ESPN's Ron Jaworski raised eyebrows recently when he ranked the Baltimore Ravens' Joe Flacco at No. 4 on his quarterback rankings. That's ahead of Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger, Eli Manning and Matt Ryan.
I wouldn't have placed Flacco that high because he hasn't shown enough consistency throughout a full regular season. He hasn't thrown for 4,000 yards. He hasn't completed 60 percent of his passes since the 2010 season. And he's never thrown for more than 25 touchdowns.
That being said, I can certainly understand why Jaworski ranked Flacco just behind the likes of Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers. Flacco had a playoff run for the ages last season, throwing 11 touchdowns and no interceptions. No quarterback has thrown for more touchdowns in a single postseason, and only Joe Montana threw for as many without an interception.
In that postseason, Flacco outplayed Peyton Manning in the AFC divisional round and outperformed Brady in the AFC Championship Game for the second straight season. This unbelievable stretch didn't occur by happenstance. It coincided with the Ravens changing offensive coordinators. If Flacco can deliver under Jim Caldwell in 2013 like he did in last season's playoffs, he will be considered a top-five quarterback by everyone, and not just Jaworski.
Of course, this is based solely on projection. Right now, Brees has been the more consistent quarterback, throwing back-to-back 5,000-yard seasons in a pass-oriented attack. Roethlisberger and Eli Manning have won more Super Bowls than Flacco.
Jaworski, though, has taken heat over his evaluation of Flacco in the past. Last year, he drew criticism for putting Flacco at No. 9.
"All I heard last summer was that Flacco needed to take the next step," Jaworski said. "Flacco was outstanding in the Super Bowl. His ability to make downfield throws off movement was a deciding factor in the game. Few think of Flacco as a mobile quarterback, but his functional mobility created explosive, game-changing plays."
Jaworski added: “Joe Flacco is now a Super Bowl champion. That counts an awful lot in my evaluation of quarterbacks. That is why he jumped from No. 9 to No. 4 in my quarterback rankings.”
Jaworski on Dalton: “For the second year in a row, Andy Dalton is the 19th-rated quarterback on my big board. I truly believed he would make a significant jump, but despite solid numbers in many categories, he played too tentative at times and left far too many plays on the field."
Jaworski on Roethlisberger: “I have always placed a premium on winning in my evaluation of quarterbacks. Ben Roethlisberger has won 69 percent of his NFL starts, including the playoffs. Few would argue that he was not the decisive player in a large majority of those wins."