But this is a team in transition. Lewis just played in his last game and Reed is an aging free agent who may be playing elsewhere next year.
This season Joe Flacco altered the perception that he is simply a serviceable quarterback. He is much more than that—he is elite. This was highly evidenced by his historic four-game performance in these playoffs when he threw 11 touchdowns and no interceptions. Flacco outplayed two future Hall of Fame quarterbacks on the road.
He had arguably the greatest four-game postseason performance by a quarterback in NFL playoff history.
So is he elite?
There is a long list of names that come to mind when discussing elite quarterbacks. Here are ESPN football analyst Ron Jaworski’s top 10 pre-2012 rankings quarterback rankings:
Being elite is not about putting up gaudy numbers, it’s about winning football games—especially the ones that count. Joe Flacco has done that better than anybody in recent history. If the top six, regardless of the order, stays the same heading into the 2013-14 season, Flacco should be number seven. After all, they are all former Super Bowl champions.
This season he became the first quarterback to lead his team to the playoffs every year for the first five years of his career—pretty impressive considering he plays in the tough AFC North. Flacco also owns a career 9-3 record in the postseason—that’s more playoff wins than Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Eli Manning.
At this rate, the 28-year-old Flacco could challenge Tom Brady for the all-time record for postseason victories by the time his career ends.
It took him a while to get recognized for his efforts, but with confetti falling as he hoisted the Vince Lombardi trophy, the world watched as the NFL’s newest elite quarterback was crowned a champion.