This will be the most important week in the professional life of Joe Flacco, the former University of Delaware quarterback who has gone on to fame and fortune with the Baltimore Ravens.
But that fame is tainted somewhat by the fact that Flacco occasionally has really bad games and even though he’s the only QB in NFL history to lead his team to a playoff victory in each of his first five seasons, he’s never taken the Ravens to the only game that really counts, the Super Bowl. Despite all of his success, there are doubters out there.
And as far as fortune goes, well, that, too, will be at stake this week when the Ravens play the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game for the second straight year. Flacco will be a free agent at the end of this season, albeit a restricted one, and how he finishes out the playoffs will have a lot to do with his eventual payoff at the negotiating table.
Last year, as you probably remember, Flacco gave his team a chance to beat the Patriots, but a game-winning pass was dropped in the end zone and a game-tying field goal was missed on the final play and Flacco and the Ravens lost a game they should have won and Tom Brady and the Patriots won a game they should have lost.
It wasn’t Flacco’s fault, but the bottom line was that he lost and Brady won and that’s why very few people are willing to slap the “elite quarterback’’ tag on Flacco. There are a handful of current QBs who merit that elite tag – Brady, Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees head that list and all are future Hall-of-Famers – and then you have a group of QBs who don’t quite measure up to that standard yet and Flacco is one of them.
Eli Manning was once in that position. Everyone agreed he was a good quarterback, but he didn’t always play great and there were plenty of doubters until he led the Giants to not just one, but two Super Bowl titles.
Flacco was impressive last year against the Patriots and he was impressive last week against the Denver Broncos, when he passed for 331 yards and three touchdown passes that were all big plays – 59, 32 and 70 yards, with the final one come in the closing seconds to tie the game, which the Ravens won in overtime.
Those kinds of big plays in big games are what elevate a quarterback to that elite status, but you can’t follow one of those big games with a small one, which is why this is such an important game for the former Blue Hen. Flacco has had plenty of good games this year and throughout his career, but he’s also had his share of stinkers and elite QBs almost never have stinkers. And it’s that up-and-down nature of Flacco that keeps him from that coveted elite status. He had six games this season where he had a QB rating of 100 or better, but he also had seven games where his QB rating was under 80, including one of the worst games of his career, when he completed just 48.8 percent of his passes and finished with a QB rating of 45.1 in a 43-13 loss to the Houston Texans.
Then, before a national television audience, Flacco showed how good he can be against the tough Broncos defense and now he’ll get another chance to show that he’s as good as any quarterback in the league. He outplayed Tom Brady last year and if he does it again – and this time nobody drops a pass in the end zone or misses a chip-shot field goal – and the Ravens march into the Super Bowl, then Joe Flacco will finally be able to say that he’s arrived.
Unless he stinks in the Super Bowl, of course.
Contact Kevin Noonan at email@example.com.