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Elite Is Over: Let Joe Flacco Be Great

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Joe FlaccoLet Joe Flacco Be Great

As evidenced by pretty much anything that can be polled these days (which is pretty much everything), America is a nation that disagrees. From politics to deciding college football champions, this country qualifies performance by inventing ideas, strategies and formulas so murky that the inventor himself can rarely explain it the same way twice. Simply put, the way we decide who or what excels has become ridiculous.

Perhaps the most glaring example of this struggle shows itself in the word that should boast the title of Most Complicated in The History of Sports Definitions, especially when considering NFL quarterbacks. The word to which I’m referring is “elite.” Essentially, sports’ fans cannot even agree on what allows an NFL quarterback to become one of “the best or most skilled workers or members of a group.” (Definition quoted from www.thefreedictionary.com).

Moreover, that single five-letter word stands as the biggest reason Joe Flacco receives so much criticism.
Flacco, in his fifth season under center with the Baltimore Ravens, may never lead the league in passing yards or touchdowns. Probably, he will stay within the 10-15 range in both categories each year. These are obviously indicators that he is not in the upper echelon of quarterbacks…if you’re a Fantasy Football owner. However, if you’re Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti, then you remind yourself that Flacco excels in the statistical category that promotes the most positive reviews, accolades and the highest profit margin. Joe Flacco wins.

He holds a 60-30 overall record, including 6-4 in the playoffs, and has won at least one playoff game in each of his seasons. The 60 total wins top any other quarterback since Flacco entered the league in 2008. The average of 12 wins per year trail only Peyton Manning (12.75, missed the 2011 season) and Tom Brady (12.8, with a season-ending injury seven and a half minutes into the season opener of 2008) during the same span.

Detractors will attribute only two things to Flacco’s success: a great rushing attack and solid defensive play. But, while the Ravens’ run game has been consistently top-ten or better, the defense dwelled in the bottom half of most major statistical categories this year.

Joe FlaccoHowever, that last sentence misses the point. A number of teams have featured great running games and solid defense, but failed to succeed in the way the Flacco-led Ravens have. Bobby Hebert did not lead the New Orleans Saints to a playoff win despite top-flight defense and rushing in the late 80s and early 90s. Randall Cunningham was 1-4 in the playoffs with the Eagles, another solid defense and run game during the era. More recently, Jay Cutler holds one playoff win with Matt Forte behind him and a fantastic defense. The list is long and definitive; a quarterback cannot win over a span of more than a couple years by simply possessing running backs and defenders.

Still, this is not a case for Joe Flacco earning the title of elite. That word causes headache if the subject is anyone other than Tom Brady. Even the rest of the high-respect guys (Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees) have enough naysayers to make a nuisance of the topic. Throw in Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger, and one may start a riot. Taking either side of the Tony Romo debate can cost life, limbs or property.

This is plea to end discussions about elite because we disagree too much to enjoy the magic of such a title. Everyone thinks they are right about who or what qualifies as elite. The problem is the different definitions do not match up enough to really appreciate much.

And, while ending that discussion, let’s enjoy great quarterbacks. We can leave that definition as one who wins consistently despite the setbacks affecting every NFL team on a season-by-season basis. We can also include the gaudy-stat guys, too, since it is not their fault they do not have the right scheme or personnel surrounding them (thus ending the “Dan Marino has no Super Bowl rings” argument).
That title and definition serve Flacco well, and could possibly lead to ending at least one major American disagreement.

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Nick Waguespack

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