So far this decade, Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger have had the highest winning percentages in the National Football League. Not only that, but they have also won more Super Bowls then any other quarterbacks this decade.
Often when talking about either quarterback, fans of either are all too quick to bring up the fact that they have won multiple Super Bowls.
However, I have compared both Tom Brady to Peyton Manning and Ben Roethlisberger to Carson Palmer, and both times I hear the same defense for both multiple Super Bowl winning quarterbacks.
They're winners plain and simple.
Fans of both teams are all too quick to glorify their quarterbacks with the prestige that winning Super Bowls has brought them.
They believe that winning those championships separates both Brady and Roethlisberger from the rest of the NFL's quarterbacks.
Well, as much as people hate theoretical scenarios, try this one for size.
What if both Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger were forced to play with their rivals' defensive squads?
How would each quarterback fare when playing under the same circumstances Peyton Manning and Carson Palmer had to play with?
First, I will begin with Tom Brady.
The 2001 New England Patriots defeated the St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI by the score of 20-17.
That's a three-point victory in a very close game.
In 2001, the Patriots ranked sixth in the NFL in terms of points per game allowed (17.0).
Now swap that Patriots defensive squad with the 2001 Indianapolis Colts defensive squad who ranked 31st (which was dead last in 2001) and allowed 30.4 points per game.
It would only be logical to assume that a defense ranked 31st would not manage to hold the Rams to the 17 points that the sixth ranked Patriots defense would.
The New England Patriots do not win Super Bowl XXXVI and probably manage to lose badly while playing with the league's worst defense.
The 2003 New England Patriots defeated the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl XXXVIII by the score of 32-29.
That's another three-point victory in a very close game.
In 2003, The Patriots ranked first in the NFL in terms of points per game allowed (14.9).
Now swap that Patriots defensive squad with the 2003 Indianapolis Colts defensive squad that ranked 20th and allowed 21.0 points per game.
If the number one ranked defensive squad in the NFL allowed the Panthers to score 29 points, how many points do you think the 20th-ranked Colts defensive squad would have allowed?
The Patriots get beaten soundly by the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl XXXVIII.
The 2004 New England Patriots defeated the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl XXXIX by the score of 24-21.
Yet another three-point victory in a closely contested game.
In 2004, the Patriots ranked second in the NFL in terms of points per game allowed (16.2).
Now swap that Patriots defensive squad with the 2004 Indianapolis Colts defensive squad that ranked 19th and allowed 20.9 points per game.
This is another situation where I couldn't possibly see the 19th-ranked Colts defense holding off the Eagles as well or better then the second-ranked Patriots defense.
A third and final Super Bowl that Tom Brady does not win, leaving him with zero championships in his career.
Now on to Ben Roethlisberger.
He's another quarterback who has had the luxury of playing with one of the NFL's top defenses for most of his career.
How well would he have done with Carson Palmer's defense?
Let's take a look.
The 2005 Pittsburgh defeated the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XL by the score of 21-10.
Unlike Brady's Super Bowls, Roethlisberger's Steelers managed to pull off an impressive victory.
The questionable aspect of this Super Bowl was some horrible officiating. However you chose to look at it, the referees did a poor job at best during this game.
Ben Roethlisberger also played one of the worst games in Super Bowl history.
He was 9-of-21 for 123 yards, zero touchdowns and two interceptions and posted a quarterback rating of 22.6.
That is what Ben Roethlisberger contributed to the Steelers Super Bowl victory.
In 2005, the Steelers ranked third in the NFL in terms of points per game allowed (16.1).
Now swap that Steelers defensive squad with the 2005 Cincinnati Bengals defensive squad that ranked 22nd and allowed 21.9 points per game.
This scenario is not as clear as the previous three. The Steelers did win this game by 11 points and could have possibly managed to pull off a close victory if they were paired with the 2005 Bengals defense.
Even so, imagine how much worse Roethlisberger would have done by having the Bengals defense backing him up.
The one could go either way. I feel that if there was proper officiating, that combined with the completely different defense would result in a Steelers loss.
The 2008 Pittsburgh Steelers defeated the Arizona Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII by the score of 27-23.
This was a close game that came down to the final minutes as Ben Roethlisberger connected with Santonio Holmes for the game-winning touchdown pass.
In 2008, the Steelers ranked 1st in the NFL in terms of points per game allowed (13.9).
Now swap that Steelers defensive squad with the Cincinnati Bengals 2008 defensive squad that ranked 19th in the NFL and allowed 22.8 points per game.
We can say without a shadow of a doubt that if the No. 1-ranked Steelers defense allowed the Cardinals to score 23 points, the Bengals defense would have been torched all night.
Ben Roethlisberger has no opportunity to conduct a game-winning drive as his Steelers lose easy to the Arizona Cardinals.
So what does all this mean?
Tom Brady has not been as productive as Peyton Manning, and Ben Roethlisberger has not been as productive as Carson Palmer.
The only thing that allows their legacy to be held in a higher esteem is the fact that both quarterbacks have been tremendous winners.
The accomplishments of their respective teams have led many to view them as being two of the best at their positions as well.
My point is that the one thing that separates Brady and Roethlisberger from other more productive quarterbacks is the fact that they have won multiple championships.
In this theoretical scenario, it was beyond gracious to assume that either the Patriots or Steelers would have made it to all of those Super Bowls playing with their rivals' defenses.
In reality, they wouldn't have even gotten that far.
Yet, even if you grant them the grace of assuming they would make it as far as the Super Bowl, neither would have had the success they had with their own top-tier defenses.
Tom Brady would have no rings what so ever and Ben Roethlisberger would maybe have one ring to accompany the worst performance in Super Bowl history.
This is what happens when you separate team accolades from individual talent.
This is what would happen if Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger had to carry the same weight on their shoulders as Peyton Manning and Carson Palmer.
Don't like it?
Then instead enjoy the fact that both the Patriots and Steelers have been two of the finest teams of the decade.
Just know that if their quarterbacks had to deal with the same things other quarterbacks have had to deal with, they wouldn't be the legendary champions you know today.