I've never been Joe Flacco's biggest fan, but the amount of press he got after winning the Super Bowl was absolutely ridiculous.
As I mentioned in a previous article, Merrill Hoge went on SportsCenter and said he was the best quarterback in the NFL (proof that his opinion is worthless: Peyton Manning didn't make the top five), he got the biggest contract in NFL history at the time and I became public enemy No. 1 in Baltimore for suggesting the insanity of all this.
Well, we're four weeks into the new season and, because I just can't resist, who's laughing now?
Through four games, Flacco has been mediocre at best and absolutely abysmal at worst. He does have a career-high 1,091 passing yards through four games, but they have come with seven interceptions, a 57.4 completion percentage and a 69.4 quarterback rating.
At this point, you're probably thinking, "It's only been four games, how can we judge him harshly for that?" I'll tell you why: because media and fans alike stupidly crowned him after only four games in January and February.
It has to go both ways.
Moreover, before last year's playoffs, we had 80 games' worth of statistics telling us that Flacco was a middle-of-the-road to slightly above-average quarterback.
In 2012, what many call his best season, there was not a single metric that suggested he was a top-10 quarterback.
His passer rating was 12th in the league at 87.7, he finished 14th in passing yards, 15th in passing touchdowns and 19th in completion percentage. Just for fun, his rankings in those same categories in 2011 were 24th, 12th, 13th and 32nd (among all quarterbacks with at least 100 passing attempts), respectively.
None of those are remotely elite numbers.
If you're looking for anecdotal evidence, consider the following: Flacco has never played in a Pro Bowl. Remember, when you factor in players in the Super Bowl and bogus injuries, we usually hit five or six quarterbacks per conference in that game. Flacco was never considered among that group, yet he's somehow elite?
Now let's get into this year's statistics.
Flacco supporters will immediately point to his five-interception game against the Bills as the main reason behind his bad numbers. Those people would be wrong. Flacco's numbers are the result of poor performances across the board.
Let's take a look at his game-by-game numbers:
- Week 1 vs. Denver: 34/62, 362 yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs
- Week 2 vs. Cleveland: 22/33, 211 yards, 1 TD, 0 INTs
- Week 3 vs. Houston: 16/24 171 yards, 0 TDs, 0 INTs
The Week 2 and 3 games were pretty obviously mediocre. Flacco completed two-thirds of his passes and limited turnovers, but he barely threw for any touchdowns or yardage. Remember, by the standard of an elite quarterback, hovering around 200 yards is not enough.
Also, remember that the Ravens only scored 16 offensive points against the Texans (due to returns), 14 against the Browns, 27 with an asterisk against Denver (they started one possession inside Denver's 5-yard line due to a fumble) and 20 against the Bills.
Even if we give Flacco credit for the full 27 against the Broncos, that's still an average of fewer than 20 offensive points per game.
To put that into perspective, only 10 teams in the NFL average below 20 points per game. Flacco hasn't exactly been elite in that regard.
Remember, we're not judging Flacco against the average quarterbacks here. If you're arguing that Flacco is an elite quarterback, then he has to be judged against the elite quarterbacks.
You might question Flacco's offensive weapons, but I think we can all agree that Tom Brady's haven't been much better. Yet Brady's numbers are substantially better than Flacco's. Though they're similar in completion percentage (58.9) and yards (1,014), Brady has seven touchdowns to Flacco's five and two interceptions to Flacco's seven.
What about Flacco's offensive line? Well, it's certainly better than the one failing to protect Aaron Rodgers. However, through only three games, Rodgers is ahead of Flacco in both yards (1,057) and touchdowns (eight). Oh, and he's only thrown three interceptions.
Do I even need to bring up what Peyton Manning is doing in relation to Flacco? Exactly.
Remember, every quarterback I just named has a Super Bowl ring. Flacco can't hide behind that as an argument. Brady, Manning and Rodgers all match Flacco in hardware yet utterly destroy him statistically.
This is not exclusive to this season either. This has been happening in every year of Flacco's career. If he can't match them statistically, then he doesn't belong in their class. It's that simple.
All of the arguments that have been used to say that he'll get there this year have been quickly disproven.
Many Ravens fans thought that Jim Caldwell's system was all he needed to make the jump. As we've seen this year, Caldwell's system is nothing special and easy to game-plan against. If it weren't, the Ravens wouldn't be ranked 27th in total offense. That's another statistic that we typically don't apply to elite quarterbacks.
Oh, and don't even think about blaming all of this on Anquan Boldin's departure.
Aside from the fact that Flacco's enormous contract is the reason for that, it's just false. Last year, Boldin finished 32nd in the NFL in receptions, 27th in receiving yards and 57th in receiving touchdowns.
Boldin is not Calvin Johnson. He was a good but not great receiver. He was replaceable. Don't use the playoff run to justify ranking him higher. Like Flacco, Boldin played very well for one four-game stretch. That means that he played well over four games, not that we can continue to expect that level of performance.
As for the "never will be" portion of the debate? It's simple. Quarterbacks don't grow significantly in their sixth year. If they've been starting since they were rookies, we know who they are.
There are a few statistical anomalies, but they are completely explainable. For example, Brady's numbers skyrocketed in his seventh year, but that was because of Randy Moss and Wes Welker. His performance level was similar, he just had better weapons.
Besides, Flacco is no Brady.
I have no vendetta against Flacco, I just think we need to properly rate quarterbacks. He is a good quarterback. He's slightly above average—somewhere around 13th to 16th in the league.
He is not an elite quarterback, he has never been an elite quarterback barring one playoff run and, most importantly, he will never be an elite quarterback.