The NFL is a league of expectations, and teams are held to elevated standards on a seemingly yearly basis. Success is hard to gauge; Detroit Lions coach Jim Schwartz took his team to the playoffs last year and lost, yet earned a contract extension as a result. In 2007, Marty Schottenheimer led the Chargers to a playoff berth and 14-2 record but still got the axe.
Quarterbacks are judged about as closely as coaches, and expectations shape people’s perception of them. I recently discussed Matt Ryan, and the fact that he needed to win at least one playoff game to be considered successful in any way. Ravens QB Joe Flacco is living under similar conditions, only his case is more complicated.
Flacco is entering a contract year, and since last season ended he has insisted that he is a top-5, elite quarterback. What that really means is that he wants an enormous contract that would put him in the same financial bracket as the Bradys and Mannings of the League.
He undoubtedly feels he deserves a fat payday, but by making the statement public he expressed that he truly believes he is a top-5 QB. That raises expectations that were already high, and it can potentially put Flacco in a bad spot.
Flacco has won a playoff game in each of his five seasons, and he has also started every game in his career. Sunday will mark the third time in five years that Flacco will start for the Ravens in the AFC Championship game, which helps complete a very impressive resume.
If Flacco was viewed as a “good” or “very good” quarterback, everyone would be raving about his accomplishments. The compliments are being held back because Flacco hasn’t been a model of consistency during his career, although it would be unfair to label him as inconsistent. Joe Flacco’s self-praise is understandable, but he’s put himself in a corner.
Flacco has never had spectacular numbers during the regular season; he sports a respectable-but-not-eye-popping 86.3 career quarterback rating, and had several games this year where he was unable to get anything going for the Ravens’ offense.
Aaron Rodgers recently said that the regular season is where you make your paycheck, but “the postseason is all about creating your legacy.” This is hard to definitely apply to Flacco. He has had “good” regular seasons, and “successful” postseasons, but he has never made it to a Super Bowl. The world may not have had that expectation for Joe Flacco before he labeled himself as a top-5 QB, but now it’s all he can do to elevate himself to the upper echelon of NFL signal callers.
Flacco is said to be looking for a contract in the $18-19M range. If he loses in the AFC Championship for the third time, the Ravens may have a hard time justifying that type of payday. There is no doubt that the Ravens want Joe Flacco to be their QB for years to come, but it doesn’t mean that they will give in to any price tag. If Flacco wants to be truly respected as one of the best, he needs to take down the best on Sunday.