As Ron Jaworski’s annual list of the top quarterbacks in the NFL winds down, we are still waiting for him to reveal the ranking of Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco. Here’s what we do know: Flacco is in Jaworski’s top five.
On Wednesday, the ESPN analyst announced that New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, a former NFL Most Valuable Player and Super Bowl winner, was sixth on his list. Scratched off before Brees was a pair of two-time Super Bowl champions in Ben Roethlisberger of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Eli Manning of the New York Giants.
We knew that Jaworski, a Philly guy, liked Flacco, a South Jersey native, both personally and professionally. But this is very high praise for Flacco, who isn’t accustomed to getting compliments from the national media.
Some perceptions have surely changed after Flacco threw 11 touchdown passes while leading the Ravens to their second Lombardi Trophy. And while Jaworski has always been a fan of Flacco, he did have Flacco ninth on his list a year ago, and climbing up these lists aren’t easy.
The week before the Super Bowl, I was fortunate enough to spend some time with Jaworski and the great Greg Cosell at NFL Films headquarters in New Jersey. While watching tape of the AFC championship game with those two, Jaworski raved about Flacco’s fearlessness in the pocket and pointed out how often Flacco had to squeeze passes into tight windows.
On that subject, Jaworski told me this several weeks back when I interviewed him for my story about Flacco having one of the NFL's strongest arms: “I always shuddered at the guys who were on Joe’s back. They would look at his throwing percentage, his completion percentage. To me, it was just a bunch of bunk. I looked at the tape and watched the receiving corps for years. It’s a good receiving corps; it is not a great receiving corps. I probably saw more contested throws out of Joe’s passes than any quarterback in the league.”
That’s one of the reasons why Jaworski sees Flacco as a top-five quarterback based on his performance in 2012. The other four who have yet to be revealed? Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers, New England’s Tom Brady, Denver’s Peyton Manning and Atlanta’s Matt Ryan. We will find out in the next few days just how high Jaworski has Flacco. (And fair or not, I’m sure some folks will wonder just how high Jaworski was when he put his list together.) But I wouldn’t be shocked if Jaworski has Flacco ranked in his top three quarterbacks.