For the second year in a row, I find myself writing my begrudging respect for an NFL quarterback after his Super Bowl performance. I tipped my hat last year by writing Eli Manning – 2x Super Bowl MVP – a Leader’s Journey. This year’s NFL playoffs made a believer out of me as I watched Joe Flacco put up the best numbers at the quarterback position. And in this case, the stats do not lie! Check out the graphic shown below courtesy of ESPN. Notice the 11 Touchdowns to 0 Interceptions! And that longest pass play of 70 yards…yeah, that was against my beloved Denver Broncos to tie the game at the end of regulation. It still hurts – give me a moment, will ya.
With a pedestrian 87.7 quarterback rating during the regular season, Joe Flacco withstood intense criticism even as Ravens management pondered his contract status. Many a fan, and perhaps even some teammates in the Ravens locker room, wondered if he was the long-term solution at quarterback.
But real leaders prepare for the big stage, take motivation from criticism, and rise to the occasion to become champions.
Flacco’s quarterback rating in 4 playoff games:
- 125.6 Against the Indianapolis Colts
- 116.2 Against the Denver Broncos (somebody wake me from this nightmare)
- 106.3 Against the New England Patriots
- 124.2 Against the San Francisco 49ers – on the biggest stage, the Super Bowl
So what can we learn from Joe Flacco?
- Listen to your naysayers – but only for motivation. I do not believe in disregarding criticism because there are nuggets of truth to be found and leveraged. Correct what you can, and move on.
- Adapt to adversity – in addition to the naysayers, the Baltimore Ravens fired the offensive coordinator in the middle of the season. Rather than use it as an excuse, Flacco quickly adapted to the new coordinator’s more aggressive play-calling.
- Trust in your skill set – Flacco always had a strong arm, and he used it for some bombs when receivers got behind pass coverage (great, now I’ll be dreaming about that 70 yd reception again). However, he also showed mobility to avoid sacks in the Super Bowl, accuracy to hit his receivers when they were open, and that “muscle between the ears” to make good decisions. Those good decisions show up on the stat line with the zero interceptions against 11 touchdowns.
- Sign the big contract – The Ravens shelved contract talks in the middle of the season as they mulled over whether Flacco was a top-tier quarterback…or a middle-tier quarterback. When it came time to “put up or shut up”, Flacco put up astounding numbers against great competition (including two hall of fame quarterbacks in Peyton Manning and Tom Brady) in this postseason. Do your job well, and the rewards will come.
What did you learn from this improbable Baltimore Ravens run to Super Bowl victory? I hope that next year I’m writing another Denver Broncos Excellence post shortly after Peyton Manning hoists another Super Bowl MVP trophy. C’mon, let a sports fan be an optimist for a bit…this post was tough to write!
Photo of Joe Flacco By Keith Allison via Wikimedia Commons