How’s that for elite?
Yes, Joe Flacco can win the big one. He’s cool under pressure, graceful under fire and any other cliche of elitism you can apply to a quarterback. He proved himself on the grandest of stages in a contract year.
If you like it, put a ring on it. Flacco has.
Your move, Baltimore.
On Ray Lewis’ last ride, the Ravens' signal-caller was in the driver’s seat. He chauffeured the future Hall of Famer to his second Super Bowl ring while guiding the Baltimore Ravens franchise to its second Super Bowl title.
And he shut a lot of people up in the process.
He was elusive in the pocket and decisive with his throws. He became only the second quarterback in NFL history to throw 11 TDs with no interceptions in one playoff campaign. Some other guy named Joe Montana did it once upon a time. He was Super Bowl MVP that year too.
But it was Lewis' defense that sealed the win with a goal-line stand in the waning minutes, and perhaps that’s how it should have ended. It needed to end with him because it's been his team for so many years.
Ray Lewis is the Baltimore Ravens.
But the Ravens are undergoing a transformation, and that's never been more apparent than it was in Super Bowl XLVII.
What was once Lewis’ is now Flacco’s. From the quarterback of the defense to the quarterback of the offense, from the menacing on-field persona to the cool signal-caller, the Ravens are changing.
And Flacco left no doubt about that on Sunday night.
At one point in the first half, the television camera zoomed in on Flacco’s face after an incomplete pass. He cracked a smile. A 49ers fan behind me scolded, “What the hell is he smiling for?”
Because he’s "Joe Cool," I thought. Because when staring down a 2nd-and-long or a 3rd-and-8 in the most important game of his life, he’s levelheaded and confident enough to execute—and crack a smile while doing it.
It reminded me a lot of Tom Brady in his first Super Bowl appearance. On Brady’s game-winning drive in Super Bowl XXXVI, after a completion put the Patriots in field-goal range for what would be the game-winner, the Patriots offense scrambled to the line.
Not Brady. He strolled—almost carelessly—to the line of scrimmage, took the snap and spiked the ball. In the most pressure-packed moments of any player’s career—the final 10 seconds of the Super Bowl—he caught the ball, held it idly for a moment and sought out a referee to spot for the game-winning kick.
Cool as can be. The way Montana once was. And the way Flacco was Sunday night.
Will Flacco go on to win multiple Super Bowls? He might not. But as the first quarterback in history to lead his team to playoff wins in each of his first five seasons, he’s certainly shown that he’s capable.
No, I’m not anointing Flacco an all-time great. He still has plenty of work to do before being in that conversation. But with the Ravens team that surrounds him, this could be the start of something special for the 28-year-old signal-caller.
This may have been Lewis’ last ride, and into the sunset he rolls, a two-time Super Bowl champion and arguably the greatest linebacker the game has ever seen.
But Super Bowl XLVII belonged to Flacco. The Ravens are his team now.
And he’s about to get paid.