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Thursday, February 25, 2021

Joe Flacco's Greatness Debated

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Kevin Noonan
Kevin Noonan
Kevin Noonan has covered and commented on the Delaware sports scene for more than 30 years, everything from amateur recreation leagues and high schools to local colleges and the Philadelphia professional teams. He’s been voted Delaware Sportswriter of the Year multiple times and currently covers the Philadelphia Eagles for CBSSports.com and teaches creative writing courses at Wilmington University.

photo: Baltimore Ravens

Joe Flacco has accomplished in three seasons what many NFL quarterbacks don’t accomplish in a lifetime, but for some people that’s not enough. They nod their heads when you point out how many games Flacco has won in a short amount of time. And they agree that he’s been remarkably successful in the regular season and has even had a couple of nice games in the playoffs.

But not enough of them. And that’s why the Flacco detractors – which include Steelers linebacker LaMarr Woodley, Bengals linebacker Dhani Jones (who was a bust in his brief time with the Eagles) and a couple of ESPN talking heads – say that the former University of Delaware star will be a good NFL quarterback, but never a great one, never the kind of quarterback who wins Super Bowl championships.

Flacco also has plenty of supporters, of course, and they have plenty of ammunition to defend their hero. Consider:

  • Flacco has won 36 games in his first three seasons and that ties the all-time NFL record set Dan Marino, who is in the Hall-of-Fame.
  • Since 2008, only one NFL quarterback has won more of his starts, Peyton Manning (38 victories) who will be in the Hall-of-Fame as soon as he eligible. That means Flacco has won more games than two QBs who have played in Pro Bowls and won Super Bowls – Drew Brees and Ben Roethlisberger, who have won 35 games each.
  • Over the final 14 games last season, Flacco’s quarterback rating of 103.4 and only one QB had a better rating over that span – Tom Brady (113.5), another shoo-in for the Hall-of-Fame.
  • Flacco’s playoff record is 4-3 and Matt Ryan, the quarterback drafted No. 1 overall the same year Flacco was No. 18, is 0-2 in the playoffs.

What the Flacco detractors point to is the QB’s poor play in those playoff losses, twice to Pittsburgh and once to Indianapolis. Flacco had his worst games at the most important time – in those three defeats he threw one touchdown pass and six interceptions and had a QB rating of just 47.5 — and postseason success is what separates the great quarterbacks from the merely good ones.

Flacco has had some terrific playoff games, like the 30-7 victory over Kansas City in the first round last season in which he completed 73.5 percent of his passes, including two for touchdowns with no interceptions, and finished with a QB rating of 115.4. But then came the next playoff game against the Steelers and Flacco had a QB rating of 61.1 in a 31-24 loss. And nobody remembers the second-to-last game you played – the remember the one that ended their season.

And that’s why, for the first time since he joined the Ravens out of Delaware, Flacco is being criticized by players and media. And the usually unflappable Flacco did bristle when those criticisms were relayed to him. And the critics pointed to that bristling and used that as more

Finally, Flacco had had enough and told reporters: “I don’t really understand it. We’ve had a good team the last three years and I think I’ve gotten better each year and played pretty darn good.

“So I don’t understand it. But there’s nothing you can do about it.”

Actually, there is. Flacco can win a big playoff game against a big-name opponent like the Steelers, who have been his nemesis. He can lead the Ravens to the Super Bowl. And, whether he likes it or not, is the only way Flacco will win over his critics. Unlike most rookie quarterbacks, he had success right away and that means more is expected of him now.

Former Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann still lives in the D.C.-Baltimore area and he’s followed Flacco’s development closely.

“In Joe’s case, really, really nice progress has been made,’’ Theismann said. “But I think this is the year. You reach that fourth year, now it’s time to process all the information and play the kind of football everybody expects you to play.

“Maybe not to the extent we see with Peyton [Manning], but a little bit more like the Tom Brady mold, where you just get a sense when he steps out on the football field that he knows exactly what he wants to do. I think Joe is there now.”

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