I am not sure if Joe Flacco knows who George Santayana is, but I’m sure he knows of Santayana’s famous quote. As a famous Italian philosopher, poet and novelist during the early 20th century, Santayana coined the phrase,” Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it, and tonight, Flacco must not forget how he has performed in games such as this one, following big games like the one he played on Sunday night.

So far this season, Flacco failed to impress in his only opportunity to prove he is going to be a more consistent quarterback from week to week. With a horrible second half performance in Philadelphia two weeks ago, the Ravens fifth year signal caller failed to exorcise the so-called Game 2 demons he’s in two of the past three seasons.

Many of the talking heads that break down every aspect of an NFL want so badly to anoint Joe Flacco as a top five NFL signal caller in the NFL. Especially when Flacco has games like he did against the Bengals in Week 1, or leads the Ravens to a victory after trailing by nine points with less than five minutes to play on Sunday night.

Flacco certainly feels like he is the chosen one and while the quarterback from University of Delaware answered “yes” when asked this past summer if he felt he were an elite quarterback in the NFL, many thought Joe Cool was jumping the gun a bit. While the question was asked in a tongue and cheek kind of manor, and was more of a knock off of the identical question asked of Giants QB Eli Manning last summer, you get a sense Flacco’s answer given with seriousness. In fact, Joe Flacco appears to be dead serious about the way he feels about his play.

Prior to the start of the Ravens-Patriots game, Flacco sat down with man wonder himself, Bob Costas for an interview for NBC’s Sunday Night Football studio show. Costas asked Flacco three specific questions, which were all different but in essence all the same. Costas wanted to know if Flacco honestly felt as if he were indeed an elite quarterback, and just as he had done all summer, Flacco never wavered with his response.

 “I have a lot of confidence in my ability and I don’t come out and just make statements unless I feel very strongly about something”, Flacco said.” It wasn’t like I was just coming out and making a statement. If I am asked that question, then I’m going to give you my honest opinion and that is my honest opinion.”

Costas followed that up by asking Joe Cool if he thought he was the best quarterback in the NFL and without hesitation Flacco responded, “Yes, that’s what I think.”

As if Flacco were taking a pre-employment test to work at Wal –Mart, Costas essentially asked the same question for a third time but in a different way. He asked Flacco if he thought that he was on equal footing with Tom Brady. Flacco’s response was as quick and decisive as his first two and said, “No doubt. When I step on that field, I feel like I’m at home and I feel like I’m the man.”

While Flacco’s responses “no doubt” had Baltimoreans pumping their fist, former Indianapolis Colts head coach Tony Dungy, former Patriots defensive back Rodney Harrison and NBC studio host Dan Patrick had different opinions on Flacco and his responses.

The exchange between the three went like this:

Dungy responded first, “He’s not the best quarterback in the NFL, but I’m glad he feels that way. That’s what you want your quarterback to say.” Former Patriots DB Rodney Harrison answered Dungy with a question, “You want your quarterback to lie to himself?

 “You want him to have confidence”, Dungy responded and Harrison followed with, “It’s one thing to be confident. ‘I’m a good quarterback but I’m not better than Tom Brady.’ Let’s be real here.”

Dan Patrick then asked both Dungy and Harrison the following, “Okay, but what would he say if he were asked that question? Are you the best quarterback?” Dungy could not respond before Harrison leapt in with, “Say, ‘I’m a pretty good quarterback. I’m working hard to get better. I’m not better than Tom Brady. I’m not an elite quarterback.”

You see the back and forth Flacco’s inconsistent play can cause, and this was before he went out and outdueled Tommy terrific once again. While I agree with Rodney Harrison, and want my quarterback to be confident as Tony Dungy suggests, I also would not mind a little more stability and consistency from No.5 before he feels as if he is the best the league has to offer.

In other words, I’d love to see this debate of whether Flacco is elite and a top five QB, or not, disappear because Flacco has become one and has left no doubt in making his way to the top of that rare list.

I also wish Flacco would respond with a tad bit more humbleness about his play. I like my quarterbacks to be confident, cocky, arrogant, and tough but I also want to hear what he did wrong and how he feels his game can get better. In other words, Joe Flacco without all of the talk of Joe Flacco being elite.

