Is Joe Flacco an “elite” quarterback?
By turning down a contract extension in the offseason, Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco took a huge gamble on himself going into the 2012-2013 NFL season. That gamble looks like it will pay off handsomely. One Lombardi trophy and Super Bowl MVP award later, and it appears some team out there is going to pay elite-level money for the five-year vet. The question that remains, however, is whether Flacco is truly a top-tier quarterback? Mike Dyce and Justin Bitner take to the table to discuss one of the offseason’s hottest topics.
JB: When I think of an elite quarterback, I envision a guy who can take a team on his back and will them to a victory. A guy who, when given the ball on the final drive and a touchdown or less deficit, strikes fear in the bones of his opponent. This man must exhibit consistent excellence and be considered the face of the team. Joe Flacco is not that guy. He is a really good quarterback, just like Tony Romo or Matt Ryan or even Philip Rivers, but he’s not an upper-level quarterback.
MD: Joe Flacco is absolutely an elite quarterback. He beat Andrew Luck at home, and if he has the career people project will be a future Hall of Famer, then he went on the road, and beat two sure-fire, first ballot Hall of Famers in Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. You could argue that he beat the two best or at the very least 2 of the Top 5 NFL quarterbacks in history. And he did it while throwing 11 TDs, and 0 interceptions, a feat that has never been done in 4 consecutive post season games. As far as face of the franchise, he is inheriting that throne from Ray Lewis as we speak. Next season, Joe Flacco is the face of the organization. And Tony Romo essentially did the same thing as Flacco with his contract extension by waiting to sign after the season. But only one delivered and won on that gamble, that makes him different. That makes him “elite.”
JB: It’s very fair to say that Joe Flacco had an “elite” 2012 postseason, I just wouldn’t say that overall he can maintain that level of play over the long haul. He’s been a good quarterback with a great defense for the first five years of his career, and he has performed very well. No quarterback in history has won a playoff game in each of his first five seasons, so he certainly deserves credit there. However, this postseason aside, he’s been far from dominant from a QB rating standpoint, with an average rating of 66 (a number exceeded by Mark Sanchez’s 2012 regular season clunkfest) prior to this year’s breakout. This year was great, but with a defense that’s about to be decimated by attrition in the next few years, Flacco won’t have the supporting cast to make him look better than he really is. As for him beating quarterbacks head-on, I’d contend that the Denver win was more a product of Rahim Moore making an awful play on Jacoby Jones than Flacco slicing and dicing the Bronco D. Luck is a rookie, so there’s that caveat. The Patriots win was quality, but it would never have happened without the win at Mile High.
MD: Joe Flacco has started all 16 games in all 5 seasons of his NFL Career having never missed a game in his career. That new Brett Favre like Iron Man streak is enough to have him in a different elite class than the average quarterback. He has only had one season with less than 10 wins, a 9-7 season. He has never had a losing season and a career record of 54 wins and 26 losses. He has a career 60.5% completion, 102 career touchdowns, and 17,633 yards. Oh and only 56 interceptions. Peyton Manning also started every game in the first 5 years of career but had 2 losing seasons, 42-38 overall. He completed 62.1% of his passes for 20,618 yards, 128 TDs and a more staggering 100 interceptions. Tom Brady by comparison had a 58-20 record, 61.9% completion, and 123 TDs/66 Ints in his first 5 seasons as a starter. Joe Montana had a record of 28-21 with a completion percentage of 63.5, 11,979 yards 78 TDs, and 44 INTs in his first 5 seasons. He didn’t play as much as Flacco though, only starting 49 games. So Flacco seems like he is right on par with elite quarterbacks and all time greats at this point in his career.
JB: Let’s roll with that stats argument for a moment. I’m going to give you three more quarterbacks with commensurate stats over their first five seasons in the starting role:
Player A: 60.52% completion, 13,955 yards, 97 TDs/59 INTs
Player B: 64.36% completion, 18,598 yards, 129 TDs/74 INTs
Player C: 63.68% completion, 19,513 yards, 135 TDs/57 INTs
The three quarter backs? Jake Delhomme, Daunte Culpepper and Philip Rivers. Stats can be misleading at times, and it leads me back to my belief that Flacco is a really good quarterback. In their primes, Delhomme, Culpepper and Rivers were really good as well; the giant difference was their surrounding pieces. Flacco has the benefit of playing on a team that has Hall of Fame players at multiple positions on defense and some really nice pieces on offense. Joe is skilled enough to manage the offense with enough competent flair to put him above the level of a Trent Dilfer, but he just doesn’t seem to have the killer instinct that Brady and the others have. It may be an intangible quality, but the best way I can think of to quantify it is this: If your favorite team had to face either Brady or Flacco in the playoffs, who do you want?
MD: I think you could argue that your three quarterbacks had better pieces than Joe Flacco during this run. Delhomme had Steve Smith at wide receiver, and Muhsin Muhammad, not to mention Stephen Davis. Daunte Culpepper had arguably the best wide receiving corp in history at one point. That dynamic duo consisted of Cris Carter, who just found out he is entering the hall of fame and many think was a top 10 receiver all time, and Randy Moss, some of whom think will go down in history as the second best wide receiver of all time. And Phillip Rivers had an all time great in Ladanian Tomlinson, Antonio Gates, and Vincent Jackson. Who has Flacco had? Ray Rice? Torrey Smith, and a over the hill 32 year old Anquan Boldin? Flacco benefits from a better defense maybe than the the quarterbacks you mentioned though Delhomme had Julius Peppers. Joe Flacco might not be Tom Brady, but he is definitely no game manager like Trent Dilfer and Alex Smith.
The jury is still out on this one so feel free to vote in the poll below, and explain why you cast your ballot the way you did in the comments below.