Flacco, Romo, Ryan not yet elite?
At some point in the not too distant future, probably before the
beginning of the 2012 regular season, the Baltimore Ravens will reward
Joe Flacco with a contract extension that makes him one of the league's
highest paid quarterbacks.
Then this debate, already fairly vocal among Ravens' fans, will really
heat up: Is Flacco, who last season came within a dropped Lee Evans
pass of taking the club to Super Bowl XLVI, really an "elite"
It has been a hot button issue in Baltimore the last several years, a
favorite topic of sports-talk radio regulars. And the discussion is
hardly limited to just Baltimore or Flacco, either. Subtract Flacco's
name and fill in the blank with, say, Philip Rivers, or Matt Ryan, or
Mark Sanchez. Or certainly Tony Romo, a lightning rod in Dallas over
It's not good enough anymore to throw for 4,000 yards -- the new norm
in the league -- lead a franchise to the playoffs, or be considered
among the best players at a position that might be the most difficult
in all of sports.
Nope, Super Bowl victories, at least one of them, seemingly have become
the standard by which quarterbacks are assessed.
Which apparently means that there are only five so-called "elite"
quarterbacks -- Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Eli Manning, Peyton Manning,
Aaron Rodgers and Ben Roethlisberger -- currently in the league. Those
are the five quarterbacks whose resumes include Super Bowl wins. Ten
championships total among the five, with three multiple titles in the
That piddling sample size, suggest players and coaches familiar with
many of the quarterbacks not considered in the "elite" class, is too
limited. And criticisms of the quarterbacks who most rate among the
best in the NFL, but who are ring-less, is pretty much ridiculous.
"Probably until we win a (championship) with Tony, it's going to
continue, but it's pretty absurd," said Dallas tight end Jason Witten.
"There aren't a whole lot of guys who have done what he's done. Sure,
everybody focuses on the quarterback, but at times, it isn't fair. In
our minds, he's a winner. He's 'elite,' whatever that means."
Since we're still short of our professorship in NFL-ology, and not
quite qualified to adjudge the "elite" quarterbacks, we won't try. By
definition, the term means "the best" or "of the highest class." And in
that regard, there is something to be said for the Super Bowl
qualification on one's resume to rank among the best players at the
quarterback position. But people a lot smarter than us, and with
knowledge of the game superior to what we've gleaned in 34 seasons,
And so do we.
"Matt knows that he's going to be judged in part by what he
accomplishes in the postseason," said Atlanta coach Mike Smith in
discussing Falcons' quarterback Matt Ryan. "That's the next step for
him, and important step, but it is for the entire team, not just him.
To say he's not in that top group ... isn't right."
Players coach coaches in San Diego -- where Rivers owns a passing title
and has been one of the NFL's premier players the past several seasons,
but doesn't yet have a ring -- echo those sentiments about their
quarterback. And there certainly are other precincts where the
quarterbacks have been similarly defended.
Ryan, of course, is 0-3 in the playoffs and the Falcons have flopped
miserably in their three postseason appearances of his four-year
tenure. Like Flacco, he figures to land a big-money contract, although
probably not until next year. And like Flacco, while acutely aware of
the hole in his resume, Ryan isn't overly concerned by any of the
critiques that emanate outside his own locker room.
Nor are his teammates.
Said chatty wide receiver Roddy White in the offseason: "He's the man.
Anyone who says otherwise is crazy. Not everyone can win the Super
Bowl. That doesn't stop them from being 'elite,' does it?"
Only, apparently, in the estimation of some fans.
Romo, Flacco Not in Brady or Brees' Class
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