Remember When Joe Flacco Wasn't 'Elite'?

Jesse Reed@@JesseReed78Correspondent IJanuary 21, 2013

FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 20:  Head coach John Harbaugh and Joe Flacco #5 of the Baltimore Ravens celebrates after defeating the New England Patriots in the 2013 AFC Championship game at Gillette Stadium on January 20, 2013 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. The Baltimore Ravens defeated the New England Patriots 28-13.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Jim Rogash/Getty Images

It wasn't long ago—just this year, in fact—that Joe Flacco was roundly excoriated for having said he was "the best" quarterback in the NFL

After his postseason run in 2012, it's hard to argue that Flacco isn't among the elite in the league any more, and if his Baltimore Ravens manage to win Super Bowl XLVII in February, it will be tough to say he was wrong.

Stats are for losers. 

The true measure of greatness for NFL quarterbacks lies in their ability to perform in crunch time. After Flacco became the NFL's all-time winningest quarterback in playoff road games (h/t ESPN Stats & Info), it's impossible to say he's not one of the league's best.

His record sixth road win broke Eli Manning's mark, and he now stands atop a list that includes Rodgers Staubach and Len Dawson. 

Yep. Flacco's elite, whether you like it or not. 

But this hasn't always been the case. 

In fact, the experts who criticized Flacco's "the best" statement had good reason for doing so. 

After all, Flacco has been wildly inconsistent throughout his career, looking like a savant some days while looking like a fool on others. 

Just this year, Flacco had four outings in which he completed 50 percent or lower of his attempts—not a stat we're used to seeing from elite quarterbacks—the last one being his Week 12 fiasco against the Ben Roethlisberger-less Pittsburgh Steelers

He threw four touchdowns and five interceptions in those four games, giving credence to those who doubted him as an elite passer.

And Flacco's never once put together a regular season to compare with Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady or Peyton ManningHis best season as a pro came in 2010, when he completed 62.6 percent of his passes for 3,622 yards with 25 touchdowns and just 10 interceptions. 

Flacco's 2012 regular season stats weren't exactly "elite," either. 

Category Stats NFL Ranking
Completion Percentage 59.7% No. 19
Yards 3,817 No. 14
Yards Per Attempt 7.19 No. 14
Touchdowns 22 No. 15
Interceptions 10 No. 13
Passer Rating 87.7 No. 12

But since Week 13, Flacco has been stellar.

He's thrown 15 touchdowns and just two interceptions since that point, and his Ravens are one game removed from hoisting the Lombardi Trophy.

Flacco's playoff record of 8-4, his road playoff record of 6-4 and his ability to play his best when the stakes are the highest makes all this regular-season discussion irrelevant.

He defeated three "elite" quarterbacks on his way to New Orleans, winning over Andrew Luck, Manning and Brady. 

He's an elite quarterback in this league, but it wasn't that long ago anyone who agreed with this statement was laughed out of the room.

Hopefully, his performance this year has put such ridicules to rest for good. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReed78 


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