Unless you are living under a rock, you know that the Baltimore Ravens won Super Bowl XLVII, cementing, in some people’s minds, Joe Flacco as an “elite” quarterback. The Super Bowl MVP had an absolutely unbelievably postseason, putting up numbers that were seemingly inhuman. Over four games, Flacco had 1,140 yards, eleven touchdowns and zero interceptions. These stats are absolutely remarkable.
But my issue, and I am sure the issue of many, is the tossing around of the word “elite”. It’s a word that holds a lot of weight, especially when you consider that nobody knows exactly what it means. Ask any fan how “elite” is defined, and I guarantee you none of them come up with any sort of objective criteria. Some might say it has to do with “winning” the Super Bowl – but saying one quarterback won the Super Bowl severely undermines (as written by JJ Zacahariason) the contributions of the other 50+ men on the roster, plus the coaching staff.
One player does not “win” a Super Bowl – the team does. If Rahim Moore does not blow coverage, the Ravens probably lose the game to the Broncos, and Peyton Manning’s comeback season continues. Hell, if the Ravens defense does not get a huge red zone stop last night, the Ravens probably lose that game and Flacco’s great playoffs is for naught. The fact of the matter is, contributions from other players factor into a win, so “winning” a Super Bowl does not (to me) indicate any one player on that team is “elite”.
The biggest issue I have, however, is that calling a guy elite indicates he is in some higher level class. To me, the top four quarterbacks are (in some order): Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning. After that, of guys I would like to have if I had one season to win, I think I go: Eli Manning, Matt Ryan, Cam Newton, Matt Stafford. Then come the rookies: Luck, RG3, Russell Wilson. Would anyone, if they were starting a team today, take Joe Flacco above any of the eleven guys I just listed? Maybe over Wilson, but I really can not see a way that I would buy taking Flacco over anyone else.
So if we are saying that Flacco is, at best, the twelfth best quarterback in the league – what does that mean for being “elite”. I’m sure some would argue two-time Super Bowl Championship “winner” Ben Roethlisberger and Super Bowl-runner up Colin Kaepernick are more desireable. But either way, let’s roll with 12. Heck, let’s roll with ten, giving Flacco a huge benefit of the doubt. That would mean Flacco would be in the sixty-ninth percentile of all quarterbacks that are starting in the league. Or, put another way, if Flacco is elite a whopping 31.25% of quarterbacks are elite. I’ve not even brought up Jay Cutler (who at times has looked elite) and Tony Romo (ditto).
Or, about one out of every three quarterbacks are “elite”. What sort of class is that to be in? The top third can be classified as elite, if you like, but then the word carries even less meaning than it did in its undefineable, nebulous state. A top-ten quarterback, in my opinion, is not necessarily “elite”…since there’s only thirty-two of them in the league.
But that will be the dominant narrative, a narrative I’ve seen passed around on the Internet in the hours following the Super Bowl. What we need to learn to do, rather than sit and try and define what Flacco is or is not (the same way we constantly try and “figure out” where guys like Romo and Cutler fit) is to enjoy one of the most miraculous team runs we may ever see. Two years in a row now, a team has risen to the occasion time and time again in the playoffs, and rode that all the way to an amazing Super Bowl victory.
Joe Flacco played absolutely out of his mind this playoffs, and whether we see that type of play over a four-game stretch from Flacco ever again, THESE four games were incredible. And as football fans mourning the end of football, I wish for just a minute we could sit back and think about that wild ride. Constantly trying to figure out what Flacco’s “ranking” is is not only irrelevant, but it diminishes the accomplishments of his contemporaries and his team.
What’s true is Flacco will get paid. He will be under the microscope more than ever before. He probably will still ooze with whatever the opposite of “charisma” is. And he probably will have the same peaks and valleys in performance as every other quarterback. That does not mean he falls “in and out” of being “elite”. Joe Flacco is a good quarterback, he’s even a very good quarterback. I just wish, for one second, we could enjoy it without having to define it.