Super Bowl • His poise under pressure has translated into success in contract year.
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He's not named Manning or Brady or Roethlisberger or Brees or Rodgers, and even winning Sunday's Super Bowl XLVII may not quite lift Baltimore's Joe Flacco to their level.
But he's playing on behalf of all of those traditional quarterbacks and the future of the position, in a sense.
Having finally led the Ravens to their first Super Bowl in his fifth season as their starter, Flacco represents the classic approach to quarterbacking in this matchup with the multidimensional Colin Kaepernick of San Francisco, who serves as the illustration of the modern, evolving QB.
Mix in the dynamics involved with whatever else Flacco needs to prove in his quest for contract leverage, and he becomes an intriguing figure in the Superdome every bit as much as the 49ers' quarterback.
Having failed to agree with the Ravens on a new contract as of August, Flacco shoved the issue aside and delivered a Super Bowl. That's proven to be both a shrewd move and a case study in concentration.
"He's a confident player," said Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta, Flacco's friend. "He knows that he's going to go out and play well, and all that other stuff will work itself out."
The decision was "real simple," Flacco said Thursday. "We didn't agree on a number, and I didn't really care to discuss it further once it got to that point."
Flacco's combination of performing well in a contract year while professing not to worry about that issue has served as a good example to Ravens linebacker Paul Kruger, who's in a similar if somewhat less lucrative or publicized situation as Flacco.
"Honestly, the best thing you can do for yourself is just focus on playing well. Good things naturally will come," Kruger said. "You want to know what's coming, but no matter how much you want to get into it, you're never going to find out until the season's over anyway. So you might as well put it in the back of your mind."
In advance of the Super Bowl, Flacco (Delaware) is being packaged with Kaepernick (Nevada) as a quarterbacking product of a school outside college football's power structure. But if Utah's Alex Smith were still starting for the 49ers, the theme might involve the 2005 Fiesta Bowl. While Smith was leading the Utes to a 35-7 victory, Flacco was languishing on the Pittsburgh sideline or perhaps being happy he was not deemed good enough to play, as starter Tyler Palko was sacked nine times.
In any case, Flacco transferred to Delaware of the Football Championship Subdivision. He became a first-round draft choice and Baltimore's starting QB from the beginning. The Ravens have gone 54-26 in the regular season and won eight playoff games in his five years, but it will take a Super Bowl victory to remove any remaining doubts about him.
That's the nature of quarterbacking.
"He doesn't worry about what other people say," Pitta said. "He's been highly criticized over his career, for whatever reason, [but] he stays confident, he stays consistent, he stays poised. He doesn't let anything distract him. That's what I admire about him."
Flacco has delivered in the playoffs, stunning Denver with a 70-yard touchdown pass in the last minute of regulation and then throwing three touchdown passes in the second half of the AFC championship game at New England. His cool demeanor has been reflected in the biggest moments of this season, and here comes another one.
"It's just who I am," Flacco said. "In those situations, you just have to rely on who you are and think about the basics."