The Joe Flacco Show
By: Michael Tula (BTP Sports)
The most underrated and too often overlooked trait in all of sports—aside from availability—is the ability to close a game. So many times, media gurus and fans alike will debate over the best players in their respective sports when such debates can be resolved by confining the criteria to one simple question: is the player in question a closer? If he isn’t, then he doesn’t deserve mention. Pretty simple.
So how do you weed out the closers? What is a closer? A closer is simply someone who elevates his game in pressure situations.If people used this simple measurement to judge a player or team, then every fan in the NBA would know that a team like the Houston Rockets has no chance at an NBA title because of the simple fact that they do not have a proven playoff closer (James Harden is anything but). The Toronto Raptors are off to a great start, but they don’t have a proven closer either. And so forth.
When looking at the NFL playoffs as we head into the divisional round, there are a bevy of fan favorites at the quarterback position: Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Cam Newton, Russell Wilson, Andrew Luck, Tony Romo and Joe Flacco. Want to know who’s the best closer of that bunch? Joe Flacco. By a mile. It’s not even close.
The “eye test” (as nauseating as it may be for me to even use that hackneyed term) plays heavily in Joe Flacco’s favor. Since 2010, he has been exceptional in the playoffs and has consistently outplayed opposing quarterbacks—including Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger & Peyton Manning. He never panics. He makes timely plays when his team needs them the most. He has a knack for converting on 3rd & longs in key situations. Just last week, he converted on the following 3rd downs that led to points: 3rd & 7 (TD), 3rd & 10 (FG), and 3rd & 14 at their own 12yd line (FG). He also has 7 road playoff wins—the most in the league since the 1970 merger. Most importantly, he takes care of the football and rarely makes mistakes. This keeps his team in games and gives Flacco an opportunity to closeout games in the 4th quarter. Yes, the Ravens typically have a game defense and have historically relied on a power running game—but upon further inspection, Joe Flacco is the number one reason why Baltimore is always a very dangerous playoff team. You honestly think Indianapolis or Pittsburgh would have preferred to play against Baltimore over Kansas City or Houston? Please.
When looking at Joe Flacco’s playoff statistics, the picture becomes crystal clear. Since 2010, Joe Flacco has played in 9 playoff games. In those 9 games, he is 7-2 and has thrown 20 touchdowns to just 2 Interceptions—a phenomenal playoff ratio. His numbers aren’t inflated by monster 4-6 TD games either as he has made a living out of the 2, sometimes 3 TD 0INT statline. By comparison? Since 2010, Tom Brady has a 4-4 record in 8 playoff games and has thrown 15 TD to 6 INTs (threw 6 TD’s against a Matt “Shwab” led Texans team). Peyton Manning has a 2-2 record (injured all of 2011) and has thrown 8TD & 5 INTs. However, it is well known that Peyton Manning has a tendency to underperform or at least not “elevate” his game in the playoffs. Even during his Superbowl run with Indianapolis, he threw just 3TD’s to 7INT’s (although, to his credit, he gutted out a win against a tough 13-3 Baltimore team in Baltimore despite throwing 0TD to 2INT’s that game). Russell Wilson? He’s 4-1 and has thrown for 6 TDs to 1 INT. Despite his short career, Wilson has proved himself to be more than capable in big moments in the playoffs. In 2012, his best game of the season was the playoff eliminator against Atlanta when he rallied his team and went 24/36 for 385yds 2TD 1INT. Aaron Rodgers has gone 5-3 in 8 playoff games (4-0 during 2010 Super Bowl Run) and has thrown for 15TDs to 5 INTs. All good—even great numbers, but nowhere near Joe Flacco.
ESPN pundit Skip Bayless has coined the term Joe “Fluke”-O to describe the erratic play of Joe Flacco. His Joe Flacco monologue would perhaps hold some merit if he confined his argument to the regular season, because Joe Flacco—for all intents and purposes—is the Robert Horry of the NFL playoffs. His career regular season QB rating is 84.8 compared to his playoff QB rating (since 2010) of 104.3. If his last 4 playoff appearances have proven anything, it’ll be that a bad playoff game out of Joe Flacco would be a mere “fluke”-o at this point (sorry, had to).
So if you’re still wondering why the Ravens gave Flacco that enormous contract, just take note of his playoff success. Quarterbacks prove their worth & make their money in the playoffs—not by winning your fantasy football league. And you shouldn’t be surprised if Baltimore knocks off New England in the divisional round. Unfortunately for Patriot fans, our own Sports Morpheus Richard Walker has already prophesied a Baltimore win—which all but guarantees that The Joe Flacco Show gets picked up for at least one more episode after this weekend.