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Starkey: Give Flacco his due — and his money

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Joe Flacco of the Baltimore Ravens celebrates after throwing a touchdown pass to Anquan Boldin in the fourth quarter against the New England Patriots during the 2013 AFC Championship game at Gillette Stadium on Jan. 20, 2013, in Foxboro, Mass. Getty Images

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Thursday, Feb. 28, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Must be the name. Joe Flacco.

Hardly has the ring of a star. It rather sounds like something a duck should be quacking about in an insurance commercial. Not a name you'd expect to see at the bottom of a $100 million contract.

If not that, maybe it's Flacco's dour disposition. Or the fact that his bad games often turn ugly and his bad moments look so … bad.

What was FLACCO thinking?

Honestly, I can't figure out any other reason why people refuse to give this man his props, why they recoil at the possibility that FLACCO will become the NFL's highest-paid quarterback — certainly one of them — any day now (as if that designation would last, with the likes of Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees soon up).

Those who want Flacco to take one for the team should remember that he just won the Super Bowl on his rookie contract.

NFL free agency starts March 12, but the Ravens obviously won't let Flacco test the market. They would franchise him on their way to striking a deal, one that should not surprise anyone if it's worth around $100 million over five years. A common line of thinking says he not only is unworthy of such a deal but also shouldn't be seeking it.

How dare him. He's Joe Flacco.

I used to be a card-carrying member of the anti-Flacco Society. I used to talk about how he couldn't beat the Steelers, couldn't get to a Super Bowl, crumbled in big moments.

All of it was true then.

None of it is true now.

The man has proven people wrong — and it wasn't just a one-year thing.

Flacco has beaten the Steelers in four of his past six regular-season tries, including twice on last-minute drives at Heinz Field. He should have gone to the Super Bowl two years ago when he led his team on a dramatic march in Foxborough in the AFC Championship Game, only to see Lee Evans mangle a sure touchdown pass.

Shoot, the year before that, Flacco made plays late in a playoff game at Heinz Field only to see Anquan Boldin drop a touchdown pass and T.J. Houshmandzadeh drop a fourth-down pass at the Steelers' 38 with 1:03 remaining.

This year, Smokin' Joe scored a TKO. He passed for 1,140 yards, 11 touchdowns and no interceptions in a four-game playoff tidal wave that swept up Andrew Luck, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Colin Kaepernick.

Does that mean Flacco is the best quarterback in the NFL? No. But he's one of the best and certainly the hottest — and the fact that St. Thomas of Brady cleared some salary cap space on his latest extension (while guaranteeing himself tens of millions) should have zero impact on Flacco's negotiations.

Flacco just turned 28. St. Thomas will be 36 before next season. And remember, St. Thomas signed a deal in 2010 that made him the NFL's highest-paid player. It's not like he's never been paid.

Obviously, Flacco does not have Brady's resume. Who does? This isn't about resumes. It's about what is actually happening on football fields of late.

Check out Flacco and Brady, head to head, in the past two AFC title games, both in Brady's backyard:

• Brady: 51 of 90, 559 yards, one touchdown, four interceptions, 60.3 rating.

• Flacco: 43 of 72, 546 yards, five touchdowns, one interception, 100.8 rating.

Why can't people look at those numbers and give Flacco credit? It's OK. Really, it is.

The question around here, of course, has always been whether Flacco belongs in Ben Roethlisberger's league.

That shouldn't be a question anymore.

In fact, I would defend Flacco on the same grounds I've always defended Ben: While his numbers are not astronomical, he makes plays at critical times. He wins.

Check out the Roethlisberger-Flacco postseason comparison:

• Roethlisberger: 14 games, 10-4 record, 60.6 completion percentage, 20 touchdowns, 17 interceptions, 83.7 rating.

• Flacco: 13 games, 9-4 record, 55.5 completion percentage, 19 touchdowns, eight interceptions, 86.2 rating.

True, Ben has two Super Bowl rings. But Flacco has played four fewer seasons.

I'd be equally happy with either. That's the point. Ben got his $100 million deal. It's Flacco's turn. He could have taken a lesser contract before the season, but he stared down the Ravens in that battle. And he won.

He's been winning a lot lately.

Joe Starkey co-hosts a show 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays on 93.7 “The Fan.” His columns appear Thursdays and Sundays. Reach him at

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