How Far Can Joe Flacco Lead the Baltimore Ravens Franchise from Here?

Gary Davenport@@IDPSharksNFL AnalystJune 10, 2013

NEW ORLEANS, LA - FEBRUARY 03:   Joe Flacco #5 of the Baltimore Ravens celebrates after the Ravens won 34-31 against the San Francisco 49ers during Super Bowl XLVII at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on February 3, 2013 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

The Baltimore Ravens were led to their first Super Bowl title in 2001 by a player who looked like a member of the Legion of Doom.

They won their second last year led by a player who looks like a resident of Sesame Street.

C'mon, admit it...Joe Flacco kind of looks like Bert.

Make no mistake though, after one of the greatest postseason runs in NFL history and a contract that makes him one of the NFL's highest-paid players, this is Joe Flacco's team.

Whereas Ray Lewis was a fiery leader who embraced the spotlight (to put it mildly...television should suit him well), Flacco is a much more low-key leader. He's the Ravens' leader nonetheless, and as the team begins year one of the post-Ray Lewis era, Baltimore will go as far as Flacco takes them.

As Garrett Downing of the Ravens' website reports, that was the message that Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti hammered home during the recent presentation of the team's Super Bowl rings.

You are the leader now, like it or not. Not many guys do what you did in five years. Not many did it your way. Not many like the way you do it. But I said at the end-of-the-year press conference after last year's [AFC championship] defeat, that I think the fans of Baltimore will be rewarded by your low-key presence, and it will stand the test of time. Indeed it did, and we all hope it continues to do that.

Bisciotti may have called his shot where Flacco was concerned, but entering the 2012 season, Flacco had plenty of doubters, this writer among them. Those doubters were still crowing away as the Ravens backed their way into the playoffs.

A few weeks later they were eating crow.

Flacco put on a show for the ages during the Ravens Super Bowl run, averaging 285 passing yards a game, throwing 11 touchdown passes with no interceptions and posting a passer rating of over 115.

A Super Bowl MVP award and $120 million later, the question now becomes what Flacco does for an encore.

Many fans compare Flacco's first five seasons versus those of other quarterbacks who won at least one Super Bowl in their first five years as a starter. If this comparison is any indication, he's going to do plenty.

Granted, both Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger won multiple Super Bowls in their first five seasons, but Roethlisberger hasn't returned since. However, both teams are perennial contenders, and Brady has played in two more Super Bowls outside the five-year "window."

Other than Brady's touchdown passes, the numbers are eerily similar. When using those as a benchmark, there's little reason to think Flacco can't lead the Ravens to another Super Bowl.

He can't do it himself, of course, and there are questions facing the team.

The defense is retooling after Lewis' retirement.

Ed Reed's departed for the Houston Texans and Terrell Suggs is on the downslope of his career.

The offensive line isn't getting any younger and the wide receivers are a question mark behind Torrey Smith.

Still, Ozzie Newsome hasn't gotten a reputation as one of the NFL's best general managers by sitting on his hands. It's a pretty safe bet that he'll surround Flacco with enough talent to win.

Given Flacco's performance to this point in his career, it's also a pretty safe bet that Flacco will take that talent on deep runs into the postseason.

Odds are we haven't seen the last of Joe Flacco in the Super bowl.

Looks like Bert may earn that $120 million after all.