If you type in the definition of elite in your preferred search browser you’ll likely get a bunch of results that look similar to this:
Elite (adj.) – richest, best, or most powerful: more talented, privileged, or highly trained than others.
If you take that definition, apply it to the quarterbacks of the NFL, and attempt to create a list for an elite quarterback club it would look something like this: Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisburger, Eli Manning. After the bouncer okays those six names into the club he takes a look at the VIP list again and has to decide if these names should be allowed in:
Not yet, he needs to hold the Lombardi trophy over his head for the common folk to recognize him in that exclusive group.
See the description for Flacco.
Again, I’ll direct you to Flacco’s description.
I’ll get to him, don’t worry.
The parameters of being an ”elite” quarterback change depending on who you talk to, or wherever you choose to get your news from. The foundation for joining the club looks something like this:
- Must have at least one championship.
- Must have a couple of did you see that type highlights, such as Roethlisburger’s pass to Santonio Holmes, Tom Brady’s Super Bowl reel, Aaron Rodgers pass to Greg Jennings in the fourth quarter two February’s ago.
- Must be near the top in a few of these categories completion percentage, QB rating, touchdown to interception ratio, yards per attempt, again it varies depending on individual perception.
But which one of those bullet points hold the most value? Trent Dilfer has a Super Bowl ring, but you won’t hear a soul arguing that he was a member of the elite quarterback club of the early 00’s. He just did his job and “guided” an offense instead of “leading” an offense to a championship. Sure the defense did 90% of the job, but Dilfer only turned the ball over once in the Ravens run to a championship.
Matt Ryan finished fourth in Football Outsiders QBR rating during the regular season (the three quarterbacks ahead of him in order were Manning, Brady, Kaepernick), however you’ll be hard pressed to find someone that believes The Mattural deserves to be a member of the elite and you know what it’s hard to not support the basis of that claim. Our perception is that what happens in crucial moments of playoff games vastly outweighs what happens in weeks 1-17. Is that justified? Perhaps, but is it fair that a random fumble and a bad read on a fourth and four with a bum non-throwing shoulder will define Ryan’s 2012 season?
Almost every quarterback has a throw that makes an appearance on the Top 10 of SportsCenter throughout the NFL season. Yes some are prettier than others, but the oversaturation of coverage and highlights dilutes the appeal of the did you just see that moment, unless the throw changes the course of a team’s season.
Flacco’s 70 yard bomb to Jacoby Jones springboarded Smokin’ Joe and the Ravens to a conference championship rematch with the New England Patriots. We all know what happened next: Brady played a mediocre game that was highlighted by a terrible decision to not call a timeout at the end of the first half. The overthrow of Aaron Hernandez in the second quarter has to also be mentioned as that could have been the key component of a touchdown drive (Brady had nothing to do with Pollard crushing hit on Ridley or Wes Welker’s drop).
Now it appears as if one more game stands between Joe Flacco’s run at “elite” immortality, but does he need the championship to be considered elite?
Are we just blinded by the perception of what the media has influenced us to believe what the word “elite” means?
Not only has Flacco amassed an eight to zero touchdown to interception ratio in three games and a 114.7 QB rating, but he did what no one who follows the sport of football thought he could do; travel to Denver and New England in consecutive weeks and dissolve the championship dreams of two of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game. Obviously it wasn’t Flacco vs. Brady, or Flacco vs. Manning on the actual field of play, but on the Mondays and Tuesdays after those games the notion that Flacco beat Brady/Manning was certainly a main talking point.
Is that a fair assessment? No. As Bill Barnwell from Grantland pointed out Rahim Moore’s killer mistake changes how we view Manning’s divisional round performance. Yes the interception in overtime was a mistake that’s made by rookies and Blane Gabbert on a weekly basis, but without Moore’s ineptitude the interception never happens.
In the case of Flacco vs. Brady, it’s pretty easy to point out that Flacco outperformed Brady, especially in the second half, but is it Brady’s fault that Aqib Talib injured his thigh in the first quarter and then remained on the sidelines wrapped up in Vince Wilfork’s jacket for the rest of the game?
Talib’s injury vastly changed the Patriots defensive philosophy and gave Jim Caldwell the courage to turn the page of Baltimore’s playbook during halftime, which subsequently led to Flacco daring Patriots’ safeties Steve Gregory, Devin McCourty, or Marquice Cole to make a play in the redzone. The three watched Dennis Pitta and Anquan Boldin roll up 21 second half points.
Say what you will about the importance of Joe Flacco to the Ravens success, but the victory over the Pats was Flacco’s sixth road playoff win, which ties him with Eli Manning for the most in the history of the NFL.
All of that will be forgotten about if he doesn’t lead the Ravens to a victory in the HarBowl. Instead of being viewed as a middle of the road quarterback, he’ll be sitting next to Matt Ryan in the room with the guys who just can’t figure out how to get it done. Is that really a fair assessment of a quarterback? Of course not, but it’s growing harder and harder to change how the general public forms opinions even though there is more advanced data than ever before.
It’s impossible to truly define who is and who isn’t an “elite” quarterback, but for the sake of my sanity I hope that the, is Joe Flacco an elite quarterback storyline gets buried under the other meaningful narratives during the buildup to February 3rd (the Harbaughs, Ray Lewis, Randy Moss). If that isn’t the case and Flacco’s elitness (I know it’s not a word) becomes a major discussion point, then we will have all missed out on a better topic; how Colin Kaepernick is leading the evolution of the quarterback.
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