Why I'd take Flacco over any remaining QB in the postseason
College Contributing Network
Andrew Luck is the best, young quarterback, who happens to play for my favorite team. Peyton Manning and Tom Brady will go down as the two greatest quarterbacks of all time when they retire. Aaron Rodgers is playing at a pace where he may dethrone the aforementioned two. Russell Wilson already has a Super Bowl ring, and Cam Newton and Tony Romo are playing exceptionally at just the right time.
Despite the brand names at the position listed, I want the signal caller who currently leads the Ravens franchise, Joe Flacco.
Yes, the same Joe Flacco who has had the propensity to, as sports personality Skip Bayless has been known to say in the past, morph into his uglier playing side, "Joe Fluko."
His regular-season numbers rank in the bottom half of those who play the same position (27 touchdowns, 12 interceptions, 91 passer rating and a QBR of 67.3), and at times his accuracy fails him, especially on the easier throws for whatever reason.
And it is true Flacco just might be a tad overpaid considering his overall body of work.
But when it comes down to the biggest moments, I'll take the brother in Baltimore -- he exudes the most poise, the most chill and the most resolve.
The 10-4 record, the 21-touchdown-eight-interception split, and the Super Bowl victory speak for themselves, but here's why Flacco has the advantage over the other quarterbacks left.
Joe Flacco vs. Andrew Luck
That third-year gunslinger in Indianapolis is something special, ain't he?
In just his third season as a Colt, Andrew Luck led the league with 40 touchdown passes against a high 16 picks. He threw 616 passes during the regular season -- second only to Drew Brees -- and finished 11th in total QBR (though the latter statistic can be misleading sometimes).
Luck has gained so much praise and so much respect from such a litany of fellow players, former players, writers and analysts, some have already corronated him among the highest echelon of quarterbacks.
"He'll go down as the greatest quarterback of all time," said former New York Giants coach Jim Fassel. "The numbers he has already put up as a young quarterback, far superior to anybody else that came in the league in their first four, five or six years the numbers he's put up. If he keeps at that pace ... Whoa!"
As great as he is at such a young stage of his career, and I do mean great, he does have flaws, which have been stated ad nauseum by opponents of Luck. Aside from the 16 interceptions, he also committed 13 fumbles, six of which resulted in turnovers.
That's a total of 22 giveaways if you do the math, which was second only to Vanderbilt's own Jay Cutler. Some will say his offensive line didn't allot him the necessary protection to avoid those mistakes, and some will argue his receivers didn't do him any favors by dropping or tipping passes.
After all, Luck was the third most hit quarterback in the league and his receivers led the league in passes negated because of the bad case of the drops. However, he is also to blame for the turnovers because of his overly-competitive spirit -- no play is ever dead. That often equates to a poor decision or three.
While in the regular season Flacco suffers from similar symptoms, he is able to channel his talent and not get overly carried away, evidenced by his eight picks in 14 playoff contests. Luck's never-let-a-single-play-die mentality could cost him against the Broncos on Sunday.
Speaking of Denver...
Joe Flacco vs. Peyton Manning
His achievements are undeniable and his reputation is pristine. Peyton Manning is the all-time leader in aerial touchdowns and, provided he comes back for an 18th season, will hold the record for most passing yards by a quarterback.
The last few games of the season were not his best, as I detailed in a previous article, but his statistics compare favorably with his contemporaries: second in touchdowns, third in QBR, and fourth in passing yards and passer rating. With a much-needed and a much-deserved bye week, Manning and other key players on his team who needed the rest due to injuries should be good to go against the young Colts.
But let's not forget this is the playoffs. The same time of year where the Papa Johns spokesman has an uninspiring record of 11-12, and the same time of year where statistically his play seems to dip across the board? For those wondering, Manning has amassed 37 touchdowns, 24 picks and a passer rating of 88.3 -- more than nine points below his career regular-season average!
For the record, I am a Manning fan. I believe, like many Colts fans did in the past, that Peyton has been the victim of poor supporting casts throughout his playoff career.
This doesn't recuse him of the exorbitant amount of times he has not lived up to his standard of play (see the Patriots battles, the game against the Chargers and the match against the Saints in the Super Bowl).
