The old saying is the NFL is now a QB driven league. No longer will you win a Super Bowl with a game manager or average quarterback. Here is a list of the men who have led their team to a NFL Championship in the past 20 years:
Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger (2), Eli Manning, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady (3), Brad Johnson, Trent Dilfer, Kurt Warner, John Elway (2), Brett Favre, Troy Aikman (3), Steve Young, Mark Rypien, Jeff Hostetler.
Well today we're focusing on one Mr. Ben Roethlisberger. People seem to think the current crop of NFL QB's is littered with future Hall of Famers. However, looking at the current scene, I see 3 guaranteed Hall of Famers without argument: Favre, Brady, and Manning. They all have that rare combination of stats and Pro Bowls—the best way to gauge if someone should be inducted.
There are those of you who will argue Super Bowl wins MUST be included in whether a QB is a Hall of Famer. I ask you, why? If football is truly a team game, the QB is just one of 48 players who must successfully do their job. If one fails, such as a kicker, then the whole team does as well.
Does Jim Kelly go down as one of the five best quarterbacks in history if his kicker makes two field goals? Instead, he's relegated to maybe a top 15 ranking? That's a difference of ten spots based on two plays. That's blasphemy right there.
This (finally) leads me to my main argument. Fans, analysts, and commentators seem to believe Big Ben is on pace for a Hall of Fame career. I say that's ridiculous to consider at this point.
The first argument: He's won two Super Bowls. The list of quarterbacks to win more than one is limited to 10 quarterbacks in history (Starr, Staubach, Griese, Bradshaw, Plunkett, Montana, Aikman, Elway, Brady, Roethlisberger). So he's in elite company there. However, going back to my discussion above, a QB can only do so much on the field—think Jim Kelly. Two plays equal him being included on this list.
I mean, hell, Donnie Shell won four Super Bowls and Charles Haley won five but you don’t see either of them in the Hall.
Then you start looking at the statistics. Ben has been a full-time starter in 6 seasons, starting 86 out of 96 possible games. Do you want to guess who most closely resembles his statistics through these first six seasons?
Eli Manning, Tony Romo, and Duante Culpepper. Do you really believe any of these gentlemen are HOF bound? Look below, it's astonishing.
Manning – (1x Pro-Bowl) 87 Games Started, 57.4 Comp. %, 19,649 Yds, 130 TDs, 94 INT, 4.4 TD%, 3.2 INT%
Culpepper - (3x Pro-Bowl) 84 Games Started, 64.1 Comp. %, 21,091 Yds, 137 TDs, 89 INT, 4.7 TD%, 3.3 INT%
Romo – (3x Pro-Bowl) 55 Games Started, 63.8 Comp. %, 15,985 Yds, 111 TDs, 57 INT, 5.6 TD%, 2.9 INT%
Roethlisberger – (1x Pro-Bowl) 86 Games Started, 63.3 Comp. %, 19,302 Yds, 127 TDs, 81 INT, 5.3 TD%, 3.4 INT%
Yes, Roethlisberger just knows how to win. A career 60-26 record is quite impressive. Romo has a very similar winning percentage, as does one other Super Bowl winning QB: Jim McMahon. The point I'm trying to make is that the Steelers record has less to do with him, and more to do with the defense.
Here is the Steelers Defensive rank in the six seasons he’s been a starter—in parentheses.
2004 (1st), 2005 (4th), 2006 (11th), 2007 (2nd), 2008 (1st), 2009 (13th). In 2009, they were missing both Polamalu and Aaron Smith, two huge reasons why their ranking was so low. Otherwise, Ben is working with a top five defense in the NFL each year. That's an unbelievable advantage for him. It allows him to be more of a risk-taker, because he knows the defense will stop the opposing team.
Ben has had to compete with the Brady's and Manning's of the NFL for years. He's only been elected to one Pro Bowl so far. He'll likely miss out of it again this season unless he puts up gaudy numbers the rest of the way. Seven years in the league and one Pro Bowl. Say he plays another 4-5 years at his current level, and somehow does not get into any more trouble. Can you really vote someone into the Hall of Fame with only 2-3 Pro Bowl selections?
You're supposed to be compared to the peers in your era when being recognized for the Hall. This is what the Pro Bowl is for. That's how guys like Dan Fouts have made it in. Is he an all-time great? No, but during his era he was considered one of the best.
Consider this: between 1984-1996 the AFC had Jim Kelly, Dan Marino, John Elway, and Warren Moon. Also sprinkled in were the likes of Boomer Esiason and Ken O'Brien. Jim Kelly made the fewest Pro Bowls of any of those Quarterbacks and of any HOF QB with 4, mainly because he split them with Esiason. The other QB's on that list had a minimum of six Pro Bowls.
When you're losing out to the likes of Matt Schaub, Vince Young, Carson Palmer, and David Garrard for roster spots maybe you’re not as great as many think. Sure, those guys are all-stars beating you out, but not future gold jacket members.
What I'm trying to say is this: Big Ben is a great leader, game manager, and efficient passer. Despite the two rings, when you look at the big picture, it's entirely too early to call him a Hall of Famer or all-time great. Let's hold off on that argument, much like Ben should be holding off on the college bar scene.
(Stats courtesy of ProFootballreference.com)