Joe Flacco needs to back up his words

April, 4, 2012
4/04/12
1:33
AM ET
Some argue that Joe Flacco is among the most underrated quarterbacks in the NFL. Others see him as one of the top quarterbacks under 30.

Now, raise your hand if you believe Flacco is the best quarterback in the NFL. Anyone? I mean anyone not wearing a purple No. 5 jersey.

"I think I’m the best," Flacco told a Baltimore radio station when asked if he felt like he was a top-five quarterback. "I don’t think I’m the top five, I think I’m the best. I wouldn’t be very successful at my job if I didn’t feel that way."

[+] EnlargeJoe Flacco
AP Photo/Matt SlocumJoe Flacco is right to believe he's a top NFL quarterback -- now he just needs to back it up.
This reminds me of the time before last season when Eli Manning said he would put himself in the same class as Tom Brady. Everyone laughed until Manning beat Brady in the Super Bowl.

Flacco faces the same situation: You said it, so let's see if you can back it up.

Like Manning, Flacco was right to say it. No matter what you or I think, Flacco should believe he's the best quarterback in the league. Just like Colt McCoy should think he's leading the Browns to the division title.

How was Flacco supposed to respond when asked that question? I guess he could have given a more toned-down answer -- that he doesn't compare himself to other quarterbacks, for example, or doesn't place labels on himself. If he'd said that he was the 15th best quarterback in the NFL, people would be ripping him for having no faith in himself.

Flacco isn't Kyle Boller. He's won more games in his first four seasons than any other quarterback in NFL history. Flacco directed a winning 92-yard touchdown drive in the final minute against the NFL's top-rated defense last year. He also outplayed Brady in the AFC Championship Game and was one stripped pass away from leading the Ravens to the Super Bowl.

The problem is, Flacco looked like he was the NFL's worst quarterback at times, too. He struggled to complete passes and record first downs in prime-time disasters last season against the New York Jets and Jacksonville Jaguars.

Before Flacco can say he's "the best," he has to show he's consistent. He has to prove that the team can depend on him week after week. He has to take the Ravens to a Super Bowl and win it. That's the definition of being "the best" in the NFL. Right now, Flacco isn't even the best quarterback in his division.

Last season, Flacco didn't finish in the top 10 in completion rate (26th), passing yards (12th), touchdowns (13th) or quarterback rating (18th). You don't need to call for a Discount Double Check to see the disparity between Flacco and a certain quarterback in Green Bay.

It's understandable why Flacco has this attitude. He's always having to defend himself against critics. For some reason, he's become a punching bag for NFL players during the past year. During last offseason, Steelers linebacker LaMarr Woodley said Flacco will never win a Super Bowl "in this lifetime." And, during last season's playoff run, Flacco's own teammate -- safety Ed Reed -- questioned the quarterback's hold on the offense.

From Flacco's point of view, he has to pump himself up because it seems like no one else will. You don't hear the same criticism or negativity directed toward Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, who has similar career passing numbers as Flacco but no playoff wins.

Flacco isn't a cocky quarterback, but he is very prideful. You ask him if he's the best quarterback, and he's going to say that he is. Flacco has thought of himself as the underdog ever since he entered the NFL as a first-round pick out of FCS school Delaware. "I had to go down to the minor leagues of college football to prove who I was," Flacco said after getting drafted by the Ravens four years ago. "I'm going to carry that with me for the rest of my life and use it for the best."

So it's not a matter of whether Flacco is the best quarterback in the NFL. He's obviously not. What's important is that he believes it. The challenge now is to back it up.

Jamison Hensley

ESPN Ravens reporter

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