Flacco has had many opportunities to squash this silliness since the start of training camp but has chosen not to. He could have said, “I already answered that question, or “I want to be elite and am going to go out and do my best to prove it this season”.  Alternatively, he could have given the answer every quarterback needs to give when asked this question, “Elite quarterbacks usually have a ring or two, ask me next season and I’d be happy to revisit the topic”. This one is not bad either, “I feel my play will speak for itself, right now I have a new baby and want to be an elite dad”.  Any of those answers would have sufficed and killed a ridiculous notion that Joe Flacco is nuts for thinking he is elite.

He is a franchise quarterback, but not yet an elite one.

Elite quarterbacks do not blame officials, replacement or otherwise, after completing eight of 25 passes with one critical interception during a loss on the road. Flacco produced a quarterback rating in the low 30’s during the second half of the Week 2 loss in Philly. He completed just two of 11 passes for 24 yards and an interception (which quickly led to a Philadelphia touchdown) during one stretch of the third quarter. His passer rating during that span was a paltry 1.7.

That is not approaching elite ladies and gentleman, which is bordering on being ridiculously inconsistent.

Flacco can be overconfident at times as we saw during the interception in Philly and on Sunday night. Both were essentially to a Ravens receiver that had three defenders in the immediate area. Both replays failed to show a Ravens receiver in the area until the last minute. I am not even sure you could get Flacco to admit that the offense runs best when it goes through Ray Rice, and not his right arm.

If you honestly believe Flacco is the best quarterback in the NFL than you also probably believe Seahawks receiver Golden Tate had sole possession of the football during Monday night’s final play.

The issue that may keep Joe Flacco from becoming a top five or even top eight quarterback in the NFL is his lack of consistency. We know Joe can beat the best the game has to offer, we have watched him come back against Big Ben in his house, and watched him almost do the same to Tom Brady in his house last January during the biggest game two AFC teams can play.

In 2010, Flacco took over with the Ravens trailing 14-10 at Heinz Filed with just 1:08 remaining in the game. He needed just four plays to go 40-yards, finishing the game winning drive with an 18-yard touchdown pass to T.J. Houshmandzadeh.

Before a Sunday night audience Last season in Week 9, Flacco and the Ravens offense took over on their own eight-yard line with 2:24 to play. Joe was as cool as a cucumber as he completed seven passes for the needed 92-yards to pay dirt. The final play was a deep right pass to Torrey Smith for the decisive 26-yard touchdown.

Flacco is certainly worthy of the debate like the one between Dungy-Harrison and the rest of those that want to argue Flacco is, or is not, elite. His numbers are downright scary compared to the elite and better in many of the areas that matter.

All Joe Flacco does is win, and wins at a very high percentage in the NFL.

 He is the first starting QB in NFL history (since 1970 merger) to lead his team to the playoffs in each of his first four seasons. Oh by the way, he has also delivered at least one win during those four trips to the playoffs. In fact, Flacco has helped the Ravens earn five playoff wins since ‘08, tied (Ben Roethlisberger and Kurt Warner) for the second-most victories by a QB over the first four years of a career (Tom Brady - 6).

Flacco is every bit as dominating at home as Brees (especially this year), Rodgers, Roethlisberger, and Brady. Flacco owns 29 career regular season wins at home, good for the most among NFL starting quarterbacks since he came into the league in 2008. Flacco is 29-5 at M&T Bank Stadium and dating back Nov.29, 2009, Flacco has helped lead the Ravens to a 20-1 home record. During that span, he’s thrown for 5,078 yards, 34-touchdowns and just nine interceptions. His quarterback rating is 100.3 and his much maligned completion percentage is still above average at 62.4 percent.

Heading into tonight’s night’s game, Flacco’s name, along with the Baltimore Ravens offense appears at the top of a few leader boards in the NFL. Entering Week 4, Flacco has thrown for the NFL’s second-most yards (Eli Manning is first with 1,011), producing 913 yards on 71-of-110 passing (64.5%). He has six TDs and two INTs to register a 101.1 rating, which ranks ninth in the league.

Flacco was the AFC Offensive Player of the Week for the first week of the season as he completed 21 of 29 passes (72.4 percent) for 299 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions to produce a 128.4 passer rating during the Ravens dominating 44-13 win over the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday Night Football.

You say he has never been a consistent finisher, well consider this stat this season. Through three weeks, the Ravens have produced 19 passing plays of 20 or more yards, the most in the NFL. Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers are second with 16. Seven different Ravens have a reception of 20-or-more yards: WR Anquan Boldin (2), TE Ed Dickson (1), WR Jacoby Jones (5), TE Dennis Pitta (3), RB Ray Rice (2), WR Torrey Smith (5) and WR Deonte Thompson (1).

