Joe Flacco, take a bow. You’ve made a fool of us all.
First, it was Eli Manning claiming that you can’t spell ‘elite’ without Eli. We all cracked up in the off-season. There was a pretty strict hierarchy of quarterbacking, and Eli sure as heck wasn’t anywhere near the top of that list.
And then a funny thing happened. He won a Super Bowl, and suddenly Eli’s prodigious gifts started to come together. Yeah, there was the occasional stinker in the regular season where he’d throw a hundred incompletions and almost as many interceptions while the Giants got blown out of the stadium. But in the playoffs? Holy <expletive> the man became demonic. Just ask Patriots/Niners/Packers fans across the nation. All of us have suffered at this man’s hands.
This off-season, Joe Flacco made a similarly preposterous claim: “I think I’m the best quarterback in the NFL,” or something along those lines.
Ludicrous, exclaimed the media! Matt Ryan’s definitely better. Flacco just has a good team around him. He hasn’t really done anything.
For a while, it certainly looked like the media had a point. The Ravens puttered and spluttered their way to a halfway decent regular-season record while Flacco floundered. Then the Ravens fired cagey Cam Cameron, promoted the robotic Jim Caldwell to offensive coordinator, rattled off a series of absurd wins and suddenly found themselves in the Super Bowl, by which point Flacco was in full-blown Eff-You mode. Let me list the absurdities that allowed the Ravens to sniff the Super Bowl:
1. A Ray Rice catch-and-run on 4th and 29 against the Chargers to keep the Ravens in playoff contention.
2. Hideously blown coverage by the Broncos to let Jacoby Jones get behind their ENTIRE defense in a playoff game at home, when everyone and their mom knew that Flacco had to throw deep.
3. Injuries, idiocy and another recent Patriots playoff debacle at home.
I would estimate the probability of these three events happening in conjunction with all the incredible luck the Ravens had with recovered fumbles and fortuitous bounces as approximately 0 percent. That’s how absurd this string of luck was.
Then the Super Bowl happened, as we all know, and somehow Flacco emerged on top, having thrown a monstrous 11 touchdowns with zero interceptions throughout the playoffs. At that point, when Flacco lifted the Lombardi Trophy and collected the MVP award, I pretty much knew that the Ravens would have to send him a signed blank check.
I’m not saying that Flacco didn’t earn himself a fat new contract. He put forth his best at a time when many other players faded from the moment, and that is a skill worth having. The part of this whole affair that makes me a little queasy is this: Flacco is now the most expensive player in league history. Think about that for a second. Even adjusted for inflation, his contract is the richest on record, more so than any contract ever signed by Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Calvin Johnson, Adrian Peterson…that’s hallowed company to just jump over.
Quite frankly, I think Joe Flacco is the evolutionary Phil Simms. My dad always used to wax poetic about how so-very average- Simms was throughout his career, with one exceptional game: the only Super Bowl he ever played, where he dissected a Denver defense to the tune of 22 completions on 25 attempts, winning an MVP award in the process.
Flacco? Belittled by even his own fans, bestowed the immortal nickname “Flaccid Flacco” by an enterprising reader of Bill Simmons, his career arc is eerily similar, with one exception: Simms never received the biggest contract in NFL history.
Playing the armchair-GM card here, if I’m Ozzie Newsome of the Baltimore Ravens, do I feel comfortable paying $60 million in guaranteed money to a streaky quarterback who is hit or miss in the regular season, while the rest of my roster ages and retires? I sure as heck wouldn’t.
The fact is that Flacco assured himself however much money he wanted by winning the Super Bowl. The Ravens were unfortunately stuck between a rock and a hard place: If the Ravens let him go, they would get crucified by their fans. But if they wanted to keep him, they’d have to shell out the dough in a big way. Either way, they’re kind of screwed.
So congratulations Joe Flacco. You’ve eliminated your unibrow, silenced your doubters and earned the richest contract in NFL history in just one season. Impressive, to say the least. All that’s left is for you to find a supermodel girlfriend…Wait, he’s married to his high school sweetheart? Crap, she’s gorgeous too.
But personally, I believe Flaccid Flacco will never reach another Super Bowl, let alone win one. With his contract weighing over their heads, the Ravens will never again be able to construct a roster as balanced and as loaded as the one that just eked out a championship.
Most importantly, I sense a trend of success in the NFL: it’s not always the best team that wins the Super Bowl; it’s the one with the most momentum. The Ravens, Giants, Packers, Saints and Steelers, responsible for the past six titles, have all triumphed over heralded “superior” teams based on momentum and luck. That right there is something to bank on, even if Joe Flacco’s monstrous contract is not.
Vignesh Venkataraman’s nickname when he played quarterback in high school was “Volatile Viggy.” Ask him how he got his nickname at viggy “at” stanford.edu.