'I don't think I'm top-five; I think I'm the best.' - Joe Flacco (Getty Images)
Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco has had a sometimes prickly relationship with the media. For the most part it's come down to this: In his view, Baltimore's covered differently than other teams. Specifically: Nobody takes note when they win, but as soon as they lose people can't point out the team's shortcomings fast enough.
From the media's perspective, it may have more to do with Flacco's play from one week to the next not matching his physical skills. Baltimore lost to the Titans, Jaguars and Seahawks last year -- all games, to varying degrees, in which Flacco struggled.
But the former first-round pick is entering the last year of his rookie contract, and agent Joe Linta has already said that Flacco is looking for "top-five" money.
"If the game is about wins and losses, he has to be in the top five [quarterbacks]," Linta said in February. "He is a player who has been extremely durable, never missed a game. And he's done something that no one has ever done. In his four years in the league, he has never missed a game and has more wins than any other quarterback."
It's a silly argument, using quarterback wins to determine salary, and you don't have to look any further the Ravens' AFC Championship Game against the Patriots. Should Flacco get the "loss" because Billy Cundiff missed a last-second field goal? Alternatively, should Tom Brady be awarded the "win"? By all accounts, he had a horrible game and was outplayed by Flacco.
Anyway, Flacco was asked if considers himself a top-five quarterback.
"Without a doubt," he said via SportsRadioInterviews.com. "What do you expect me to say? … I assume everybody thinks they're a top-five quarterback. I mean, I think I'm the best. I don't think I'm top-five, I think I'm the best. I don't think I'd be very successful at my job if I didn't feel that way. I mean, come on? That's not really too tough of a question. But that doesn't mean that things are gonna work out that way. It just means that that's the way it is, that's the way I feel it is, and that's the way I feel it should be."
We have no issues with Flacco thinking he's the league's best quarterback. He's right: He wouldn't be very successful if he felt otherwise. But the reality is that Flacco's more like a top-15 quarterback, at least according to Football Outsiders. Using their QB efficiency metric, Flacco ranked 14th in total value among all NFL quarterbacks in 2011, and 18th in value per play. He was just behind Andy Dalton and Alex Smith, and ahead of Cam Newton and Matt Hasselbeck.
Flacco's free to think of himself as a Madden creation with 99s across the board if that gets him properly motivated. But that doesn't mean the Ravens will be inclined to pay him "top-five money" even if they do seem interested in re-signing him.
Exacerbating things: running back Ray Rice, arguably Baltimore's best offensive player, is looking for a long-term deal, too.
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