After an inspired regular season that has led to postseason success, one of the biggest questions surrounding the NFL during its six-month hiatus will be the new legacy of Baltimore Ravens star QB Joe Flacco.
Flacco went 4-0 during the 2013 NFL playoffs, leading his No. 4-seeded Ravens to a Super Bowl XLVII title after showing tremendous poise and comfort throughout the game. It was Baltimore's first title since winning Super Bowl XXXV in 2000, and will allow Ray Lewis to comfortably leave the game on the highest note possible.
Continuing his stellar postseason, Flacco finished the Super Bowl win completing 22-of-33 passes for 287 yards and three touchdowns. He threw zero interceptions, and was named the MVP of the game.
Add the NFL's ultimate prize to his already impressive list of 2012 accomplishments, and Flacco now finds himself officially in the elite category when it comes to the other 31 QBs in the league.
Much has been made of Flacco's status as an elite QB, and he has cemented his status as the right guy to build a franchise around in Baltimore while solidifying his place in the upper echelon of NFL QBs.
Since being drafted out of Delaware in the 2008 NFL Draft, Flacco has been a steady and consistent force in the Baltimore starting lineup. His rookie season (2008) was the only year he didn't eclipse the 3,000-yard passing mark—a stat even more impressive when realizing Ray Rice is lining up in the Baltimore backfield each game.
He finished the 2012 regular season with a 10-6 record, good enough for the club's second-consecutive AFC North championship. He also passed for 3,817 yards, 22 touchdowns, a 59.7 percent completion percentage and just 10 interceptions.
Despite some struggles late in the season and questions about his ability to lead a successful football team, Flacco responded in the postseason like a true champion—as noted by ESPN's SportsCenter on Twitter:
Joe Flacco is one of 6 QBs to EVER have at least 8 TD and 0 INT in a single postseason. Each of the other 5 QBs won the Super Bowl.— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) January 21, 2013
There has been nothing flashy about his game from a fantasy football perspective, or even a fan-watching perspective. Still, his stats speak for themselves, including this impressive one from ESPN's Stats and Information:
Joe Flacco: 6th road playoff win as starting quarterback, most all-time.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 21, 2013
That's right, folks—Flacco is now the all-time leader in a stat category that exudes Hall of Fame. Road playoff wins are hard to come by, but this guy now leads entire generations of QBs as the all-time leader.
Add a Super Bowl to that resume, and things start getting really interesting.
Coach John Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell clearly trusted him more and more down the stretch of the 2012 season and into the postseason, enabling the Baltimore offense to both evolve and adapt to whatever opposing defenses threw its way.
Baltimore has hung its hat on defense for years, but the argument can certainly be made that the offense was the main catalyst for this Super Bowl title. Behind that uptick in O? Flacco, and the ability to be more versatile when the situation demands it.
Needless to say, Flacco is now officially a top-10 NFL QB—there should be no arguments otherwise. Now that this title is under his belt and the offense is in a position to keep evolving, the sky is the limit for his long-term potential, and Baltimore's potential to turn this Flacco-led franchise into a dynasty.
He'll be expected to keep the train rolling—even without Lewis captaining his defense—but Flacco has shown the poise and moxie in his fifth season to give Baltimore hopes of an even brighter future. Mark it down—Joe Flacco is officially elite.
Ethan Grant is a featured columnist for B/R's Breaking News Team.