But aside from defensive ends Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis and, for a brief time, safety Bob Sanders, name me three other notable defensive players the Colts had during the Peyton era?
Many will point to some of the offensive pieces he has had. However, last time I checked (timely) defense and special teams play is just as important as the offensive facet of the game, of which Manning hasn't exactly always been the beneficiary.
Especially for his last few seasons in Indianapolis.
Ultimately, I would still take Flacco over Manning.
As I mentioned before, Flacco is, like the late Stuart Scott would say, cooler than the other side of the pillow, while Manning is...not.
Former teammates have noted as much in the past.
Peyton has had a tendency through the years to put so much pressure on himself to perform as opposed to relying on his natural ability to shred opposing defenses, and that has held him back from achieving the greatness he is capable of attaining in the "real" season.
Joe Flacco vs. Tom Brady
Brady has often been compared to Joe Montana in his career, and with good reason. He idolized the former 49ers quarterback as a young tike, both have won multiple Super Bowl rings throughout their stellar careers and both have been known for their calm demeanor during the biggest moments.
This season Brady enjoyed yet another spectacular season. He finished second in QBR, threw 33 touchdowns against just nine interceptions and was a top MVP candidate for much of the season.
What's more notable is how Brady finally has the pieces in place to revert back to the formula which helped him earn those three rings: a stout defense and an above-average running game. The equation led to three Lombardi trophies in four years and a 10-0 record. Even his receiving corps is now finally formidable.
So, you must be wondering why would I then take Flacco over Brady? It's the same reason why I believe the Ravens will defeat the Patriots, and the same reason why the Giants defeated New England in two Super Bowls.
As tremendous as Tom Brady is in the pocket, more than any pocket passer he can be rattled if an opposing defensive line is able to generate pressure against him (like that of Baltimore). He also has to tendency to see "ghosts" when he sees lineman charging full speed to sack him -- there are times where he panics during a course of a game, even when it's not warranted.
Also, Brady is not the same player in money time as he was earlier in his career. After starting his career 10-0, Tom Terrific has been Tom the Average, posting an 8-8 mark. Like Manning, it has not all been Brady's fault, but his numbers since his last title have not been Brady-esque.
Compared to 15 touchdowns to just five picks -- a ratio of 3:1 -- in his first four appearances, including no passer ratings under 77.3 the Michigan alumnus has since put up 28 touchdowns and 17 interceptions, less than 2:1.
In other words, the formula of the Patriots' Super Bowl years will have to be in full effect on Saturday.
Joe Flacco vs. Aaron Rodgers
As I am writing this, a few thoughts have sifted into my noggin:
1. I wonder how badly I will be ripped in the comments section.
2. This is going to be, by far, the longest column I have wrote to date. For real.
3. The next quarterback will be the most challenging to make a case against.
I mean he is Aaron Rodgers, the dude who constantly appears on those funny State Farm commercials.
The Packer who has not thrown a single pick at his turf in over two years? The same brother who only threw five interceptions to 38 touchdowns, third only to Luck and Manning.
Oh, and did I mention he has the highest passer rating in regular season and postseason history, already has a ring, and a regular season and playoff MVP? If a pass rush forces a Brady/Manning-type player off of their spots to deliver a pass, then the chances will (almost) always be in favor of the defense.
With Rodgers? Nope.
He'll either escape a collapsing pocket and dart for a 20-yard gain, or deliver a sparkling 65-yard bomb for a touchdown. In other words, Rodgers is the most complete dual-threat passer in the NFL. Stephen A. Smith of ESPN's First Take has said on numerous occasions Aaron Rodgers will go down as the best ever at his position, and it's difficult to disagree.
There's one problem about Aaron Rodgers that, though with reluctance, leads me to favor Flacco. I just don't fully trust Rodgers' health.
There have been too many times for my liking where the former Utah signal caller has sustained injuries at inopportune moments in a game or before a game. Just look at the calf injury Rodgers is currently nursing if you don't see what I mean.
According to reports the calf muscle is partially torn, and if that is fact then the Packers could be in world's of trouble. After all, the offensive line isn't exactly at the level as that of the Cowboys.
