IRVING, Texas – No statistic exists to separate the "elite" quarterbacks from the ordinary ones.
Go check out the best quarterbacks statistically from the 2012 season and Joe Flacco will be No. 13 on that list with 3,817 yards passing. That certainly doesn't sound "elite." Neither did his 87.7 passer rating, which put him 12th in the league in that second tier of quarterback talents. He finished 19th in the regular season and seventh in the postseason in completion percentage.
None of those statistics are anything new for Flacco, yet he has every reason to call himself "elite," in a never-ending, fruitless debate that could go on forever.
That "Average Joe" quarterback just went to the playoffs for the fifth straight season since entering the league in 2008. Flacco threw 11 touchdown passes, no interceptions and amassed a 117.2 passer rating in the playoffs.
He pulled in a Super Bowl title by taking care of the ball and finding playmakers like Anquan Boldin, who, like Flacco, came up in the clutch. Boldin didn't possess the dazzling regular season statistics of some of his competitors, but his strength and ability to go up and snag a pass allowed Flacco to take calculated risks. The quarterback trusted that every time he threw in Boldin's direction, the ball would either reach his receiver's hands or fall incomplete.
With everything on the line, Flacco's touchdown-to-interception ratio in the playoffs was surreal. The same guy who completed just 59.7 percent of his passes in the regular season, the same guy who threw for just 3,817 yards, the same guy who probably wasn't starting in your fantasy football league, just went through four playoff games without an interception and averaged 2.75 touchdowns per game.
A similar "elite" debate surrounded quarterback Eli Manning, who always seemed to be a serviceable quarterback but lacked the talent of his older brother. He then won his second Super Bowl title at the end of the 2011 season, throwing just one interception in four playoff games after tossing 16 in the regular season.
Between Manning and Flacco, the last two Super Bowl champion quarterbacks played eight games with a combined one interception. It's a statistic the Cowboys should take heed of after failing to reach the playoffs in a win-or-go-home regular season finale the past two seasons, throwing a combined four interceptions in those games.
Turnovers will destroy any team who wants to string together wins.
Tony Romo finished the 2012 season with more than 100 yards passing than Flacco, as well as six more touchdown throws and a better passer rating. But none of that mattered because Romo sat at home in January and February after tying for the league lead with 19 interceptions.
The sense of comfort and serenity felt in the pocket by "Flawless Flacco" during the playoffs could rarely be found in the Cowboys backfield at any point in the regular season. A struggling offensive line that forced DeMarco Murray to open his own holes and made Romo frantically create his own passing lanes wasn't conducive to January football. [embedded_ad]
The Cowboys were 5-2 when Romo didn't throw a pick and 3-6 when he did. The Ravens were 6-1 when Flacco didn't throw a pick and 4-5 when he did. Flacco learned that lesson and fixed it when it mattered most to reach the playoffs and make a run. Romo wasn't able to do that, in large part because of the protection he lacked and the decisions he made.
With a Super Bowl ring, Romo can widely be considered an elite quarterback. The Cowboys can help attain that by bolstering the line and providing an existent running game, but until he demonstrates ball security and an ability to convert with the season on the line, any hopes of a title will just be fantasy football.