The big question: Is Joe Flacco an elite quarterback?

Posted on Mar 23 2016 - 7:35am by Matt Barnthouse

It’s officially “that” part of the NFL offseason. A time when there is no real news going on around the league and the pundits of the 24-hour sports stations have to figure out something to say.
Normally, this leads them into a lengthy, often pointless discussion about the so-called “eliteness” of Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco. So, it’s time to finally settle this hotly contested debate: is Joe Flacco an elite quarterback?

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco passes the ball during the second half of an NFL football game against the St. Louis Rams, in Baltimore. (AP Photo: Nick Wass)

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco passes the ball during the second half of an NFL football game against the St. Louis Rams, in Baltimore. (AP Photo: Nick Wass)

Many arguments in favor of declaring Flacco elite include “he won a Super Bowl,” as well as “to play quarterback in the NFL, one must be an elite quarterback.”
Ignore the latter argument, because “elite” in most people’s sense refers to Flacco in comparison to his NFL peers, not some average “Joe” off the street.
Naysayers may say Flacco, as a whole, is merely an above-average starter in the NFL, referring to his regular season stats. In fact, when looking at Pro Football Reference’s “advanced passer rating,” which compares his stats to his peers for each season, Flacco hovers around the league average.

In fact, he is one of the most consistently “average” quarterbacks in the NFL. Another knock against Flacco is if one is truly an elite quarterback, does one need to ask if they are elite?
Flacco, however, did not earn a possible “elite” connotation for his regular season play, but more so due to his performance in the 2012-13 NFL playoffs, where he led the Baltimore Ravens to a Super Bowl XLVII victory over the San Francisco 49ers, large in part due to Flacco’s Super Bowl MVP performance, which included 287 yards passing, three touchdowns, and zero turnovers.
Flacco’s 117.2 passer rating in the 2012-13 playoffs earned him a $120.6 million contract which, according to the Baltimore Sun, made him the highest-paid player in NFL history (Bears QB Jay Cutler later signed a contract that surpassed Flacco’s deal.)

This past offseason, Flacco signed a 3-year extension worth $66.4 million, keeping him in Baltimore until 2021. Despite being paid like an elite quarterback, Flacco has only proved that he is “elite” at being consistently slightly above average. With healthy receivers, Flacco has proved that he is good enough to lead his team to a Super Bowl, and that is enough for most NFL teams to commit to a player. Flacco is one of the safest choices in the NFL. Teams know exactly what they are getting.

Too many players, such as Colin Kaepernick and Robert Griffin III, are “flash-in-the-pans.” While their peaks may be higher than Flacco’s, they also have lows that are far lower than one will ever get with Flacco as their quarterback.

In order to win a Super Bowl, a team needs consistency at the quarterback position. Defense wins championships, but a poorly-performing quarterback can certainly make a team lose out on a chance at a Super Bowl. Sometimes it is better to have a consistently “decent” quarterback than an “erratically great, then terrible” quarterback. That’s why Flacco brings home the big check.
Many teams go years, even decades, looking for a quarterback that they can trust to bring a solid game every single week. Flacco is that guy. Flacco may not be “elite” in a traditional train of thought, but he is certainly elite enough to win you championships.

– Matt Barnthouse