The induction parameters of the NFL's most prestigious group vary from person to person, but a big day from Joe Flacco in Super Bowl XLVII should propel the Baltimore Ravens quarterback into the theoretical hierarchy of the position's "elite."
Such a performance on the biggest stage would cap off a postseason run that includes eight touchdowns, zero interceptions and road wins over Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, two legends of the quarterback position.
For some, capping off a postseason run like Flacco's with a Super Bowl win is enough to grant induction into the "elite" club.
Others need more evidence.
Here's what we know about Flacco and his five-year NFL career:
- Baltimore has won 54 of the 80 games (67.5 percent) since drafting Flacco in 2008.
- The Ravens have qualified for the postseason in each of the five seasons with Flacco under center, including back-to-back AFC North titles (2011, 2012).
- Baltimore has won at least one playoff game in each season.
- He has thrown twice as many touchdown passes as interceptions (102 to 56).
- The Ravens are 33-7 in 40 home games.
- He has eight postseason wins in five years. Only Tom Brady's nine to start his career best Flacco's current five-year run.
- His 62 total wins since 2008 are the most of any quarterback.
- Six times Flacco has won playoff road games.
This data tells me that with Flacco, the Ravens have won games at a high rate, participated and won games in the postseason at a similarly high rate, played well at home and upset teams on the road, especially in the playoffs.
Of course, there are legitimate claims against Flacco's bid for "elite" status.
Over five years, Flacco has never thrown for 4,000 yards or 30 touchdown passes or eclipsed the 95.0 passer rating mark. Combined with postseason success, these statistical landmarks are tangibly connected with most of the elite quarterbacks in the game.
To date, Flacco's best statistical marks are 3,817 yards (2012), 25 touchdowns (2010) and a 93.6 passer rating (2010).
But at what point do we overvalue statistics? Can a quarterback who consistently delivers wins, playoff appearances and wins and average-to-above-average stats still be elite?
Maybe a better question is, why not?
Flacco has put up elite statistics in these playoffs. Over three games, he has a passer rating over 110.0 in each contest. He threw for three scores and zero interceptions in back-to-back wins in Denver and New England, who combined to win 25 games in 2012.
If Flacco caps off this run with another impressive performance against the San Francisco 49ers, who bring into Super Sunday the NFL's No. 2 ranked scoring defense, why wouldn't he be considered elite?
The best players play their best at the most important times. Flacco has done that and more in these playoffs.
Knock him with whatever statistical analysis you'd like, but he's the quarterback preparing to play in a Super Bowl. Not Brady. Not Manning. These "elite" quarterbacks were outplayed in the biggest games by Flacco.
With no certain parameters for an elite quarterback in place, Flacco can certainly put himself into the "elite" discussion by taking over Super Sunday and leading the Ravens to their second Super Bowl title.