A couple of days ago, Eli Manning went on the radio and was boxed into calling himself an "elite quarterback" on Tom Brady's level. The comments, as you'd expect, set off quite a bit of media reaction.
And since the media is in the reaction business, and we've got a proven reaction-getter on our hands, everyone's getting asked the same question now. ESPN Radio's Doug Gottlieb asked it of Baltimore's Joe Flacco on Thursday. Joe, are you a top-five guy?
"I think of myself the same way," the fourth-year QB said. "Every quarterback in the league should feel that way. You don't want to talk about yourself as a quarterback, but here in Baltimore, we've won a lot of games in the last three years and we've won playoff games each year. And when you're talking about football games, it's all about winning football games and that's what we've done."
Duly noted. On to the next one. Say, Rex Ryan, is Mark Sanchez an elite quarterback, alongside Tom Brady and Peyton Manning?
"No, not (with) those two. [...] Those two have won Super Bowls. Peyton Manning has won a Super Bowl. He's won a zillion games. In my opinion, (he's) the best quarterback in football. Tom Brady's only won three Super Bowls and been the MVP of the league… We're a ways from that. There's no doubt."
Oh. So Mark Sanchez is not an elite quarterback?
"This guy has won four playoff games in two years. All on the road," Ryan said. "When you talk about elite quarterbacks, I think he's an elite quarterback because he wins the big games. And he's a winner."
Phew. That's better. I thought for a minute that there was maybe a quarterback in the league who was not elite. Quick, someone ask Alex Smith.
It's all kind of silly, isn't it? I'm starting to feel bad for even indulging the Eli Manning/Tom Brady comparison to begin with. Again, every quarterback in the league has a great deal of self-confidence. If they didn't, they'd have never become NFL quarterbacks. And it's a goofy question to begin with, and there's no good way for a quarterback to answer it.
Let's check back in with the original elite quarterback. Eli, any thoughts after further evaluating things?
"What am I supposed to say? No, I don't think so?' I'm trying to compete. I'm trying to be the best quarterback. I'm trying to get to a championship. That's what I'm trying to do every year."
Fair enough. Maybe all 96 elite quarterbacks in the league can go do that, and then, when the season's over, we'll figure out who is the most super-special elite.