With every new quarterback that makes a splash in the NFL and does something seemingly remarkable, the same cliché question always seems to surface: Is he elite? Of course, nobody assumes the honor of actually defining what elite is, other than acknowledging that not everybody can be elite and attacking anybody who misuses the label. But nonetheless, the battle to tab the truly “elite” lives on.
As Joe Flacco slowly emerged onto the scene this past year, the discussion was inevitable. The buzzword was discussed ad nauseam, and the debate only intensified when Flacco was later rewarded with a historic pay raise. Entering into this NFL season, it appears that the ruling on Flacco’s elitism is still up in the air. But why should it be?
If elite is defined by wins, there is no doubt Flacco fits the description. In his first five seasons (he was drafted in ’08) Flacco has started every game, one of only two quarterbacks to do so, and he has the second highest winning total in NFL history in those first five years. Flacco is not just a regular season QB, though. He is the only quarterback to start and win a playoff game in each of his first five years, and despite being in the league such a short time, he already holds the record for most road playoff victories.
If elite is about how a QB performs when the lights are brightest, put Flacco to the test. In the 2011 AFC Championship game, Flacco actually outplayed Brady nearly the entire game, and if Lee Evans hadn’t dropped a perfectly thrown pass, the Ravens would have been Super Bowl bound. In last year’s playoffs, Flacco left nothing up to chance, making incredible throws in the biggest moments. The “Mile High Miracle” will forever live in Raven lore, and Flacco’s overall performance in the Manning/Brady challenge was pivotal to the team’s championship run. One can’t afford to forget that Flacco convincingly won the Super Bowl MVP award, quite possibly the greatest and most acclaimed accomplishment a player can have.
If wins and clutch performances don’t make the case for elite status, check the stats. Before last postseason, Flacco had constantly been referred to as a game-manager, thanks to the brilliant scheming of Baltimore “fan favorite” offensive coordinator Cam Cameron. Once the switch was made from Cameron to the more innovative Jim Caldwell late in the season, Flacco thrived, setting all-time postseason records with 11 TD’s alongside zero interceptions and four consecutive games with a passer rating over 100. Finally allowed to showcase his talents in a productive offense, Flacco left no shadow of a doubt of his abilities as a game-changer.
Truth be told, Flacco has earned the right to be considered one of the best quarterbacks in the league, in every way. No matter how you define it, Flacco has proven that he belongs in the class of elite quarterbacks. Whatever that means, anyway.