It’s one of the dumber arguments in football, really.
The definition is totally nebulous, the qualifications vague and shifting. What does it mean to be an elite quarterback?
Is it someone that can put up 300-plus yards per game? Plenty of guys do that in this pass-happy league, and a plenty of them sat at home watching these playoffs.
Is it a quarterback that can lead a team to a Super Bowl? Trent Dilfer and Brad Johnson have won championships in the last 15 years, and no one would pick them to lead a franchise.
If you’ve ever discussed the phrase, newly minted Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco has probably come up. For his entire career, the questions have been tossed around about where Flacco stands among his peers. For some, he put them to rest yesterday. Facts are facts; he led a team to a championship and took home most valuable honors.
But if you’ve been watching, you didn’t need Flacco’s stellar performance to realize that he deserves to be mentioned with the cream of the league’s quarterbacks.
Flacco’s last month of play will go down as one of the greatest runs in the history of quarterbacking, coming at the perfect time for the unrestricted free agent-to-be. Even before the Super Bowl win, he’d been lights out. He’d put up eight touchdowns, no picks, and victories over two of the best quarterbacks of all time. He made difficult throws all over the field in games that were tightly contested. He turned in huge plays in clutch situations. What more could you ask for?
Against San Francisco, Flacco made throws few other QBs in the league would attempt, let alone complete. He found Anquan Boldin along the sideline late in the first quarter on a play that had completely broken down, scrambling away from defenders in a situation where just about anyone would have thrown the ball away. Flacco added three first half touchdowns to bring his playoff tally to 11, compared to zero interceptions. He connected on a just-less-than-perfect deep ball to Jacoby Jones for a spectacular TD and rifled balls to Boldin and Dennis Pitta in the end zone.
After that explosive first half, Flacco and his offense were understandably slowed by the hour-and-a half delay between offensive possessions. But once they settled back in, Flacco went back to being surgical. He was as cool on the field as his personality suggests, and he calmly answered the 49ers’ 17 unanswered points with scoring drives to keep the Ravens in the driver’s seat.
No play showed how much control Flacco had over this game, and really the entire postseason, than his third-and-one back shoulder completion to Boldin late in the fourth quarter. The conversion put the Ravens in position to kick the field goal that provided the winning margin. After slipping away from pass rushers and putting balls past the fingertips of defensive backs all month, it provided the punctuation on the postseason script Flacco had written for himself.
Outside of turnovers, something he completely cut out this postseason, it’s hard to say that too much changed with Flacco during the playoffs. He’s always had the big arm, the touch on all sorts of throws, and the confidence a quarterback needs to get into that upper tier. But this year, they all came together in the perfect storm of heart and emotion that the Ravens became.
Not too long ago, Flacco told the media that he didn’t think he was a top-five QB, but the best, period. “I don’t think I’d be very successful at my job if I didn’t feel that way,” he said at the time. On Sunday, he went out and proved his own point. It doesn’t matter anymore if people think Flacco is elite, or what elite means. Flacco is a champion, an MVP, and has a stretch of games matched only by Joe Montana.
It begs the question: Who’s got it better than him?