The fourth ranked Ravens offense is No. 1 in red zone TD scoring percentage (75%) entering Week 4. Baltimore has scored six TDs in eight trips to the red zone (4 rushing and 2 passing) this season.

So with numbers to match a successful post-season career, why would anyone doubt Flacco and his ability to be a great quarterback in the NFL.

One word, consistency. Joe Flacco is not consistent coming off big wins and he, along with the Ravens offense, struggle or play down to the level of competition following a big Ravens victory.

Watching almost an identical affair to the AFC Championship game finally take place in Baltimore on Sunday night, one cannot help but wonder how important would those wins on the road in Jacksonville and Seattle would have been last season. I know the Ravens cannot win them all, and that is why I left the Week 2 loss to the Titans in Nashville off this list, but last season’s Monday debacle against the Jags and the poor play by the Ravens offense in the great North West could only leave you thinking what might have been.

The Ravens would have finished 14-2 and hosted the AFC Title game with those victories. I have some bad news for you, they would have hosted the AFC Title game if they won just one of those games and went 13-3.

Who could forget losing to Pittsburgh at home when Flacco fumbled after a Troy Polamalu strip-sack-fumble led to the Steelers division-winning touchdown two seasons ago. I like my chances with the Ravens holding a 14-point lead at home  in the playoffs, which is exactly the lead they had before they blew it in the Steel City during the AFC Divisional round two years ago January.

The Ravens led 21-14 before Flacco threw a bad interception and lost a fumble, which led to 10-Steelers points and a three-point lead Pittsburgh never relinquished.  The Ravens have lost to the eventual AFC Super Bowl representative in all four of their most recent playoff losses.  

Flacco cannot go from great to below average in a matter of seven days. Last year during a critical AFC showdown with the Houston, which turned out to be a huge game for the Ravens in terms of playoff seeding, Flacco threw for 305 yards as the Ravens defeated the Texans 29-14. The following week, Flacco and the Ravens offense had just 13 yards of offense at the half and finished with just 146, as the Ravens looked horrible during a 12-7 loss in Jacksonville.

Following the big win in Pittsburgh, Flacco and the Ravens offense laid an egg in Seattle as the Seahawks dealt the Ravens a 22-17 loss. Flacco threw 52 times, completing 29 for 255-yards. 

This brings us to tonight’s game against the lowly Cleveland Browns. If ever there was a trap game for Joe Flacco and the Ravens, this is it. A blowout win against a 0-3 division rival, which many consider one of the worst teams in football, will impress me more than the victories over New England and Cincinnati.

The reason is simple, wins like the one the Ravens will need on just five days rest have not typically come easy for this squad, if at all. Elite quarterbacks handle games such as this with a business as usual attitude and business as usual for the Ravens offense this year appears to be at least 400 yards of offense, with Flacco running a successful no huddle, while utilizing the current best all-purpose back in the NFL.

In last week’s win vs. New England, the Ravens’ offense produced a 300-yard passer, 100-yard rusher and 100-yard receiver for just the fifth time in franchise history. If somehow the Ravens could do that for a sixth time on Thursday night, they would start to make believers out of the many that want this offense, and especially its quarterback, to be considered elite or at least top five in the NFL.

Let’s also be honest about one thing, it is clear to this Baltimore fan that the 2012 Ravens defense sure as hell needs this offense to live up to expectations and not give one away. Ray Lewis, Ed Reed and company have tried their level best to do that a few times so far this season. It definitely takes some getting used to see the Ravens defense ranked (27) in the bottom of the NFL, while the offense sits in the top five, ranked fourth.

With still 10 games to play against Pro-Bowl quarterbacks, Joe Flacco is going to have to match these star signal callers drive for drive, just as he did Sunday night. What Flacco will also have to do are beat rookie quarterbacks like Brandon Weeden as if they stole something when the opportunity presents itself.

If the Ravens do blowout the Browns, most will say the Ravens took care of business and it was a ho-hum game. That is the best possible outcome. That sounds a whole lot better than what we heard following the Jacksonville and Seattle loss last year and after Week 2 in Philly this season. Many are not 100 percent sold on how good the Ravens are this year but an impressive win on Thursday, with a good game from Joe Flacco couldn’t hurt the team’s confidence moving forward.

Joe Flacco has proven he can beat the best, tonight, Flacco must prove he can follow up beating the best by just beating up on a lesser opponent. Joe Flacco has never lost to the Cleveland Browns, tonight would not be a good time to change that stat.