<
>

Poll indicates fewer NFL fans think Joe Flacco is elite quarterback

More than a dozen of Joe Flacco's teammates surprised the Baltimore Ravens quarterback during last season by wearing Flacco "elite" shirts.

That's just not representative of what the football world thinks of the Super Bowl XLVII-winning quarterback right now.

An increasing number of NFL fans said Flacco is not an elite quarterback, according to a new poll taken last week and released Monday by Public Policy Polling.

In the poll, taken of 378 NFL fans representative of the US population, 41 percent of people said he's not elite, which is up from 35 percent last year. Of those polled, 22 percent said Flacco is an elite quarterback.

Flacco didn't play like one of the top NFL quarterbacks in the league in 2016, and Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti essentially said that at the end of the season. “I certainly don’t think we saw the Joe Flacco he’s capable of being,” Bisciotti said.

Last season, Flacco was seventh in the league in passing yards (4,317). But his passer rating (83.5), interceptions (15) and yards per attempt (6.4) ranked in the bottom seven.

Flacco struggled in his first year back from season-ending knee surgery. He rushed more throws than he did in the past, he didn't see the field as well and he didn't consistently hit receivers in stride.

One indication of elite quarterbacks is how they elevate the play of those around them. That list includes the likes of Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees.

There are other quarterbacks who excel with the help of a strong supporting cast. Matt Ryan is throwing to Julio Jones, Ben Roethlisberger is surrounded by Antonio Brown and Le'Veon Bell, and Derek Carr is passing to Amari Cooper.

Flacco hasn't had the benefit of playing with skill position players in their prime. His top targets last season were the oldest receiver in the NFL (Steve Smith), a tight end who had two hip surgeries (Dennis Pitta) and a wideout who hadn't had a 1,000-yard season in five years (Mike Wallace). His best running backs were a journeyman playing for his third team in three seasons (Terrance West) and a rookie fourth-round pick (Kenneth Dixon).

As a result, the Ravens dropped 29 passes (sixth worst in the NFL), averaged four yards per carry (21st in the league) and allowed 185 quarterback pressures (10th most).

To his credit, Flacco has taken the ongoing "elite" debate in stride. He proclaimed himself to be an "elite party guest" in a recent commercial.

"There’s always some kind of question out there that tends to be the trendy one that everybody is asking this year or that year," Flacco said two years ago.

The ongoing conversation about Flacco's elite status has taken on a life on its own in recent years. Last year, a blogger held up a sign reading "Is Joe Flacco a Elite Quaterback?" (sic), which wound up on MSNBC's coverage of the first Republican debate. A month later, Donald Trump weighed in.

Said Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs, who sported the Flacco "elite" shirt when talking to reporters four months ago: "You can question a Super Bowl MVP?" Suggs said in September. "Hell no."