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Is Joe Flacco an Elite NFL Quarterback?

In Sports on February 1, 2013 at 1:50 pm

Joe Flacco

Sports media members and football analysts love to debate whether or not a particular NFL quarterback has achieved “elite” status.  It is almost universally agreed upon that Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees fall under the category of “elite.”  Beyond this top tier of NFL quarterbacks, there is always debate about which other quarterbacks deserve to be in the same category as the top four.  Before the 2011 season began, Eli Manning stated in an interview that he considered himself to be in the elite category with Brady.  His statement was the source of great debate on sports talk radio shows.  When he helped the New York Giants defeat the New England Patriots for a second Super Bowl championship in a five-year period, many people started to jump on the Eli bandwagon.  Super Bowl victories have a way of elevating quarterbacks from good to great, which is why the debate over Joe Flacco’s elite status has kicked into high gear this week.  Quite frankly, the debate over elite quarterbacks serves no real purpose since “elite” is in the eye of the beholder.

Throughout the course of NFL history, there have been quarterbacks who have achieved tremendous success without winning a Super Bowl, and they rarely get mentioned in the conversation of greatest quarterbacks of all time.  Aside from Dan Marino – who appeared in one Super Bowl – many other quarterbacks such as Dan Fouts, Warren Moon and Jim Kelly are largely unrecognized for their accomplishments because they never won a championship.  Flacco has already done something that no other quarterback in NFL history has done by winning at least one playoff game in each of his first five seasons, but his ticket into the highly subjective elite NFL QB club won’t be punched if the Baltimore Ravens fail to beat the San Francisco Forty Niners in Super Bowl XLVII on Sunday, which is kind of absurd.

What happens if Flacco throws three touchdowns and no interceptions as he has already done twice this year in the playoffs, but the Ravens lose because of a costly fumble, a special teams miscue or the defense can’t figure out how to shut down the Niners dual-threat quarterback, Colin Kaepernick?  Does that lessen Flacco’s accomplishments because his team didn’t win?  Conversely, what if Flacco throws for less than 200 yards, throws no touchdowns and an interception, but the Ravens find a way to beat the Niners in spite of a less-than-stellar performance from their quarterback?  Does he still get elevated to elite status because his team won?

The conversation about whether or not a quarterback is a “franchise quarterback” makes perfect sense.  After all, in today’s pass-happy NFL, the chances of a team winning the Super Bowl with an average to below average quarterback are slim to none.  Aside from Brad Johnson guiding the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a Super Bowl victory in 2003, and Trent Dilfer guiding the Ravens to their first Super Bowl victory in 2001, no other “game-managing” quarterbacks have hoisted the Lombardi Trophy in several decades.

The bottom line is that teams with franchise quarterbacks compete for Super Bowl victories, while teams without them generally don’t.  Football is the ultimate team game, and no one really cares whether or not their quarterback is considered “elite” when they win a Super Bowl.  Even if the Ravens lose the Super Bowl, there is no doubt that Flacco is a franchise quarterback who is good enough to lead his team to a Super Bowl in any given year.  Win or lose on Sunday, Flacco is going to be one of the highest paid NFL quarterbacks when he signs a new contract after the season, regardless of whether the “experts” elevate him to elite status or not.

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  1. […] of the questions coming into the game was whether or not Joe Flacco was an “elite NFL quarterback.”  He looked poised from the beginning of the game, and proved that his first touchdown pass was no […]

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