The media -- mostly national but some in Baltimore -- took aim at Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco back in February when his agent, Joe Linta, told The Baltimore Sun that "if the game is about wins and losses, he has to be in the top five [quarterbacks]." That comment was often taken out of context.
Linta's point was that Flacco is a winner -- his 44 regular-season wins are the most by any quarterback in his first four NFL seasons -- and he was suggesting that Flacco should get paid as such. After all, Linta is tasked right now with convincing the Ravens to give his client a lucrative contract extension.
The furor about Linta's comments quickly calmed down (and contract negotiations soon picked up), but now Flacco is once again fodder for the national media after comments he made on Monday night.
In appearance on Baltimore radio station WNST, Flacco was asked if he thought he was a top-five quarterback in the league. The 27-year-old responded by saying, "I think I'm the best. I don't think I'm in the top five, I think I'm the best. I wouldn't be very successful at my job if I didn't feel that way."
By Tuesday night, ESPN.com had a prominent headline that read, "Flacco: 'I think I'm the best.'" By Wednesday morning, ESPN blogger (and former Sun scribe) Jamison Hensley wrote a blog post that said Flacco needed to back his words up, though Hensley showed support for the Ravens quarterback.
"How was Flacco supposed to respond when asked that question?" wrote Hensley, who covers the AFC North. "I guess he could have given a more toned-down answer -- that he doesn't compare himself to other quarterbacks, for example, or doesn't place labels on himself. If he'd said that he was the 15th-best quarterback in the NFL, people would be ripping him for having no faith in himself."
I agree with that statement, and I think once again people are getting carried away with their reactions to Flacco's comments. Flacco might not have articulated it in an ideal way, but he was just saying that he believes in himself, and the nature of his job requires that he carries himself with confidence.
I want to stay that there is a target on Flacco's back, but the reaction would have been the same if Tim Tebow or Mark Sanchez or Matt Ryan said the same thing. We in the media sensationalize sometimes.
And here we are Wednesday morning, with the sports blogosphere buzzing about Flacco's boast. The reaction on Twitter -- as expected -- has mostly been mockery. And he is getting ripped on blogs and websites, too. Deadspin had this headline: "Joe Flacco Keeps Inflating His Inflated Sense Of Self." Yahoo's Doug Farrar pointed out that "in Flacco's four-year NFL career, the Ravens have won 11 regular-season and two postseason games in which their elite quarterback has failed to throw a touchdown pass." The blog Larry Brown Sports kept it simple by just calling the quarterback "crazy."
These are some of the more negative examples I found in a quick Google search -- this and this are examples of toned-down reactions -- but needless to say, Flacco's national image is taking another hit today. And it's a shame, too, because the last time we saw Flacco on the football field, he played arguably the most impressive game of his career in Baltimore's loss in the AFC championship game.
But let's not forget that New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning was similarly criticized for the prideful comments he made last offseason and responded by winning a second Lombardi Trophy. I'm not saying Flacco is as accomplished as Manning, but that anecdote is proof that all it takes is one stellar run to a Super Bowl for a quarterback to quickly change how he is perceived around the NFL.