Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco hands off the ball against the… (Gene Sweeney Jr., Baltimore…)
Joe Flacco basically blew off the question, and it was hard to blame him.
The day after he led the Ravens to the AFC championship with a terrific second-half performance against the New England Patriots, the whole paradigm had shifted. The day after he vanquished Tom Brady and almost all of the remaining questions about whether he truly belonged in the company of the NFL's elite quarterbacks, somebody (and you can probably guess who) called a reverse, asking Flacco what it was like to head into a big game as the established premier quarterback for a change.
"I don't know," he said during Monday's media session at the Ravens practice facility. "It's funny how things work and how you guys talk about things. We are just out there playing a game, and we are doing the best we can. All of the talk that goes into all these games, that's really all it is. You have to go out and play the football game."
Fair enough, but Joe Cool had better gird his loins because he hasn't seen anything yet. The next couple of weeks, he's going to hear that question about 200 times — and a lot of others like it. He's going to be probed by the network types like some alien from a distant planet. His career is going to be dissected like that frog you once felt sorry for in your high school biology class.
"The bottom line is that the San Francisco 49ers have a good football team," Flacco said. "So the last thing to look at, really, is a five-year quarterback versus a second-year quarterback."
Well, maybe not the last thing. Next week, we're going to be looking at South American television reporters in wedding gowns at the Super Bowl media day. So, yes, there are a lot of things that come after asking Flacco and young Colin Kaepernick about the quarterback duel sure to determine who hoists the Lombardi Trophy on Feb. 3.
There actually is a pretty interesting conversation to be had about this quarterback matchup, especially when viewed in the context of what Flacco has had to overcome to get the recognition he so richly deserves.
How many times has he been asked whether he thinks he belongs in the same pantheon as Brady and Peyton Manning and Ben Roethlisberger? How many national analysts stubbornly clung to their preconceived notions about him until he finally broke through their glass ceiling to earn a place on football's biggest stage?
Flacco has swum through that quagmire of public doubt and come out clean, only to face a whole new level of scrutiny and comparison when he gets to New Orleans.
He has finally established himself as elite to just about everyone's satisfaction, and now he's headed to a Super Bowl in which he'll have to prove he's not already obsolete.
Kaepernick is the flavor of the month. He is a dynamic athlete with the ability to beat you with his arm or his legs. He isn't the first great young mobile quarterback to burst into the NFL, but few have had as much success in such a short time.
On the same night Flacco put on his pro-style pyrotechnic show against the Denver Broncos in the divisional round, Kaepernick showed how many different ways he could carve up the NFC's fifth-ranked defense. He accounted for 444 yards and four touchdowns — two through the air and two as part of an NFL-record 181-yard rushing performance — in a victory over the Green Bay Packers. The 49ers ran a more conventional offense in their comeback victory over the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC title game on Sunday, but Kaepernick's versatility is going to keep the Ravens coaching staff up late a few times over the next 11 days.
Kaepernick is part of a new wave of young mobile quarterbacks who took the league by storm this year. Washington Redskins rookie Robert Griffin III garnered most of the attention early in the season with his elusive running game and his accuracy, but Russell Wilson also made a huge impression in Seattle, and Kaepernick came off the bench midway through the season to propel the 49ers to the No. 2 seed in the NFC.
There's certainly room in the sport for more than one style of quarterback, but Kaepernick has come almost out of nowhere to alter the NFL landscape. Flacco, meanwhile, has spent five years building his Super Bowl resume, one that includes more road playoff wins than any other NFL quarterback in the post-merger era and more combined regular and postseason victories in the past five seasons than any of his peers.
It's a very intriguing matchup, and both quarterbacks are going to get a lot of questions about it during their big week in the Big Easy.
Might as well get used to it.
Read more from columnist Peter Schmuck on his blog, "The Schmuck Stops Here," at baltimoresun.com/schmuckblog, and listen when he co-hosts "The Week in Review" at noon Fridays on WBAL (1090 AM) and at wbal.com.Orioles Insider | Live scores | Photos | Baseball app