When Joe Flacco said he thought he was the best quarterback in the NFL in a radio interview last April, most people thought he was crazy.
I know I did.
It was like saying Crocs had the most swag in the market when they came out.
Eli Manning went through the same type of scrutiny when he claimed that he was one of the quarterback "elites" in 2011, and he had to win the Super Bowl just to prove that claim. Surely, Flacco knew better than to make an assertion that exceeded a two-time Super Bowl champion.
But throughout the season I watched, as did others who doubted, as Flacco outperformed his opponents, defeating supposed superiors throughout the postseason and amid the purple and white confetti it was he who held the Lombardi Trophy, smiling as if to say, “I told you so.”
After throwing for 1,140 yards, 11 touchdowns and no interceptions throughout the playoffs and earning Super Bowl MVP honors, Flacco proved his claim with the best postseason performance by any quarterback since Joe Montana in 1989.
Here's that list of quarterbacks who I thought were better than Flacco, and how Flacco proved me wrong. In short, the five-year quarterback out of the University of Delaware went mad scientist on everybody, and it was he who had the last laugh.
Quarterbacks better than Flacco (as of last April)
1. Aaron Rodgers
For one, I don’t see Flacco saving anyone money on their auto insurance. Secondly, he needs to earn MVP status before he passes Rodgers. With 45 touchdowns and six interceptions on the year, Rodgers put up video game-like numbers, leading the Packers to a 15-1 season. One of the few flaws to his season came in the Divisional Playoffs, being outplayed by Eli Manning, another quarterback seeking elite status.
As reigning Super Bowl MVP, Flacco earned the status I said was necessary. In contrast to Rodgers, his video game-like numbers came in the postseason with 1,140 yards, 11 touchdowns and no interceptions in four games; the best playoffs performance by a quarterback since Joe Montana in 1989. There are three quarterbacks in NFL history who everyone wants to be compared to: Johnny Unitas, Joe Montana, and John Elway. Flacco’s got one. But unlike Rodgers, he won’t be saving anyone money with the contract he will be receiving.
2. Drew Brees
After breaking Dan Marino’s single-season passing record that had stood for 27 years, I thought Brees was on his way to being named league MVP. Like Rodgers, Brees has proved essential to the team’s success, bringing it from the bottom of the NFC South to Super Bowl champions only two years ago. With 5,476 yards and 46 touchdowns on the season, Brees has stated a better case for being named “the best” along with his leadership role with his teammates.
Brees had almost the same success in the 2012 season as he had in the year prior, and his team missed the playoffs. Although they were without Sean Payton for the year, I still believe that disproves my theory of Brees’ vitality to the team’s success, or at least diminishes it. However, Brees just may be the closest argument to Flacco’s claim. Brees threw the ball almost 140 more times than Flacco, and without the consistent running game and defense that Baltimore possesses, New Orleans was in more of a position to pass the ball more frequently. There are many arguments that can be made for Brees’ case against Flacco, but Flacco can always play the “I’m the Super Bowl MVP” trump card. We are talking about the present, anyway.
3. Tom Brady
Although Flacco outperformed Brady in the AFC Championship (2011), one cannot argue against the consistency that Brady has had. Throughout the season (2011), Tom Brady’s performance in the AFC Championship was the only game in which he threw for more interceptions than touchdowns. Although Brady is in a more pass-oriented system that has given him 70 more attempts than Flacco, he has completed around 10 percent more of his passes and threw the same number of interceptions.
Flacco has not only once again outplayed Tom Brady in the postseason, but improved his completion percentage, pulling within three points of Brady. Flacco also showed maturity throughout the postseason, completing deep passes that he normally would have thrown inaccurately, such as the 70-yard touchdown pass to Jacoby Jones that sent the Ravens into overtime with the Denver Broncos.
4. Peyton Manning
Even with three neck surgeries in a span of 19 months hanging a veil of uncertainty over his future, Peyton Manning is higher up the ladder than Flacco. Manning is almost his own offense. He is crazy smart and picks defenses apart. Earlier I discussed how essential Brees was to the Saints. The Colts went 2-14 without Manning. Now that Denver has claimed him, it will be interesting to see how the No. 1 rushing offense will adapt with Manning. He might be at the tail end of his career, but his name is about to go right alongside Unitas, Montana, and Elway when it comes to greatness, and I think even at his lowest point he will outperform Flacco.
This argument will sound much like the case against Brady. Manning gets the credit for being able to bounce back after a season-ending injury like he had. I don’t know what exactly they did over in Europe (perhaps moose antler spray), but Peyton was certainly back up to speed. In fact, he threw for more yards, more touchdowns and fewer interceptions than he did when he took the Colts to the Super Bowl in 2009. So why is Flacco better? For some reason I keep likening these comparisons to a schoolyard fight. You’ve got the big kid versus the average kid, and all day before recess everybody makes their predictions based on what they can see. Well in this case, Manning’s the big kid and Flacco’s the average kid. Manning has the better statistics and he’s beaten up all the other kids that have come through the fourth grade as he’s been held back (metaphorically speaking). But head-to-head, in the midst of the fight, Flacco outperforms. He makes the big plays, he throws for more yardage, more touchdowns and a higher completion percentage in their Divisional Playoff matchup. In that sense, I consider him the better quarterback. But I guess it depends on what you value. By the most current sense of the word, Flacco is better than Peyton Manning.
5. Eli Manning
I decided to put Eli up here because I feel this leads up well to the point I’m trying to make: You have to earn your spot to be listed up here. Eli went out on a limb and said he was "elite," then played elite, beating most of the quarterbacks on this list along the way. So Flacco… Your turn.
Flacco certainly followed up with his turn, beginning his case ironically against the Giants in Week 16 when he threw for 309 yards and two touchdowns in a 33-14 win that gave the initial nudge that was the falling out of New York’s season. From then on he would not throw another interception, outperforming Eli and the rest of those on this list in backing up his claim.
Flacco and the Ravens organization will now enter the offseason, writing up what many expect to be a very sizable contract. But who knows if Flacco will accept the
offer? He might think he’s worth more. He is mad after all.