When the Baltimore Ravens line up to face whichever opponent eeks their way out of the AFC Wildcard round, and slinks into M&T Bank Stadium on January 15th for the AFC Divisional Playoff game with the Ravens, quarterback Joe Flacco will be playing in his fourth consecutive postseason. A first for any Baltimore Ravens’ quarterback in the franchise’s 16 season history. As a matter of fact, he’s the first quarterback in Baltimore football history, including Johnny Unitas, to lead his team to four consecutive playoff appearences.
The first. In the history of Baltimore football. This includes the great Colts teams of the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s. This includes the great Ravens teams that starred at the beginning of the last decade. This includes the long forgotten Baltimore Stallions and Baltimore Stars, of the Canadian Football League and United States Football League, respectively.
And still, on WNST and various other sporting outlets throughout the city, there are still those out there who would rather complain about what Joe Flacco isn’t and “can’t” do, as opposed to what he is and has done. Is Flacco a top tier quarterback? I don’t think so. But is he in the second group that just trails the likes of Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, and Ben Roethlisberger? You bet. For all the hype that the second tier guys like Matt Ryan, Matt Schaub, and Tony Romo seem to get, the one thing that they lack is the playoff success that Joe Flacco has enjoyed. And still, no one seems to want to give Flacco the credit where credit is due.
A big part of that is the fact that Flacco doesn’t put up the gaudy numbers that the other QB’s in the league put up. Part of that is there is a certain bias paid to the Brady’s, Manning’s, Rodgers’, and Rottenberger’s of the world granted to them by the unwritten rules of the NFL. The other part is something that is completely out of Flacco’s control, but something that both he and the Ravens benefit from a great deal. Ray Rice is in his backfield. On a team that includes one of, if not the, most explosive players in the NFL, Flacco doesn’t have to be the guy that throws for 350 yards and 3 touchdowns every week. I personally believe that Flacco could absolutely line up in the shotgun and sling the ball around 40 times a game, putting up the gaudy passing numbers that fantasy owners and the NFL seem to love so much. But that doesn’t make the Ravens a better team. Nor does it give them the best chance of winning. That would be getting the ball to Ray Rice. And Joe is asked to manage the rest of the game and run the gameplan. And he has done that to the tune of a 12-4 record and a first round bye this season. Pretty good accomplishment from where I’m sitting. And should I bring up again the fact that he has led the Ravens to FOUR consecutive playoff appearences in a row? No other team in the NFL can claim that. Nor can any other NFL quarterback. Once again, that’s a pretty good accomplishment.
The other thing that I love to bring up to the Flacco-bashers out there is the laundry list of pretty terrible quartebacks who have called Baltimore home during the Ravens 16 seasons. We all remember the Kyle Boller years, right? How many championship defenses did he waste with his tenure as Ravens’ starting quarterback? Scott Mitchell? Stoney Case? Jeff Blake? Steve McNair was good for a season, but turned into Donovan McNabb circa 2011 the next. Trent Dilfer won a Super Bowl here, but I have news for you folks. Joe Flacco is 5 times the quarterback that Dilfer is. How many Super Bowls did Dilfer win after leaving Baltimore? Or before coming here for that matter. Elvis Grbac? He was an upgrade over Dilfer, but couldn’t win even with the Ravens’ defense playing behind him. Although he did lead the Ravens to a playoff win, so some credit is given. But he was gone the next season. My point is that given the quarterback disasters that we have seen come through Baltimore the past 16 seasons, we should be more appreciative of a guy who has taken the team to the postseason for four straight seasons and is our franchise quarterback for the forseeable future.
Now, some of the talk has been that Flacco seems to disappear, or fold, in certain games or under pressure. His naysayers point to Seattle, Jacksonville, and Tennessee this season, along with the Pittsburgh playoff game last year. Drew Forrester makes the point all the time that the other team tries too. And I think that’s extremely valid when this argument comes up. In the first game of the season, the Ravens’ defense forced 7 Steeler turnovers in route to a 35-7 rout. All the talk was how dominant the Ravens were in out-everythinging the Steelers that day. No one said Ben was a lesser quarterback, or that he couldn’t get the job done. But when Joe has a bad game, or half, or quarter…he stinks and should be replaced by a rookie who last played in extended action in th ACC. For me, I only need to look to Week 9 of this season, when Flacco engineered a 92-yard drive with just over 2 minutes left to go in Pittsburgh that essentially won the AFC North and got them a first round bye in the playoffs. And that was with his recievers letting him down several times on the drive. Even perennail Raven-hater Cris Collingsworth made that observation as Flacco led the team down the field and ultimately hitting Torrey Smith for the game winning touchdown with 16 seconds left. How many quarterbacks can say that they did what Flacco did that night in Pittsburgh? Not to mention, that he did it last year too. Against that Pittsburgh defense. Need more?
For those who say that stats are everything, I will provide a few pieces of information that prove how valuable Flacco is to this offense. First, let me say that while I do participate in fantasy football, I do believe that it has contributed to the dumbing down of the average football fan. That, along with the Madden video game, has distorted fans into thinking that unless you’re a QB who can rack up points at a record setting clip, then you’re no good. Look, I’ve been playing and watching sports for over 30 years, and to me, the most important stat at the end of the day in wins. How many wins you have supercedes every other stat in my opinion. Dan Marino was a hell of a quarterback and set records that are either being broken, or will be broken. How many Super Bowls did he win? The answer, the same as me. In his four seasons as Baltimore’s quarterback, Joe Flacco has thrown for 13,816 yards and 80 touchdowns in his four regular seasons in Baltimore. That averages out to 20 touchdowns and just under 3,500 yards a season. Not to mention his 46 interceptions in four years equals out to under 12 a season. Pretty good numbers as far as I’m concerened. Some will argue that his numbers pale in comparison to the other quarterbacks on pass happy teams without running games, but when you factor in that once again, he has Ray Rice in the backfield, Joe’s numbers tell the tale of a guy who manages an efficient offense predicated on the run. His numbers were down this season from a year ago, but when you look at what the team was able to accomplishm, I will take my quarterback having lesser numbers if my team wins more and puts themselves in a better position to make a run at the Super Bowl. Which is exactly what Joe did.
At the end of the day, I get tired of hearing all the flak that Joe gets, not just from the national talking heads, but from the idiot fans who constantly beat him up despite what he has accomplished. As Nestor pointed out Monday night, he’s the winningest quarterback in his first four years in NFL history. And in a city that struggled, not just at the quarterback position, but also to make the playoffs on a regular basis prior to his arrival, I would think that we would grow to appreciate him more then we do. So when that he leads the Baltimore Ravens to a Super Bowl this season, everyone who said he wasn’t good enough, will thank me as I dish out their heaping helpings of crow.