Former pro quarterback and current ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski recently ruffled feathers when he placed Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco at No. 4 on his list of the best current quarterbacks.
Flacco was ranked ahead of Pro Bowl quarterbacks Atlanta Falcons’ Matt Ryan and New Orleans Saints’ Drew Brees, and trailed only Green Bay Packers’ Aaron Rodgers, New England Patriots’ Tom Brady and Denver Broncos’ Peyton Manning, and Flacco’s critics were quick to condemn the ranking. The fifth-year quarterback led his team to a Super Bowl victory over the San Francisco 49ers in February, earning Super Bowl MVP honors in the process—a fact Jaworski cited as a critical factor in his ranking. But is Joe Flacco truly one of the top five quarterbacks in the NFL? Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley of the AFRO Sports Desk debate this question:
Green: Absolutely. As a matter fact, I’ll take it even further: Joe Flacco isn’t just a top-five quarterback—he’s arguably the best quarterback in the game and already a sure-bet to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. But don’t just take my word for it; check the facts: in only five seasons, the Jersey Shore native has collected more than 15 all-time NFL records and a Super Bowl MVP trophy. He’s the winningest quarterback in the first five seasons of his career with 63 wins, including playoff victories. He’s also the only quarterback to reach the playoffs and win a playoff game in each of his first five seasons. He’s even set the record for most consecutive starts in his first five years, with 93. Add to those records one of the greatest playoff performances in league history this past January and there’s simply no way Flacco doesn’t make the Hall of Fame.
Riley: I’m sure this comes to no surprise to you, but I disagree. Flacco’s not a top five quarterback and he damn sure isn’t a Hall of Famer, at least not yet. He has 15 or so records, yet the majority of those records concern his consecutive starts streak. For example, he holds the record for most starts in this first two years. Big deal, who cares. The other records are for the number of wins he’s racked up, but he greatly benefited from playing with one of the most dominant defensive units in league history. Truth be told, last year’s playoffs was the first time that anybody outside of Baltimore was impressed with Flacco. I’ll need to see a lot more of what we saw from him in the playoffs before he makes my top-five or Hall of Fame list.
Green: You can dismiss the record for consecutive starts if you want, but it’s harder to do than you think. Durability is a great attribute that not every young quarterback possesses. If you don’t believe me, just ask Robert Griffin III. Nonetheless, quarterbacks are judged primarily by one thing only: wins. And since 2008 nobody has won more games than Flacco. He wins in the regular season and he wins in the playoffs. He has nine playoff wins, tied with Tom Brady for the most of any quarterback in their first five seasons, and the most road playoff wins in history, with eight. This past postseason, he tied Joe Montana’s long-standing postseason record for most touchdowns without an interception, with 11, and also set a record as the only quarterback with four consecutive 100-plus passer rating playoff games. You don’t tie the records of two Hall of Famers like Montana and Brady’s without being in the conversation to be enshrined into the Hall of Fame yourself.
Riley: Flacco’s playoff run this past winter was amazing, but as I said, that’s about the only thing spectacular about his career so far. Everything else has been average and inconsistent. Just think about it: he’s played nearly 100 games and the only good thing anyone remembers is the four games from this season’s playoff run. Every other year and every other game he was a middle-of-the-pack, barely-worthy-to-start quarterback without a single Pro Bowl honor on his resume. Why do you think his own general manager, Ozzie Newsome, waited until he won the Super Bowl to pay him? Ozzie obviously wasn’t impressed either. Once he got the ring, then he got the dough. He’s going to need one or two more rings and far more consistent play before he makes anyone’s Hall of Fame.
Green: Ozzie was impressed enough to offer Flacco about $16 million a season, which is pretty good money if you ask me. But Flacco thought he was worth more and went out and proved it by winning a Super Bowl MVP. He proved it by outplaying Peyton Manning in the AFC divisional game, and then Brady in the AFC Championship in Foxboro, Mass. No quarterback had ever won a playoff road game in Foxboro, until Flacco. That’s why he’s the best quarterback in the league, and that’s why he already has a place in football immortality. Everything he does from this point forward is just icing on the cake.
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