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What's Next for Joe Flacco?

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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.

It’s amazing what one game can do for a players’ reputation, not to mention his bank account. Joe Flacco won a Super Bowl ring and a Super Bowl MVP trophy and in the next 24 hours he posed with his brand new, fire-engine red Corvette, led a parade at Disney World and appeared on Late Night with David Letterman.

Flacco has been a good quarterback for several years now, but he was never invited to be a guest on a nationally-televised show before, and if he ever visited Disney World in the past he had to pay for his admission ticket.

Everything changed for the former University of Delaware quarterback on Sunday night. More than 100 million people saw Flacco carve up the San Francisco 49ers in the Super Bowl and suddenly a player who has never been one of the leading passers in the league or been voted to a Pro Bowl was being touted as perhaps the best QB in the game. And Flacco will really cash in sometime soon when he signs a new contract that will be worth multi-millions.

So, even though Flacco has been a solid NFL quarterback ever since he was drafted by the Ravens in 2008, this one game has made him a star.

Now contrast Flacco to Rich Gannon, the only other University of Delaware quarterback to start in a Super Bowl. Gannon led the Oakland Raiders into the Big Game at the end of the 2002 season and he was sensational all year – Gannon passed for an NFL record 4,689 yards and 26 touchdown passes, was named the NFL’s Most Valuable Player and was voted to be a starter in the Pro Bowl.

But then Gannon had the worst game any quarterback has ever had in the Super Bowl. He threw a Super Bowl record five interceptions — after throwing just 10 all season — and three of them were returned for touchdowns as his Raiders were trounced by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 48-21.

So, there were no parades or television appearances for Gannon even though he had one of the best regular seasons in NFL history. But he came up small in the big game and was never the same after that – Gannon played two more seasons, but never came close to having another season like he did in 2002 and he never played in another playoff game.

Flacco, of course, still has many good years ahead of him, but he still hasn’t won over all of his detractors. Less than 12 hours after Flacco held up his Super Bowl and MVP trophies for the entire world to see, they were still debating on television whether Flacco is an elite NFL quarterback.

And that really comes down to how you define “elite.’’ Does it means passing for a zillion yards every week or winning championships? Well, Tom Brady puts up some nice statistics, but it’s all those Super Bowl rings that make him a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer.

Speaking of Brady – Flacco outplayed him in the AFC Championship Game last year and then did it again this year, and don’t those kinds of Ali-Frazier matchups also elevate an athlete to elite status? If you play better than the best, what does that make you?

But Flacco will never get universal respect unless he does what Eli Manning did, and that’s to win more than one Super Bowl. Mediocre quarterbacks have won Super Bowls before, including Trent Dilfer, who was the Ravens’ QB the last time they won the Super Bowl after the 2000 season. But to win two championships elevates a quarterback into a special class. Only 10 QBs have ever won two Super Bowls and it’s an impressive list – Bart Starr, Bob Griese, Roger Staubach, Terry Bradshaw, Joe Montana, John Elway, Troy Aikman, Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger and Eli Manning. If Flacco joins them as a two-time winner then there will be no more debating the “elite’’ issue.

Joe Flacco shut up a lot of his detractors this year and next year he’ll have a chance to win over the rest of them. And just there are only six more months until training camp opens…

Contact Kevin Noonan at knoonan32@aol.com.

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Earth Day group says no to offshore wind

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