While astronomically talented, give me Flacco because I know he'll be able to withstand hits from gargantuan defensive lineman better than can Aaron, and he can make just as spectacular throws and not turnover the football in a game as his Green Bay counterpart.
Joe Flacco vs. Russell Wilson/Cam Newton
Russell Wilson simply does not get enough credit for what he has accomplished in just three short seasons.
On his growing resume is one ring, and records for most touchdown passes by a rookie quarterback and most wins through the first three seasons. Some will without hesitation note the litany of talent surrounding Wilson, particularly on the x's side of the ball.
And on the surface it is a plausible argument. But watch the games and you will realize how often he is able to elevate his play when the lights illuminate most -- last year's Super Bowl immediately comes to mind.
I do not think Wilson's as good as Andrew Luck simply because of the command with which he runs the offense does not compare with that of the Stanford graduate, but that doesn't mitigate his greatness -- Wilson is already a top-10 passer in the game. Like quarterbacks Luck, Rodgers and the not-yet-mentioned Cam Newton, Wilson is a highly-effective dual-threat, and led all his contemporaries in rush yards this season (7.5 yards per rush).
Newton is another player that seems to be overlooked by sports aficionados. Another de facto running quarterback, Cam has had high points and low points in his career. To date he has led his team to two playoff appearances -- 2013 and this season -- in four seasons, while earning rookie of the year honors in 2011 and earning a trip to the annual Pro Bowl.
At 6-feet-6 and 250 pounds, Cam is a big boy who is extremely dangerous when running out of the pocket and extremely difficult to bring down.
The achilles heel of both quarterbacks rest in their consistency (or lack thereof). I trust these two the least of the remaining franchise players because they are can be the most erratic throwing the football -- each can be spectacular for a quarter and then the next absolutely stink. It's unfathomable at times.
In Wilson's case, some will mention he has six touchdown passes to just one interception in the playoffs, but there have been plenty of passes that could have been caught by the defense or that were nowhere close to his desired target. Plus, he doesn't throw the ball -- neither does Cam for that matter -- throw the ball much to throw many interceptions.
Joe Flacco vs. Tony Romo
HOW 'BOUT DEM COWBOYS?
More like, how bout DeMarco Murray, Dez Bryant and quarterback Tony Romo.
Romo enjoyed what was clearly his best season as a professional starter. He had 32 touchdowns to just nine interceptions, led the league in total QBR and QBR on the road, and led the league in passer ratings. It was a different player in Romo, not costing his team wins with untimely turnovers -- I barely recognized the nine-year pro.
No, Romo is not solely to blame for all of Dallas' misfortunes over the past five years, but he sure was one of the primary culprits. Moreover, after leading the team to 12 victories in the regular season, Ramiro -- his middle name -- guided his team to his second playoff victory of his career against the Lions.
Hey, Detroit fans!
Like Rodgers, who finished a tenth of a point behind his Cowboys' counterpart in QBR and ended second behind him in passer rating, Romo is another player who is hard to make a case against. Because of Murray's stellar season, Romo does not have to shoulder the load on offense like he used to. However I am concerned about what will happen if the running game suddenly becomes nonexistent and Romo has to fling the ball 40 times.
Will he turn the ball over like we've been accustomed to? Will he throw mind-numbing interceptions by pressing too much, due to the lack of talent on the defensive side of his squad? I still don't fully trust Romo in that situation, unlike those who have had a change of heart.
He deserves credit for what he has done this season, but is still an unproven commodity at this time of year -- again, just two playoff victories in nine plus seasons?! I want a quarterback that I know will come to ball and in whom I can put overabundant faith, and that's why Flacco gets the nod over Romo here.
Listen, contrary to what Ravens coach John Harbaugh asserts, I do not believe Joe Flacco is the best quarterback in football.
His inconsistencies during the regular season throughout his career kill his chances of being given that honor. In fact, the other seven signal callers remaining are all better.
But not in January, and as long as we're talking about January, it's Flacco or bust to me.
Marquel Ingram is an aspiring sports writer from Rutgers University. He loves the Colts, Yankees and the Mavericks. Follow him on Twitter: @marquel_ingram