It has recently become common practice for quarterbacks to proclaim themselves as elite, and the media to encourage this practice by naming any quarterback to win a Super Bowl as elite. First, Eli Manning declares himself elite, then he wins a Super Bowl and everyone says, “oh yea, I guess he is elite.” Then Joe Flacco does the same thing, wins a Super Bowl, and is instantly elite. The nonsense needs to stop! Just because a quarterback’s team wins the Super Bowl does not make them elite!
The word “elite” means a person or group of people that are considered to be the best in their field because of their talent. While one can say that any team that wins a Super Bowl should be considered elite, they would only be considered elite that given year, and the elite distinction would fall on the team as a whole instead of just the quarterback. For a quarterback to be elite, their stats should be higher than almost all other quarterbacks and they need to win on a regular basis, regardless of the offense around them. They should also be the focal point of their team’s success. That is to say, if the Vikings were to win the Super Bowl this past year, Christian Ponder would not be considered elite since Adrian Peterson is the focal point of that team.
To name a quarterback elite just because they won a Super Bowl would lower the standard of being elite. Is Trent Dilfer considered elite just because he won a Super Bowl? Is Ben Roethlisberger even considered elite after winning two Super Bowls? No. The reason both teams won a Super Bowl was because of their stand-out defenses. If anything, the both Ravens Super Bowl wins and the two recent Steelers wins were because of elite defenses and stand-out offensive players that were not the quarterback. And what of the quarterback that took second place? Should he not be considered elite since he beat everyone in his conference and, in some cases, came minutes away from winning the Super Bowl? If that’s the case, then let me declare Jake Delhomme, Rex Grossman, and Matt Hasselbeck elite!
There are only four elite quarterbacks in the NFL today, and they are: Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, and Aaron Rodgers. Why are they the only elite ones? These “Elite Four” consistently put up incredible numbers, consistently make the playoffs (bounty scandal year the exception for Brees), and succeed despite of a weak running game. None of these teams have a stellar running game and even though the full burden of the offense is on them, they flourish. These quarterbacks have each also succeeded in years where defense was a team weakness. They have all also thrown to no-name receivers and succeeded, and could be put into any system and thrive (look at Peyton’s first year with the Broncos). The only reason quarterbacks like Flacc, Eli and Roethlisberger get the “e-word” tossed around with them is because they won a Super Bowl recently. Take the championships away, and no one would be calling them elite. Let’s take Dan Marino as a perfect example of elite. Clearly one of the best quarterbacks that has played the game, and he earned that distinction even without a Super Bowl ring. Like him, the Elite Four would undoubtedly be considered elite whether they had a ring or not.
Convince me Joe Flacco can win another Super Bowl without Ray Rice, Anquan Boldin, Jacoby Jones and Torrey Smith on offense and without Ray Lewis and Ed Reed there on the defense to bail him out. Convince me Eli Manning would have won either Super Bowl if it weren’t for the Giants’ steady running game, great receivers, and dominant defensive front seven, not to mention a weak New England defense. Convince me Ben Roethlisberger would have won either Super Bowl if it weren’t for his stellar receivers, consistently strong defense, and a little help from the referees in the one against the Seahawks.
With that being said, Joe Flacco is not elite, neither is Eli Manning or any other quarterback that claims to be elite. Eli struggles to make the playoffs most years, Roethlisberger is lost without his running game and his defense that has taken a step backwards, and Flacco is either playing really well or awful. How many truly awful games have we seen from Peyton, Brady, Brees, and Rodgers in the past few years? They are few and far between when they actually happen, but another sign of an elite quarterback is being able to win when you aren’t at your best, which these true elite quarterbacks do. Leave the elite distinction to the true elite four and recognize the others simply as very good quarterbacks.