Thursday, February 7, 2013

Is Joe Flacco "Elite" Now?

Does a trip to Disney World make you an elite quarterback?

By Joe Parello

Those of you that know my thoughts on Joe Flacco know that I have always been a fan.

I thought he got a bad rap because he didn't put up huge numbers. But, he did what was asked of him, and his team won games as a result. Last year, I even had a drunken argument with our founder Jeremy Conlin about the merits of Joe Flacco being "above average."

In the end, we came to the conclusion that Joe Flacco is, in fact, an average quarterback, but that you could win a Super Bowl with him.

Now, after Flacco's sensational playoff run that should, if history is fair to him, go down as one of the best in NFL playoff history, is the Ravens' signal caller elite?

In a word, no.

In fact, right after the game, Jeremy refused to even acknowledge that this made Flacco above average. I won't go that far with my Flacco hate, but I certainly would not label him as "elite" after one Super Bowl win.

I think this speaks to a few larger problems.

First of all, we want to call everyone elite. There can only be a few elite quarterbacks, that's what makes them elite. If every quarterback that wins a Super Bowl from here on out becomes elite, the title would lose all meaning.

People forget that football in the consummate team sport. Is Joe Flacco's record in the playoffs very impressive? Of course, but we forget that every one of those Ravens teams was playing excellent defense going into the postseason and running the ball well. To say that Flacco's postseason performances put him ahead of someone like Peyton Manning is simply ignoring the context of those wins.

Finally, we tend to get stuck in the moment. I saw this list from ESPN's Merril Hoge, who is insufferable as it is, proclaiming Joe Flacco to be the best quarterback in the NFL.


The man who finished 12th in the league in passer rating, 19th in completion percentage, 14th in yards per attempt, tied for 15th in touchdowns, 16th in yards per game, and 25th in QBR (with the single lowest QBR game EVER this year) is all of a sudden elite?

Sorry, I just don't buy that.

Now, these stats aren't being entirely fair to Flacco. The Ravens throw the ball deep a ton, so it stands to reason that his passer rating, completion percentage and yards per attempt would all suffer. But, if you're throwing deep, you should be able to complete enough of those to climb up the league's yardage and touchdown lists.

Just looking at the numbers, Flacco is a below average to average quarterback. But, I think his last two playoff runs give him the benefit of the doubt that, given the green light, Flacco can lead his team to wins.

So, I believe that win enhanced Joe Flacco's legacy, and certainly boosted his status among NFL quarterbacks, but the guy is just too inconsistent to be considered elite.

By the way, we didn't consider Eli Manning elite after his first Super Bowl win (And Manning beat Tom Brady with, perhaps, the best team in NFL history around him). Heck, I would argue that he's still not truly elite after winning two (For the same major reason as Flacco, inconsistency). Many don't consider Ben Roethlisberger elite with two Super Bowl wins and three appearances, yet his numbers this year were better than Flacco's as he battled injuries on a struggling team.

Lest we forget, history is littered with names like Trent Dilfer, Mark Rypien, Jim McMahon,  Brad Johnson, Jeff Hostetler and Doug Williams. All of those men have a Super Bowl win to their name, and never did anyone dream of calling them "elite."

To me, there can never be more than five "elite" quarterbacks at a given time, otherwise we may as well just call them "pretty good." Let's have a look at the quarterbacks that have better numbers than Flacco and a Super Bowl win.

Elite QBs
1. Aaron Rodgers
2. Tom Brady (3x Champ)
3. Peyton Manning
4. Drew Brees

Very Good QBs With Elite Resumes
5. Ben Roethlisberger (2x Champ)
6. Eli Manning (2x Champ)

So, if you want to put Flacco next on that list just because he now has one Super Bowl win, you're fine to do that, but that still doesn't make him elite. However, I would also put him behind the following quarterbacks that don't have Super Bowl wins, but just put up such better numbers than Flacco last season, it's really hard to argue them being any worse than him.

Very Good QBs
7. Matt Ryan
8. Robert Griffin III
9. Russell Wilson
10. Colin Kaepernick

I would ABSOLUTELY, 100 out of 100 times, take these four guys, when healthy over Flacco. I would put Flacco just behind them in the next tier of "above average."

Above Average to Average
11. Jay Cutler
12. Joe Flacco
13. Cam Newton
14. Tony Romo
15. Andrew Luck
16. Matt Schaub

And, just for the heck of it, here is how I would rank the rest of the QBs that threw for the majority of their team's yardage. For the record, if he were included, I would put Tim Tebow ahead of Fitzpatrick and below Bradford. You know, because everyone always cares about Tebow for some reason.

17. Andy Dalton
18. Matthew Stafford
19. Phillip Rivers
20. Mike Vick
21. Josh Freeman

Below Average
22. Sam Bradford
23. Ryan Fitzpatrick
24. Ryan Tannehill
25. Carson Palmer
26. Christian Ponder


27. Jake Locker
28. Chad Henne
29. Kevin Kolb
30. Brandon Weeden
31. Matt Cassel
32. Mark Sanchez

When you actually see all the names thrown up there, you realize that there are plenty of good quarterbacks in the league. The thought that 17 quarterbacks are statistically better (and most won more) than both Vick and Rivers seems impossible, but that's how much of a QB driven league this is now. I mean, Ryan Tannehill had a really good rookie season, and he's still below average by current NFL standards. Them's the breaks.

So, before you declare Joe Flacco "elite," try to remember what that means.