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Joe Flacco has entered 'elite' conversation

By Carmine Colangelo
On February 4, 2013

The Baltimore Ravens are Super Bowl champions once again.
Despite a second half comeback from San Francisco and a 34 minute power outage, the Ravens held for a 34-31victory as John Harbaugh and crew got the best of his brother Jim, winning Super Bowl XLVII.
In the two weeks leading up to the Super Bowl, every major sports outlet talked about the same storylines. The first storyline, which was beaten to death, was the Har-Bowl, Harbaugh-Bowl, the Bro-Bowl or any otherwise uncreative combination of their surname and the Super Bowl. The second was future Hall of Famer Ray Lewis and his quest to end his career as a Super Bowl champion. Mission accomplished for the most intense human being to ever walk the Earth.
However, as the last of the confetti fell on the Superdome and the players left the stadium to either celebrate a championship or grieve a loss, one question became clear as the dust settled.
After winning Super Bowl XLVII, should Joe Flacco be considered as an elite quarterback?
I think we might just have to consider him, although it may not be an easy debate.
Flacco, who led the Ravens to a so-so record of 10-6 in the regular season, completed 59.7 percent of his passes for 3,817 yards, 22 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Not particularly dazzling numbers as Flacco ranked No. 19 in completion percentage, No. 14 in passing yards and was tied for No. 15 in passing touchdowns.
However, Flacco's evolution into a dominant quarterback came in the post season with arguably his best performance coming on the biggest possible stage.
Flacco, the Super Bowl MVP, completed 22 of his 33 passes for 287 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. He looked cool, calm and collected throughout the entire game. He made the right throws, did not force many passes and most of all, he looked like he had been there before.
Even more impressive than his Super Bowl debut was his performance throughout the entire playoffs. In four games, Flacco threw for 1,140 yards, 11 touchdowns and no interceptions. He completed 57.9 percent of his passes, had a Quarterback Rating of 83.6 and only turned the ball over once, which came on a fumble in the 38-35 double overtime victory over Denver.
Only one other quarterback in NFL history has thrown 11 touchdowns and no interceptions in the playoffs, Hall of Famer Joe Montana. In 1989, Montana lead the 49ers to a Super Bowl XXIV victory over the Broncos. Although Montana played in one less game than Flacco, the significance of the statistic should not be overlooked. Not to mention, it does not get much better than being mentioned in the same sentence as Montana.
Speaking of good company, Flacco made his way to the Super Bowl by beating Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, arguably the two best quarterbacks in the NFL and the top players in the elite quarterback class. Flacco outdueled Manning in Denver, by throwing 331 yards and three touchdowns compared to Manning's 290 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. In the AFC championship game, Flacco threw for 240 yards and three touchdowns while Brady threw for 320 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions. Flacco's numbers might not have been that good in the AFC championship, but he got the job done, something he has been able to do all year long.
The true measure of a player's ability is how they perform when it matters most and after a playoff run like Flacco's, it is tough not to consider him among the elite quarterbacks. Numbers like Montana's speak for themselves. However, it is also hard to call him an elite quarterback when his season totals put him in the middle of the pack.
The Flacco argument is very similar to the discussion of Eli Manning as an elite quarterback a few years ago. Manning often went overlooked until he won his first Super Bowl as well and now he has two rings. Manning, much like Flacco, began his legacy with spectacular play in the postseason after good, but not particularly stunning play in the regular season. Now Manning is arguably an elite quarterback, just like his brother.
Whether you believe in him or not, the former Division I-A quarterback from the University of Delaware is a Super Bowl champion and the reigning Super Bowl MVP. It takes a special player to lead his team to the promise land and Flacco has emerged as an elite quarterback in the NFL.
Baltimore, pay the man, he has proved himself worthy of a new contract.

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