Used to be, you couldn’t go four hours in this country without debating someone over the elite-ness of Joe Flacco. Sounds of “Is Joe Flacco elite?” reverberated across the land. From sea, to Passover seder, to shows on ESPN where two blowhards yell at each other, to shining sea, everyone needed to ask. But those times have passed us by. Nowadays, people could give a rat’s ass about whether or not Joe Flacco is an elite NFL quarterback. Any conversation that uses the words “Joe” and “Flacco” together invariably, abruptly ends in the question, “Him?”
History however, loves a great comeback story. Call it an overreaction if you must, but after Week One of the 2016 NFL season, it is again time we take a look at ourselves in the mirror and ask the eternal question, “Is Joe Flacco elite?”
Let’s take a closer look at how we arrived here. In April of 2012, Joseph Vincent Flacco dared to commit the unforgivable sin of having confidence in himself, and declare himself the best quarterback in the National Football League. He was universally mocked for it, but a movement was born. Could Joe Flacco really be an elite quarterback? One year later, Flacco had put the entire state of Maryland on his back en-route to a Super Bowl Victory, Super Bowl MVP, and a very brief stint as the highest paid quarterback off all-time. Flacco’s own play and subsequent payday proved the national conversation he personally had started over himself, was one worth having.
And then, it all stopped. After tearing both his ACL and MCL last season, putting a bow on a year marred by poor play, people stopped caring about Joe Flacco, period. Going 3-7 over 10 games will do that. Nobody wants to get caught wondering out loud whether a 3-7 quarterback is elite.
What gets lost in the muck of that sub-par record however, is this: when Joe Flacco tore those ligaments in his knee, he stayed in the game, finished out the drive, and put his team in position to ultimately win. Is that not the kind of toughness we hold up as praiseworthy among the league’s best?
Consider this too: Prior to Steve Smith signing with the Ravens, people were convinced he was washed up. Teamed up with Flacco though, Smith has caught a combined 125 passes for 1,735, and nine touchdowns over 23 games (his 2015 as well was cut short by injury.) And lest you think the prolonging of Steve Smith’s career to be some sort of fluke, here comes Mike Wallace.
Following a poor 2015 in Minnesota, people weren’t so much asking if Mike Wallace had lost a step, as they much as they were just forgetting Mike Wallace was still in the league. Yet suddenly, there was Wallace, re-emerging from the wilderness last Sunday. With Joe Flacco under center, Wallace torched the Buffalo Bills for 91 yards, including a 66-yard touchdown catch. He’s probably being picked up in your fantasy football league at this very moment. Between Wallace, and Smith before him, clearly Flacco has the ability to make the players around him better. Sounds an awful lot like a compliment usually reserved for such elitists like Brady, Brees, or Rodgers, no?
The headline for the Ravens’ Week one victory reads, “Flacco’s one TD enough to help Ravens beat Bills.” Elite or not, that really does get to the core of Joe Flacco.
Look, even the much-accepted quarterback elite have their issues. Tom Brady likes to deflate his balls too much. Drew Brees’ impressive stats of late are not translating into success for the Saints. Aaron Rodgers doesn’t have a relationship with his brother, “Former Pro Quarterback” Jordan Rodgers. Likewise, Flacco’s Week One stats of 23 completions (on 34 attempts) for 258 yards and one touchdown won’t wow you, but they are certainly enough. Sometimes, that’s all you need. As they say, “winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing.” That’s why I’m saying this: As long as the Ravens keep winning, we should once again have the conversation over whether or not Joe Flacco is in the conversation.