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First it was Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker LaMarr Woodley saying Joe Flacco wouldn’t win a Super Bowl in his lifetime. Then Bengals linebacker Dhani Jones jumped on the pile by questioning Flacco’s decision-making under pressure.
Baltimore, it’s time to step up for our boy.
So here’s a guide for you, talking points when you run into a Flacco-basher:
1) What’s football’s most important stat? Winning, duh.
Flacco’s done more winning than almost any quarterback his age over the past 40 years. You’ve probably heard this before, but it bears repeating. He’s just the third starting quarterback since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger to reach the playoffs in his first three seasons. The two others are Bernie Kosar and Dan Marino.
Granted, more goes into winning than just a quarterback and Flacco has been helped by a great defense. But don’t forget that the man under center holds the most important position on the field. And no quarterback does it on his own. Peyton Manning has had Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne. Ben Roethlisberger’s been helped by a great defense too.
Can the Ravens Win a Super Bowl with Joe Flacco? Right Click for Full Screen Option
The defense isn’t constantly padding Flacco’s resume. Remember last year’s home game against Cleveland when Peyton Hillis ran for 144 yards? Who was it that threw that perfectly lofted pass against a full-on blitz to Anquan Boldin for the win? That was Flacco’s third touchdown pass that day.
2) Flacco’s stats measure up with the best
As the Bengals’ Jones accurately remembers, Flacco had a bad game in Cincinnati last year, throwing a career-high four picks. What Jones apparently doesn’t recall is that after Week 2, Flacco posted the NFL’s second-best quarterback rating (103.4), second only to Tom Brady and ahead of Super Bowl-winning Aaron Rogers.
Flacco finished the year with the NFL’s seventh-best quarterback rating (93.6), ahead of Manning, Matt Ryan and Drew Brees to name a few. But it’s not fair to compare Flacco against veterans like Manning, Brady or Brees now. They’ve got many more years of experience. So let’s see what they all did in their first three years as starting quarterbacks.
Flacco threw for just 21 fewer passing yards than Brady and tossed four fewer interceptions. Flacco threw for 1,655 more yards than Brees, two more touchdowns and four fewer picks. Manning, who averaged 88 more passes per season, threw for way more yards and touchdowns than Flacco, but also tossed 24 more interceptions.
Lastly, if you’re comparing Flacco to the greats such as Brady, Manning and Brees, that should tell you something.
3) A few plays don’t paint Steelers picture
There’s no arguing that Flacco hasn’t had his best outings against Pittsburgh. He’s 2-6 versus the Steelers in his career. But let’s put them in perspective.
Flacco had a couple tough games in 2008, particularly in the AFC Championship. Chalk that up to a rookie facing a top-flight defense on a huge stage.
In 2009 things changed. Flacco threw for 289 yards and a touchdown (100.8 QB rating) against the Steelers at M&T Bank Stadium. In Pittsburgh, he threw two touchdowns (would have had three had Derrick Mason not dropped one) and posted a 83.1 QB rating.
Last year he went into Pittsburgh and delivered a game-winning strike in the final minutes. He threw for 256 yards that day – not too shabby.
A blindside sack/fumble in the regular season and one bad quarter in the playoffs last year have tainted his performances against the Steelers. He sailed a pass too long to Todd Heap and a fumbled snap after that.
But do you remember how Flacco marched the Ravens down Pittsburgh’s boisterous field in the fourth quarter and delivered a spot-on pass to Boldin in the end zone, which would have given Baltimore a late lead had it not been dropped?
Also, the argument that Flacco hasn’t beaten Roethlisberger is irrelevant. It’s the Ravens who haven’t beaten Big Ben since 2006, not Flacco.
4) Even greats take time to get over playoff hump
There’s no denying that the next step for Flacco is to raise his game in the playoffs.
But he’s certainly not the first young quarterback to have a tough time in the postseason.
San Diego’s Philip Rivers is 3-4 in the playoffs and has 10 postseason interceptions. Dallas’ Tony Romo is 1-3, Philadelphia’s Michael Vick is 2-3 and Atlanta’s Ryan is 0-2.
You can even look at some of the greats. It took John Elway 15 years and three Super Bowl losses before winning a ring. It took Manning nine years to claim a Super Bowl.
Flacco did start to show some progress in the playoffs last year. He torched the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium to the tune of a 73.5 completion rate for 265 yards and two touchdowns. Flacco actually had a solid 90.0 playoff quarterback rating last season, better than Brady and Roethlisberger.
Another thing to keep in mind is that Flacco hasn’t played a single one of these playoff games at home. Winning on the road in the playoffs is incredibly difficult, especially for a young quarterback.
5) Flacco is still growing
It’s easy to forget, considering all of Flacco’s early success, that he’s just a 26-year-old quarterback out of Delaware.
Flacco’s career was put on the fast track when injuries made him the starter as a rookie. His success, going to the AFC Championship, put him (and expectations) far ahead of the usual track.
Learning how to play quarterback in the NFL takes time. Learning how to win takes time. Flacco has done both of those very quickly. Learning how to win a championship is another matter, and one that Flacco and the Ravens are working toward now.
But Flacco has taken steps forward every season. The Bengals’ Jones claimed Flacco makes bad decisions under pressure, but surely other teams mirrored the Bengals’ game plan following that four-interception performance. Yet Flacco cut down on the interceptions. He adjusted.
Flacco has thrown for more yards and more touchdowns each year. He also took on more of a leadership role last season and continues to step into that position. There’s no reason to believe his progress won’t continue.