Inconsistency can't be overlooked
Joe Flacco is not an elite quarterback. He is good, and he has the potential to be very good. But elite quarterbacks are the great ones, and Flacco, now in his fourth season with the Baltimore Ravens, isn't consistent enough to be considered great.
Just look at Flacco's past five games. He has been all over the map. In Week 3 at St. Louis, he threw for 389 yards and three touchdowns, with zero interceptions. The next week against the New York Jets, he misfired on 21 of 31 passes and threw for only 163 yards. Talk about inconsistent: Flacco went two entire quarters without throwing a completion.
That is not elite.
After a bye, Flacco completed more than 60 percent of his passes for 305 yards against Houston. A week later, he threw for 137 yards in a loss to Jacksonville. Then last week, in a rousing comeback against Arizona, Flacco threw for 336.
Hot. Cold. Hot. Cold. Hot.
For the season, Flacco has completed a career-low 53.8 percent of his passes, including 46.9 percent in Week 2 at Tennessee, with eight touchdowns and six interceptions. Those aren't elite numbers.
Flacco has great size and a big arm and he isn't afraid of contact. He is very good out of the shotgun with short, quick throws. He seems to thrive in a hurry-up situation.
But Flacco is not a drop-back passer. He doesn't lead his receivers, and although he has improved his ability to escape pressure, Flacco usually doesn't do much with the ball once he does. He doesn't turn the ball over in those situations, but he doesn't create plays, either.
Not everybody gets the "elite" status. It is reserved for consistently great players who throw for a lot of yards, have high completion percentages, avoid turnovers and win games. You know them when you see them. Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and Drew Brees are at the head of the class. Peyton Manning is there when healthy. Ben Roethlisberger, Eli Manning, Michael Vick, Matt Schaub and Philip Rivers, among others, are there, although Rivers is turning the ball over way too much this season. Some young players are making arguments to get into that category, most notably Cam Newton.
Flacco wins games. He is 41-21 since 2008 and is tied with Roethlisberger for the most wins, including the playoffs, in that span.
Flacco is good, potentially very good. He's just not consistent enough to be considered elite.
Ashley Fox covers the NFL for ESPN.com.
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