If you would, please allow me to vent for a bit this morning.
There's a topic which has been bugging me lately and I'd like to take a few minutes - or paragraphs, rather - to address it and finally put it behind me.
For whatever reason, one of the big talking points both nationally and locally coming out of the Ravens' dramatic 23-20 win over the Steelers Sunday night had nothing to do with the actual victory and what it meant for the Ravens' season.
This discussion didn't center on the Ravens' chances of earning an AFC North title or whether they had put together a momentum-starting win which could carry them through a tough November schedule.
Instead, a host of people - some media members and some fans - have become obsessed with the question of whether or not quarterback Joe Flacco has reached the "elite" tier of quarterbacks.
Two ESPN columnists recently had a "hot button" debate on the topic. One national analyst brings the subject up after every subpar effort from Flacco, providing the latest evidence to support his stance on the matter. Another vehemently defends Flacco, saying he's got all the tools and deserves to be mentioned among the top quarterbacks in the NFL.
It's almost as if some pundits and fans around the country hope for a certain performance from the Ravens' quarterback - either overwhelmingly positive or horrendously poor - in order to give themselves more firepower the next time the Flacco discussion is broached.
Through all this chatter, I simply am left wondering why the hell it matters. What is this fixation with determining whether or not Flacco is in that top level of quarterbacks? Is that really how we can best spend our time analyzing this Ravens team and the guy it sends out under center?
Any of us who have watched Flacco on a weekly basis this season know what the fourth-year signal caller is: a guy who, on any given Sunday, can throw for 350 yards and three touchdowns and at times look close to unstoppable in the process, and a guy who just as easily can go 15-of-48, fire passes five yards over the head of open receivers and look completely lost in the process.
He can dominate one quarter and turn the ball over three times during the next 15-minute stretch. He can give up a fumble which turns into the go-ahead score for the opposing team and then lead a 92-yard game-winning drive minutes later.
That's Joe Flacco, folks. Love him or leave him.
Flacco isn't Aaron Rodgers. He's not Tom Brady. He's not Peyton Manning or Drew Brees or Ben Roethlisberger. Nope, no chance.
Beyond that, does it matter whether Flacco ranks below Matt Schaub or above Matt Ryan? Is this what we want to be spending our time talking about the day after one of the greatest and most exciting Ravens regular season wins in the last handful of years?
The only question of any true substance here is whether Flacco can do enough - with the help of the other 52 guys around him - to get the Ravens to Indianapolis for Super Bowl XLVI.
I know that some might say that I'm being critical of my own kind here, and that it's the fault of the sports media that this topic keeps getting brought up. Of course, those who take that stance would be completely correct; these discussions are a perfect way for sports radio hosts and columnists to keep fans engaged and excited about the game during what can be a slow mid-week stretch between contests.
But I maintain that there are far more interesting and important discussions which can be had.
Flacco came through with a big-time performance Sunday night, and that two-minute, game-winning drive late in regulation might have been his finest series as a pro. I sure wish we could just celebrate his successes and analyze where he needs to improve without constantly coming back to that "elite" label.
I'll now proceed to put away this soap box and continue with my day.