasn’t consistent enough. He wasn’t explosive enough. And he damn sure wasn’t elite enough.
I was one of his critics. He had the big arm and all the potential, but he just couldn’t get to the next level, and even when he did, he’d quickly drop back down to mediocrity, and sometimes even lower.
ESPN’s Skip Bayless coined the phrase Joe “Flucco”, suggesting Flacco’s constant inconsistency was the trend, and his good performances were simply random and fluky. For a while, Bayless might have been right.
But looking back, Flacco wasn’t really a bad or struggling quarterback. He wasn’t not living up to expectations, either. He simply wasn’t blowing the doors off the NFL fast enough for his critics.
After all, it’s not like Flacco was some tremendous slouch. His rookie season was very average, but after 2008, we never saw him dip below 3,600 passing yards or 20 touchdowns again. True, he wasn’t putting up Tom Brady and Peyton Manning numbers, but even Flacco told us all that he could do it – his offense just didn’t need or ask him to.
We already knew the guy could be clutch and work with his stout defense and rushing attack. The fact that he won at least one playoff game in every season of his young career told you that.
And really, we knew he had the magic last season, but some didn’t want to admit it. He had the Ravens to the AFC title game against the New England Patriots, and had it not been for a dropped Lee Evans touchdown pass, there could have been a parade in Baltimore a year earlier. Ray Lewis could have walked off into the sunset in 2012 instead of 2013. And all this doubt about whether or not Flacco was the right man for the job would have been snuffed out when it should have been.
But that’s not how it went down, and when you think about it, it’s a good thing it didn’t.
It allowed Flacco to do what he did in this year’s playoffs: go on a tear that only Joe Montana can bat an eye at. In fact, after a stellar Super Bowl outing, Flacco tied Montana for the most touchdowns without an interception in a playoff run (11:0).
If that’s not impressive, keep reading.
Not only did Flacco lead the charge in Sunday’s victory, he did so throughout Baltimore’s playoff run – one in which had the Ravens playing two of their three post-season games on the road. Not only did they win three games to get to the final game of the year, but the Divisional round game and the AFC title game came on the road, against supposedly superior teams led by would-be superior quarterbacks in Peyton Manning and Tom Brady.
You obviously have to give Baltimore’s defense and the emotion supplied by Ray Lewis a ton of credit, but there’s no denying that Flacco out-played both Manning and Brady in both of those games. And again, in the Super Bowl, he out-played Colin Kaepernick, yet another quarterback who was getting more attention and respect.
It’s Flacco’s show now, though. The NFL’s eye is on him, much like it was when Eli Manning shocked the world not once, but two times with Super Bowl heroics. It didn’t take a magical ending from Flacco this year, but he was the reason the Ravens won the Super Bowl, and he’ll likely be the reason they win another one in the not too distant future.
But first thing’s first: pay that man his money. He earned it. Fair and square.