FlaccoHe’s the first quarterback since 1970 to reach the playoffs in each of his first five seasons. He’s won at least one playoff game in all of his five trips. Also a first. He trails only Tom Brady (9) for the most playoff wins in a quarterback’s first five seasons. A win in the Super Bowl would tie him. Since 2008, only one other quarterback has won more games as a starter than Joe Flacco. That one quarterback is neither Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Aaron Rogers,  nor any other quarterback we’d call “elite.” These facts combined with his unreal performance in the playoffs have provided fodder for members of the “Joe Flacco is Elite Fan Club,” but not for its founding member Joe Flacco.

“I don’t really care,” Flacco said of whether he’s considered elite. “To be honest with you, it’s kind of a crazy question. It’s weird to answer. I’m just going to let my play speak for itself. I don’t know if it’s answered it or not. It’s really not my job to concern myself with that. You guys can all talk about that. If we come out here and play the game the way we should and the way we can, then I don’t care and I don’t think anyone else is going to care. We’re going to be feeling pretty good about ourselves and what we accomplished.”

Of course this a stark contrast to what Flacco told WNST in Baltimore last April. Said Flacco, “I think I’m the best (quarterback in the NFL). I don’t think I’m top five. I think I’m the best.”

As I noted last week, Flacco is certainly playing at an elite level this postseason. Call it luck. Call it Late For Dinner. Call it what you will. The semantics do not matter. Not as much as the facts, at least. The facts are that Flacco’s 8-0 touchdown-to-interception ratio is a rarity in playoff football. The success with which he is throwing deep passes is unprecedented. The Ravens are not in the Super Bowl in spite of Flacco. They are there because of him.

Granted, quarterbacking the Ravens to a Super Bowl isn’t a surefire indicator of elitehood. If it was, then we’d be extolling the virtues of Trent Dilfer–namely, those of his goatee. Alas, the discussion of Dilfer rings similarly to that of Flacco. That is, football is not played in a vacuum. It’s hard to forget that Flacco has always played with a dominant running game and an even more dominant defense. And so, to categorize Flacco as “elite” would be to express personal taste–or bias.

Since we’re in the business of disseminating such views to the (local) masses, we spoke with NFL Writer Mike Wilkening and Mike Fast of Bleacher Report.

Wilkening has experience covering the AFC North, as well as the Houston Texans and Tennessee Titans, and currently maintains his own blog, where he offers analysis and handicapping. Follow him on Twitter: @MikeWilkening.

Fast is a Ravens blogger and Featured Columnist at the Bleacher Report. If you prefer your Ravens analysis to be more concise, follow Mike on Twitter: @MikeFastJr

East Bay Sports Guy (EBSG):: ESPN ranks Joe Flacco as the 25th best passer in the NFL–according to their “Total QBR,” anyway. Pro Football Focus ranks him 14th. And yet, Joe Flacco and his agent believe he’s one of the top-five quarterbacks in the league. Perhaps he’s proven as much in the playoffs. Where do you rank Flacco?  

Mike Wilkening: It’s a tough one. I’d rank him no higher than eighth, but if he’s outside the top 10, he’s not very far outside of that spot. So let’s say somewhere between Nos. 8-12. There’s a lot to like about what Flacco has done and where he’s going.

Mike Fast: In the regular season, I had Flacco ranked 7th (Rodgers, Brady, Brees, E. Manning, P. Manning, Roethlisberger, Flacco). Total QBR, to me, is kind of a joke. People talk about Flacco being inconsistent which is pure laziness. Look at his stats. Every year his stats have increased (or haven’t gotten significantly worse). He’s never thrown more than 10 INT in a year and has never missed a start since Day 1. And besides, if the playoffs are the most important part of the game and that’s where Flacco plays the best, how is that a bad thing?

EBSG: It seems as though Caldwell has placed a bigger emphasis on the deep pass. Given the relative difficulty in completing deep balls, is this new focus beneficial and sustainable for Joe Flacco and the Ravens’ offense?

Wilkening: The deep pass was a key part of the offense with Cameron and will be a major part of any attack with Flacco as the starting quarterback, no matter the coordinator. The key is connecting on enough those downfield shots to make it a winning strategy. The Ravens’ ability to do this beat Denver in the divisional round. They had far less success at New England on a windy afternoon but picked the Patriots apart underneath.

Fast: I think Caldwell’s influence has more to do with balance and tempo. Meaning, they are running (more effectively) in short yardage situations and getting back to an up-tempo offense. The deep ball threat has always been there, but the balance in the run game is opening it up more. As far as it being good for Flacco, sure it is, because any time you play to the strengths of your players (Flacco’s strength being his arm strength and deep accuaracy) it puts you in the best position to succeed.