I'm a Patriots fan, so watching Sunday's Super Bowl victory by the Baltimore Ravens was a tough pill to swallow. The Patriots-Ravens rivalry is, for me, right up there with Red Sox-Yankees. There's a mutual disdain both fan bases share for one another. But, after watching the Ravens defeat the San Francisco 49ers 34-31, even I had to come to the inevitable conclusion that Joe Flacco is an elite quarterback.
Yes, Joe Flacco. The guy whose own father called him "dull." The man who I like to call the "Autobot from Audubon." The man most likely to walk into an ice cream parlor of 101 flavors and walk out with a vanilla cone. He's not flashy, sexy, marketable, or all that interesting. Moreover, Flacco has been a lightning rod for criticism since he entered the league.
Is he a true franchise quarterback? Can he come up big in big games? Is he an elite quarterback?
I, myself, questioned Flacco's competitiveness and ability to win earlier this season, but after watching him on Sunday, there's little doubt in my mind that he belongs in the upper echelon of quarterbacks.
Flacco has always been a good quarterback. Since being drafted by the Ravens 18th overall in 2008 he has started every game and amassed a regular season record of 54-26, including two AFC North Division Championships. In that span, he has thrown for 102 TDs and only 56 INTs, a respectable number for any quarterback. But, it's what he's done in the postseason that's helped elevate him to elite status.
Flacco is 9-4 in the postseason, and already has the most number of road playoff wins by any quarterback in NFL history, six. His nine postseason wins equal the amount that Peyton Manning has; a quarterback considered by many to be the greatest ever, but whose overall postseason record is just 9-11. But what's even more impressive is what Flacco accomplished during this year's postseason run. In his four playoff games, including Sunday's Super Bowl victory, Flacco averaged 285 passing yards per game, and threw for 11 TDs and 0 INTs, matching Joe Montana's 11 TD 0 INT postseason performance in 1989. What's more, Flacco didn't throw a single pick in 126 pass attempts in the playoffs.
What he accomplished on Sunday went well beyond the stereotypical accolades and praise he'll receive for winning Super Bowl MVP. He proved to all his critics out there that not all heroic quarterbacks come with movie star looks or large endorsement deals. Instead, Flacco proved that an effective, championship quarterback can be mild-mannered and unassuming and still come up big in the postseason. Flacco has never been voted to the Pro Bowl, not even as an alternate, but that's never fazed him, nor has the lingering issue surrounding his contract and future with the Ravens. He didn't care about what the future held beyond this year; all he cared about was this season and this playoff run. In an age where players are often criticized for putting their needs ahead of the team's, it's refreshing to see a player, especially one at a position as valuable as quarterback, do the opposite.
Even though he now has a Super Bowl MVP on his resume, the debate will surely rage on about whether Flacco deserves the "elite" label we as sportswriters love plastering on players, but it's hard to argue against a guy who beat both Peyton Manning and Tom Brady this postseason on their home turf. Off the field he may be as unassuming as Clark Kent, but on the field he's proven he's a true Superman. Love him or hate him, Sunday's victory cemented Flacco's place among the NFL's elite for me.
Welcome to the club, Joe. Have a vanilla cone. You've earned it.
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