Predictably, within nanoseconds of passing the Ravens to the Super Bowl, Joe Flacco was back in the never-ending debate about whether he is an elite quarterback. Even the NFL’s official website had a blog post with a headline that asked “How elite is Flacco?” as if there are now subsections within that elite status.
Let’s save the elite talk for another day, when there isn’t football left to be played, because it doesn’t really matter. Everyone’s definition is different, which usually makes for a fun debate as we wait for free agency and the draft. But at the moment, the Ravens are in the Super Bowl, and that’s all Flacco is concerned with.
“We are going out as a team and trying to get to the point where we are at right now, and we have to get one more, and I don’t know if [individual accolades] are an indication [of success],” the quarterback said Monday.
But with the Ravens on the verge of greatness, it’s impossible to ignore the role Flacco has played in the ride to New Orleans. Asked to pinpoint just what exactly has led to Flacco’s ascension, the reason why Flacco has in these playoffs suddenly become such a lovable quarterback nationally, Ravens coach John Harbaugh provided an interesting answer.
Yup, that’s it.
“I can’t point to anything different than what you see,” Harbaugh said. “And what you see is some good output, obviously, in terms of production. That’s really good to see, but Joe’s had that before. To string it together like he’s done, back-to-back-to-back-to-back in the most critical time of the year, is the great thing about it. I really believe we saw that coming as a football staff and as an organization and as players.”
And Harbaugh is exactly right. Flacco’s talent has always been obvious. Even when he was viewed as a game manager early in his career, he still awed everyone when he uncorked those strong comeback throws to wide receiver Derrick Mason. Every game, Flacco completed at least one throw most quarterbacks wouldn’t dream of even attempting. He still does it, but the difference the past month has been the throws he isn’t making.
Flacco has now gone five straight starts without an interception, the longest stretch of his career. Sure, he only threw eight passes in the season finale against the Cincinnati Bengals before giving way to backup Tyrod Taylor, but Flacco has thrown 156 straight passes without an interception, including 93 in the playoffs. His last interception, in fact, was the pick-six he threw in the first half of the Week 15 loss to the Denver Broncos.
Meanwhile, in his four full starts over that span, Flacco tossed 10 touchdown passes and ran for another.
Flacco’s stat line in his past five playoff games: 1,335 passing yards, 12 touchdowns, one interception. Oh, and four wins. There is no need to get next level with those stats. You score points and avoid mistakes, you win.
Pro Bowl quarterbacks put up big numbers each and every week. Super Bowl quarterbacks avoid the kind of back-breaking turnovers that plagued Flacco in playoffs past. Right now, he is consistently doing both of those things, which is the biggest reason why the Ravens beat the rest of the AFC’s best to get to this point.
It’s also why the “elite” debate is once again raging on, and why his doubters are running out of ammunition.