The Joe Flacco kerfluffle
Wanna know how to get every ESPN talking head, blogger, Twitterer and football “expert” on the planet to have a collective conniption?
Have one Joe Flacco of the Baltimore Ravens channel his inner James Alexander Dix and declare himself the best quarterback in the NFL.
Yes, our dear Mr. Flacco was trending all morning on the Twitter machines after an interview with Baltimore radio station WNST. Here’s the full quote from ESPN’s story, after Joe was asked where he ranked in the NFL QB hierarchy:
"I assume everybody thinks they're a top-five quarterback. I mean, I think I'm the best. I don't think I'm top five, I think I'm the best. I don't think I'd be very successful at my job if I didn't feel that way. I mean, c'mon? That's not really too tough of a question. That doesn't mean that things are going to work out that way. It just means that's the way it is - that's the way I feel that it is and that's the way I feel it should be”
Now, if you take into account that Flacco has been one of the most polarizing QBs in the league – his teammates love him and stick with him, national pundits tie themselves in knots over whether he’s “elite” or not, whatever that means – you can pretty much guess what the headlines were.
The headlines were written with a certain snark, as if to say, who is this joker to proclaim he’s the best? This comes on the heels of Joe’s agent, as part of Flacco’s drive for a new contract, proclaimed him a top-5 quarterback.
My first reaction to Joe’s quote, at least on its surface, was to give the sage advice of one Brian Fantana: Take it easy Champ, why don’t you stop talking for a while.
But then I read the full quote and thought, “Well, duh, what do you expect him to say?” And frankly, as a Ravens fan, I like it. I want my quarterback thinking he’s the best.
To play quarterback at any level of football requires a mix of skill, athletic ability, courage, desire and chutzpah.
To be a top NFL quarterback, you have to believe you can throw a football to a moving target 20 yards away into a window the size of an office trash can while freakishly big, strong, fast men who weigh between 250 and 300 pounds and run 40 yards in under five seconds try to take your head off.
Not only that, you have to be able to focus and manage the personalities, eccentricities and egos of 10 other guys.
It’s a lot to take on, and really the only way to do it is to have a sort of irrational confidence in yourself. You’ve gotta be crazy brave to play quarterback, a position where you risk your career every time you drop back to throw.
You also have to have a certain cockiness.
For instance, it's a well known story that Tom Brady, then at his first training camp as a spindly 6th round draft pick, told Patriots brass that it was the best decision they ever made picking him.
Another story is of Peyton Manning on the verge of the 1998 draft telling Indianapolis management that if they picked Ryan Leaf over him, he was going to haunt their franchise for the next 10 years.
Critics scoffed when Eli Manning called himself "elite" before this season; then he went out and won a second Lombardi Trophy and Super Bowl MVP.
So its not usual for a quarterback to be a little cocky. In fact, it pretty much comes with the job. Is Joe actually one of the best five quarterbacks in the NFL? Even as a Ravens fan I have to say no. Surely Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger and Eli Manning come to mind before Joe.
But is it wrong, or worthy of mockery if Flacco himself believes he’s better than all those guys? Again, what’s he supposed to say? If he doesn’t believe he’s the best, how is he supposed to look teammates in the eye and give them the confidence that he can win games for them? Even a wishy-washy answer could sow the seeds of doubt in the other 10 guys in the huddle. How can you inspire someone to believe you can win if you yourself don’t believe?
Of course, that sort of nuance does not make great headlines, and Flacco will surely catch heat for the next sports news cycle, with Skip Bayless and Screamin’ A Smith “debating” Flacco’s “elite-ness” on ESPN’s shout-o-rama known as “First Take.” Bloggers will take aim and make fun of Flacco's arrogance before the matter is forgotten until opening day when Jim Nantz brings it up the first time the Ravens offense takes the field.
Personally, I think Joe should double down and say he’s the greatest quarterback of all-time just to let the blogosphere and punditry burst into a state of hysteria not seen since Dave O’Brien in “Reefer Madness.”