1st Place, AFC North
111.9 QB Rating
66% Completion Pct
20 TD / 6 INT
217 Passing Yards Per Game
What are these? They are the 2007 stats of one Ben Roethlisberger at the halfway point. Pretty good, no? Well, actually, no, according to a still-large pool of sports media members.
I've been very outspoken on the national perception of Roethlisberger, but at the midpoint of the season, I feel the need to speak out once again. Yes, I know the analogy about opinions, and I know they really don't mean anything. But as an objective football/Steeler fan, there just seems to be an injustice going on here that greatly annoys me.
First comes an email yesterday from a reader named Ethan, who is familiar with my Ben Soapbox:
"Don, you would love the Mike and the Mad Dog show that's on now. They've spent all afternoon debating the merits of Eli vs Big Ben. Mike said that if you polled NFL GM's, about 50% of them (and maybe more) would take Eli. They concluded that Ben isn't even one of the top five qb's in the league. They like:
4. Brees (!)
This really ruffled the feathers of the New York faction of Steeler Nation, so M & MD have been taking angry phone calls all afternoon."
Then comes a segment by Mel Kiper on this morning's Mike and Mike show on ESPN Radio. Mike Greenberg asked Kiper "outside of Brady and Manning, which QB would you pick to start a franchise?"
You know the answer before I write it. Yep, Carson Palmer. Even better, when they asked Kiper who else intrigued him, guess what his answer was? DEREK ANDERSON. You mean the same Derek Anderson who couldn't beat out Charlie Frye in training camp just a few months ago? Yeah, he has a career passer rating of 82, an impressive lifetime record of 6-4, and his team just traded a 1st and 2nd round pick because they felt they needed a QB...but you're absolutely right, Mel. That's certainly enough data to leapfrog him into the top five.
The granddaddy of them all is revisiting Peter King's utterly ridiculous 2007 Quarterback Rankings, from June 18. I laugh out loud (or LOL, for you non-hip readers out there) when I am constantly reminded that Peter King is considered one of the foremost experts on football in our country. I thought experts were supposed to know what they were talking about. This article clearly shows that King knows no more than you or I (you know, people who aren't considered at the absolute top of the football writing field) when talking about football.
King's column, which I dissected in depth immediately after he tossed it to the masses, was contradictory on a number of levels. For instance, as part of his formula, he says, "I value postseason success". Really? That's funny, because 7 of his top 10 have never even won a playoff game. He then went on to rate a player's intangibles, which by definition cannot be done. It was an absolute laugher.
To revisit, here are his rankings, which speak for themselves:
1. Manning (Peyton, not Eli, altough with King's logic I wouldn't be surprised)
That's enough rhetoric about opinions. Let's cut to the chase and take a look at Ben's career stats. As you know, the numbers never lie:
2004: 14-0 regular season, 1-1 playoffs, 98.1 QB Rating, 17 TD/11 INT, 66% completion pct, 1 rush TD, 187 Passing Yards/Game.
Notes: He went 15-1 as a rookie, losing his 1st game in the AFC Championship against the dynasty of the day. I'd say a solid campaign by all accounts.
2005: 9-3 regular season, 4-0 playoffs, 98.6 QB Rating, 17 TD/9 INT, 62% completion pct, 3 rush TD, 183 Passing Yards/Game
Notes: Steelers get a low seed in part because of their 2-2 record without Roethlisberger. A Super Bowl win in year two and a career record of 24-4, 29-5 including playoffs. Not too shabby of a career so far.
2006: 7-8 regular season, 0-0 playoffs, 75.4 QB Rating, 18 TD/23 INT, 60% completion pct, 2 rush TD, 234 Passing Yards/Game
Notes: Near-fatal motorcycle crash, appendectomy on the eve of the opener, and a concussion to boot. Spare me the "Super Bowl Hangover" analogies. Ben's inability to prepare in the offseason due to the accident was reason #1, 2, and 3 why this team did not play up to snuff.
2007: 6-2 regular season, 111.9 QB Rating, 20 TD/6 INT, 66% Completion Pct, 1 Rush TD, 217 Passing Yards/Game
Notes: Roethlisberger, of sound mind and body with an offseason split between relaxation and preparation, is playing better than ever. In addition, he has a bigger say in the offense and a better working relationship with his coordinator.
Career: 36-13 regular season (41-14 including playoffs), 91.9 QB Rating, 72 TD/49 INT, 63% Completion Pct, 6 Rush TD, 209 Passing Yards/Game, and one Super Bowl ring.
I ask, on what planet is a 74.5% winning percentage - an average of 12-4 per season, mind you - not incredible? I think the evidence is overwhelming that Roethlisberger is clearly the #3 quarterback in the game, without a doubt.
Critics will look at his 2006 campaign and knock him based on that, but when looking at 2004, 2005, and 2007 (you know, the years when his life wasn't in danger), it's clear that 2006 was the exception and not the rule.
Keep your Palmers, your Breeses, your Romos and your Youngs. Their perceptions are largely based on expectations for the future that have yet to be met. I'll take my chances with the young guy that's already been there, done that, and will do it again. He's the NFL version of Rodney Dangerfield - he gets no respect. Unfortunately, as long as Manning and Brady are around, he will be at highest #3. But let's just say this: he's closer to #3 than to #17. If you don't agree with that, maybe that means you're ready to be an NFL expert.