So Joe Flacco has led the Baltimore Ravens back to the Conference Championship game this weekend and made some great throws doing it.
That means, of course, that the story-hungry media is suddenly considering (re-considering) whether the 28-year-old pivot in his fifth year out of Delaware deserves to be considered one of the league's "elite" quarterbacks.
Before we delve into that question, however, let's talk for a second about what "elite" means, because I think we've lost track of it. "Elite" doesn't mean "very good", or even "great": it means something like "those who are the very best in their category". What that means to me is, in the NFL, we should only be calling three, maybe four players at any one position "elite".
Is Joe Flacco one of the four best quarterbacks in the league?
Certainly not if statistics are the whole story. Flacco has a career quarterback rating of just 86.4, though he was slightly better in 2012 with an 87.8 rating. His completion percentage is no great shakes either: 59.7 in 2012 and 60.5 for his career. He's basically throwing two TDs for every interception (not good...) and has an average yards per attempt of 7.1 (middling if that). He's been sacked 174 times in five seasons, meaning he's getting caught for a loss an average of 35 times per season, or more than twice per game. Also not good.
Stats aside, however, Flacco is a winner. The Ravens have posted a winning regular season record and made the playoffs every year since Flacco took over as quarterback. He's 7-3 in the playoffs and led the team to three AFC Championship games in his five years. And, if this year is any indication, he's elevated his game in the post-season: he posted a passer rating of 125.6 this year against Indy and 116.2 against Denver.
There's no doubt about it: Flacco is a very good quarterback.
But is he elite? Is he top three or top four in the league?
Who would you put above him in the elite list? who below?
If you had to choose a quarterback to lead your team today, based solely on their personal abilities as players, leaders, winner, who would you pick?
Here's how I'd rank the top quarterbacks in the NFL right now and, sorry Joe, this informal ranking suggests to me that you're not just not in the elite, you're not even in the top ten:
1. Aaron Rodgers
2. Tom Brady
3. Peyton Manning
4. Drew Brees
5. Russell Wilson
6. Ben Roethlisberger
7. Robert Griffin III
8. Eli Manning
9. Colin Kaepernick
10. Phillip Rivers
11. Andrew Luck
12. Alex Smith
13. Andy Dalton
14. Matt Ryan
15. Joe Flacco
And I have no doubt forgotten someone you like (Mike Vick, Tony Romo, Josh Freeman...).
I'm not trying to be hard on Flacco. I actually like him and hope he and his Ravens win this weekend. But let's get a grip. He's a very good quarterback but he's no where near elite in the NFL.