Big Ben Debate

Boredom is a powerful motivator, and with less and less football to watch I have an abundance of that. So I am now joining in with the rest of the sports media world and chiming in on the debate of where Ben Roethlisberger fits in the historical hierarchy of NFL QBs.
I will start by saying that a win in SBXLV will all but guarantee Big Ben a first ballot selection into the Canton. A loss means that he probably has to go to another one to solidify his place. Regardless, Roethlisberger is bound for the Hall at some point after he leaves the NFL. Now let me tell you why.
The two things that everyone looks at as a barometer for QB greatness are gaudy stats and big wins. This statistics are what everyone seems to bag on Ben about because he isn’t putting up the same numbers as Brady and Manning. However, historically his numbers would be more than enough to put him in the HoF.
An Average Game
Player Comp Att Pct. Yards YPA TD INT Rate
Ben Roethlisberger 17.8 28.1 63.1 227.3 8.0 1.45 .87 92.5
John Elway 17.6 31.0 56.9 220.0 7.1 1.28 .96 79.9
Joe Montana 17.7 28.1 63.2 211.2 7.5 1.42 .72 92.3
I made that statistical comparison because, like Roethlisberger, John Elway held the Lombardi Trophy twice in his career. Like Elway, Roethlisberger has had his success on a team that values solid defense and running the football over airing it out. Ben’s numbers through 99 games are better than Elway across the board. And we’re not talking about a player who stayed too long and faded in his twilight (a la Jerry Rice and Emmitt Smith). Elway’s two Super Bowl victories were his last two seasons, and he went out as the champ.

And when it comes to Montana, this is compared to the guy who benefitted from the West Coast offense when it was new and defenses didn’t know how to combat it. I know that Roethlisberger needs a few more wins in the big game to surpass Joe Cool, but if the HoF is really about stats and wins, Ben is in elite company.

Wins. That’s the great equalizer in the Manning v. Brady comparison. Everyone talks about Brady having three rings to Manning’s one. Brady has played in four Super Bowls to Manning’s two. Well, Ben has two rings already and will be playing for his third on February 6. The staggering thing is that this is only his 7th season in the NFL, and he’s already on the verge of being just the 5th QB in history with three rings.
My last argument for putting Ben Roethlisberger in the same conversation at Brady and Manning is that EVERYONE IS PUTTING HIM IN THE CONVERSATION WITH BRADY AND MANNING!!!
Circular logic? Au contraire. When people look back in the annals of NFL history they will see the top 3 or 4 players at each position for each era. This counts both statistically and in wins and losses. In the late-70s, Pittsburgh dominated with defense, but yet there are six players from that offense enshrined in Canton, OH. People remember Bradshaw, Swann, Stallworth, Harris and Blount (and Webster – RIP) because they were the best players on the best team of that era.
The 1980s brought us Joe Montana and the 49ers. Despite not having great numbers in the regular season, Montana immortalized himself with big plays in big games. He made it impossible to think about the NFL in the 1980s and not think of him.
The 1990s gave us Troy Aikman and the Dallas Cowboys. No one can tell me that Aikman would be in the HoF for any of his numbers but one – 3 Super Bowl rings.
In the 00’s we have been blessed with some of the greatest QB performances in the history of the NFL. The top QB performances in history have all come since the turn of the century aside from Marino’s 5,084yds in 1984. Manning threw for 49TD in ’04. Then Brady threw for 50TD in ’07. This makes it easy to overlook the guys who don’t put up those kinds of numbers – even if they do win a few Super Bowls and rack up a .704 win pct. while going 10-2 in the playoffs.
Kurt Warner and Brett Favre will be enshrined in 5 years (Warner should do it in 4, but I’m not holding my breath). Peyton Manning will break all of Favre’s records and go down in infamy like Marino for being great but not winning enough (and why was Favre never talked about like that – 2 SB appearances, 1 ring, 1 MVP – and yet this is a dig for Peyton?). Tom Brady has 3 rings AND fairly gaudy stats to go along with a phenomenal winning percentage – so he’s a no brainer.
Yet even with all of those immortal names, it is impossible to talk about the NFL from ’00-’10 without mentioning Ben. He is being discussed in the conversation of best players of the decade, and that automatically makes him makes him one of the best. You can’t talk about winners without mentioning his name.
With a win in SB XLV, I truly believe that Roethlisberger could retire on February 7th and still make it to Canton. And not because it’s only two hours away.

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