HARRIS: Joe Flacco has his flaws, but Ravens QB gets results

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ANALYSIS/OPINION:

A friend who is into fantasy football found himself in a quarterback quandary fairly late in the season. That’s what happens when you bank on Mike Vick and Nick Foles. How did that work out for the Eagles?

Anyway, he ended up with Matt Schaub of the Texans and it was noted he was fortunate to be able to grab one of the NFL’s top 10 quarterbacks that late in the season.

Schaub? A top 10 quarterback? Off the conversation went on another tangent — who are the top 10 quarterbacks?

The discussion took on a life of its own. The obvious suspects were on every list. Tom Brady. Aaron Rodgers. Drew Brees. The Mannings (with a side discussion about which one really is better). Other names popped up on some lists but not others. Philip Rivers. The hot new guys like RG3, Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson. Colin Kaepernick was not a household name at the time, though he certainly has to be included now. Doesn’t he? The Matts got some love (Ryan, Schaub). Cam Newton, too, though more for what he did in 2011. Tony Romo (seriously). Ben Roethlisberger. Jay Cutler. Andy Dalton.

One name that never came up was the Ravens’ Joe Flacco, who leads Baltimore into the AFC championship game Sunday against Brady and the Patriots. Flacco, it seems, is regarded as a guy who is just kind of there. He wouldn’t be on anybody’s bottom 10 list. Yet few people, if any, seem to regard him among the NFL’s elite quarterbacks.

Maybe it is time to change that thinking.

To put him in the top five would be absurd.

To put him in the next five seems more than reasonable.

The Times’ Rich Campbell had Flacco 14th in the paper’s preseason ranking of NFL quarterbacks. Based on the 2012 season, Campbell said, he’d move him up to the 10th spot. Flacco is one of those players with enough ammo on the pro side of the ledger and the con side to enable you to make a case either way.

With the help of Times correspondent Jason Butt, who covers the Ravens, we’ve come up with those lists. Read them and make the call for yourself.

Flacco is big (6-6, 232 pounds) and strong, maybe the owner of the strongest arm in the league. He’s won a playoff game in each of his five years in the league and is in the AFC title game for the third time. His playoff record is 7-4. He also seems to have found new life since the Ravens fired offensive coordinator Cam Cameron. In his past three full games (one in the regular season, two in the playoffs), Flacco has thrown for 922 yards and seven touchdowns. With zero interceptions (and those have been one of his issues).

On the other side, Flacco has never thrown for 4,000 yards in a season and that seems to be some sort of benchmark for being considered great. He’s thrown double-digit interceptions every year. During the regular season, he had 22 touchdown passes and 14 turnovers (10 of them interceptions).

Pick a side. It says here he’s in the second tier if you break your quarterbacks into groups of five. He won’t supplant any of the top five, though they can’t play forever. He’s still young enough at 28 to improve and get into the upper echelon. Will he?

Like it or not, his perception will change a lot based on whether he wins Sunday to get the Ravens into their first Super Bowl since they won in 2001. Great numbers won’t help Flacco if he’s sitting at home for another Super Bowl. Take another look at the top five (Rodgers, Manning, Manning, Brady, Brees). Winning the Big One is something they have in common.

Flacco is in the final year of his contract that pays him about $6.7 million this season. Surely, he’s done enough that some team out there will pay him at an elite level. Think total value of $100 million or more.

The Ravens would be wise to be that team, and it is near impossible to think they won’t be that team. Ask the Redskins about how easy it is to find a competent quarterback, let alone a borderline-elite quarterback. Even if Flacco never becomes Aaron Rodgers, he’s better than what many teams currently have.

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