In case you haven’t heard, Joe Flacco is now the highest-paid player in the history of the NFL after agreeing to a six-year, $120.6 million deal with the Baltimore Ravens. While Flacco may have guided his team to an improbable Super Bowl run, he is far from the best player in the NFL, let alone the best quarterback.
Flacco may have the financial backing of the Ravens, but unless he puts up Peyton Manning-like numbers, there will always be those out there who question whether Baltimore coughed up too much money to keep its starting quarterback happy.
I will be the first to admit that Flacco’s efficient and clutch play down the stretch of the season is the biggest reason why Baltimore won the Super Bowl. Without Flacco’s remarkable performances, the Ravens would probably have ridden Ray Lewis’ emotional goodbye tour to a first-round playoff exit.
During the postseason, Flacco posted a ridiculous touchdown-to-interception ratio of 11-0 that was capped by a 287-yard, three-touchdown performance in the Super Bowl. His postseason performance was perhaps one of the greatest all-time by a quarterback in the NFL. He proved he was the quarterback of the future after being questioned by so many during his five seasons in the league.
Despite the playoff performances, can you really say that Joe Flacco is currently the best quarterback in the NFL and will live up to what his contract suggests he is worth? During the regular season, Flacco ranked a mediocre 12th in the league in passer rating, ranking behind guys such as Phillip Rivers and Tony Romo. He was also 15th in touchdown passes with 22, 14th in yards with 3,817 and 19th in completion percentage at 59.7 percent on the season.
Flacco knows how to win with a stellar defense behind him, but with Lewis retiring, the pressure will only intensify next season as Joe tries to lead the Ravens with a fat sack of cash in his back pocket. Baltimore’s defense will surely be different without its leader and the Ravens may never be the same dominant team fans have grown to expect in the last decade and a half. But Flacco certainly has the talent to ensure Baltimore stays relevant post-Lewis.
Respect has always been an issue with Flacco, especially in his dealings with the media. He publicly said he felt he was the best quarterback in the NFL last season but failed to back it up with consistent performance until the playoffs. There will be much scrutiny for Flacco next season as he is sure to take a beating from the media at any sign of mediocre performance.
Yesterday, he even said he felt more respected now because of his new contract. If his incredible play this postseason didn’t earn him the respect of his franchise and the rest of the NFL, I doubt an overpaid contract will. He is a well-respected player in this league but the fact that he needs the justification of a contract to feel respected does not sound like a player deserving of the top contract in the NFL.
At a time when other players such as Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger have taken less money, or are at least in talks to do so, Flacco and his agent demanded a contract reserved only for the truly elite. Say what you will about Flacco’s performance in the playoffs, but there is no way he is worth over $20 million a year and I highly doubt he will prove to be worth that much in the coming seasons.
The guys who come to mind when asked who is the best quarterback in the NFL are players like Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning or Brady. No one, except for Flacco himself, would be so bold to say that Joe Flacco is the best quarterback in the league.
Maybe Flacco will once again prove everyone wrong, just as he has done up until this point in his career, and live up to his contract. Not bad for a guy whose own father admitted he was a dull guy just as he is portrayed in the media. I guess we will see if Flacco is truly worth all that money next season.
A version of this article appeared on page 6 of March 5th, 2013′s print edition of the Nexus.