The NFL, without question, is a quarterback-driven league; no position is more marketable or lucrative. Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees -- these are the premier guys, and Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, like them, now has the coveted Super Bowl ring.
Perhaps he will never throw 40 touchdowns in a season, be a fantasy superstar or put up video game-like numbers as some of his peers do. But, in winning Super Bowl XLVII -- not to mention tossing 11 touchdowns with no picks in the postseason -- he has arguably earned his way into the pantheon of top-flight quarterbacks. For a guy who's never made a Pro Bowl or posted gaudy regular-season stats, Flacco excels at the one thing that's supposed to matter the most: winning.
Since 2008, no quarterback has won as many regular season and postseason games as Flacco, who has won 63. He's also the winningest quarterback on the road in the playoffs -- in league history. His nine career postseason wins and one ring already matches Peyton Manning's postseason track record. On the grandest of stages against probably the best defense in pro football, he compiled 287 passing yards with three touchdowns and earned the Super Bowl MVP.
And he did so with the same fearlessness he's shown since being drafted out of Delaware in 2008.
Offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell said after the Ravens enthralling 34-31 victory over the 49ers. "He fears nothing. That's the thing about him ... He's as tough as he can be. He's fearless in terms of taking chances. And he's going to squeeze that ball, but yet he's very, very smart."
With momentum having shifted completely back to San Francisco midway through the fourth quarter, Flacco and the Ravens faced a crucial third-and-short near the 50-yard line. Caldwell had called a running play to Ray Rice, but Flacco, noticing bump-and-run coverage to the outside with wide receiver Anquan Boldin, checked the play. What came next was a beautiful timing route for a completion that had to be made. The play epitomized Flacco's audacity. How many quarterbacks would have the confidence not only to change the called play, but also make such a tough throw during a crucial moment in the Super Bowl?
"The moment doesn't get too big," Flacco told reporters after the game. "We are comfortable. We've been there before: We've failed before; we've succeeded before. We are not worried about the outcome. We just go out there and play football, execute and we believe that, if we do that and do that to our ability, then eventually it is going to work out."
At 28 years old, the timing of his big victory could not be better as Flacco enters the 2013 offseason. He is set to become an unrestricted free agent in March, though it's a foregone conclusion that Baltimore will lock him up with a long-term deal. For some context, consider that Brees signed a five-year, $100 million deal with New Orleans prior to this season. Meanwhile, Peyton Manning inked a five-year, $96 million deal with Denver; his brother Eli, a six-year, $97.5 million deal with the Giants; and Brady, a four-year, $72 million contract with New England.
And nothing clinches the argument like an "elite" contract.