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Why it doesn’t matter if Joe Flacco is ‘elite’

This article was originally conceived and co-written by our longtime friend Ray McCreavy.

Note: This post is not intended to further any argument, whether it be positive or negative, concerning Joe Flacco’s status as an elite NFL QB. Instead, it is meant to be a comment on the conversation that produces those opposing arguments, and more specifically, what that ongoing dialogue says about how instantaneous reactions affect the way sports fans think about professional football.

Photo by Will Brinson

During ESPN’s SportsCenter broadcast on the morning of February 5th, 2013, NFL correspondent Merril Hoge was asked to name and rank the league’s current top 5 quarterbacks now that the dust is finally settling on the 2012-13 season.

He ranked Joe Flacco as #1.

This nonevent is actually notable, but for reasons other than ESPN presenting a painfully obvious decision as a bold one by naming the Super Bowl MVP as the current number one player at his position just two days after he became a world champion.

It is notable because a) it seems to reflect that the 2013 playoffs are now definitively seen as a turning point in the relentless, obnoxious debate over Joe Flacco’s true talent level at the quarterback position, and b) Merril’s downright confounding list was a fleeting attempt at creating a season ending summary based on unspecified (or nonexistent?) metrics. I, for one, believe that these two points are intrinsically related.

It is not exactly breaking news to declare that the quarterback is the most important position in American football. Everyone who follows football knows that the last decade has seen quarterbacks who led offenses that threw more than ever before, broke nearly every passing record in the books, and succeeded at winning championships in the process. Possessing a QB who can perform at a championship level is undoubtedly the largest competitive advantage a team can have in the modern NFL, and thus it is rightly the most desired. In short, there are sound reasons for our cultural obsession with the best of the best, the “elite tier” of NFL QBs.

But when does an obsession become a problem? In this case, the elite QB discussion has become an issue because it undermines other essential aspects of the sport. Quick reminder: Those other aspects include the other 21 players on the field every down. Oh, and coaches seem to have some kind of effect on the outcomes of football games as well.

The debate over Joe Flacco’s status is perhaps the best example of the ‘elite quarterback’ narrative cheapening the entire dialogue about the sport, even among the most intelligent and informed fans. Read the rest of this entry

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