In our ongoing Best of the Best series, Bo Smolka makes a case for each of the four semifinalists.
Joe Flacco -- where to start? First of all, he's not Kyle Boller.
Seriously, though, the fortunes of the Ravens franchise changed in 2008 when the Ravens, after a bit of draft-day gymnastics that included two first-round trades, ended up at No. 18 and selected tall, strong-armed Flacco out of the University of Delaware.
Debate continues to rage nationally about where Flacco stands among his quarterback peers -- nothing lights up talk shows quite like asking 'Is Flacco elite?' -- but all Flacco has done is win games.
Flacco, who already owns many of the Ravens most significant passing records, has led the Ravens to the playoffs six times in seven years. He's won 72 regular-season games, the most ever by a quarterback in his first seven seasons.
Counting the playoffs, Flacco has a career record of 82-45. Since 2008, when Flacco entered the league, no quarterback has won more. Not Tom Brady (81), not Peyton Manning (78), not Aaron Rodgers (76). Granted, they have not played as many, but then again, Flacco's durability has been one of the keys to his success; Flacco has not missed a start in his career.
Flacco has been at his best on the biggest stages. He has won seven road playoff games, the most by any quarterback in NFL history, and his 10 playoff wins since 2008 also are the most in the league in that span.
Flacco's run to the Super Bowl title in the 2012 season was one for the ages. In the Ravens four-game playoff run that season, Flacco threw 11 touchdowns and no interceptions, a feat matched in postseason history by only one other player: Hall of Famer Joe Montana. After that performance, Flacco joined Ray Lewis as the only Ravens named Super Bowl MVP.
And without a doubt, Flacco's blue-collar approach resonates with fans in the blue-collar city by the bay. This was, after all, a guy who said he was at a family pizza party when negotiations on his new, nine-figure contract were completed, and who celebrated signing the contract by stopping at a McDonalds drive-through on the way home.
MORE RAVENS: Best of the Best: The case for Ray Lewis