Yeah, I know.
Anyone can play the stats game.
But in the spirit of fun, and maybe just a little bit because I like to stir things up from time to time, I thought, "Wouldn't it be neat to write an article comparing Ben Roethlisberger, Peyton Manning, and Tom Brady, and see what I can unleash?"
Okay, it's mostly because I feel like stirring the pot. I dunno, maybe it's because both the Steelers and Titans have a week off from the playoffs, and the only game I think will be worth watching this weekend will be the Colts-Chargers game.
Colts win by 13, by the way.
I recently wrote an article concerning the potential loss of Ben Roethlisberger and what that would mean to the Steelers' playoff chances. Needless to say, I received quite a bit of commentary on how much it didn't matter.
He's not that good, people said. Leftwich has performed better, they asserted. It's all his fault for holding the ball too long. He can't throw. Etc., etc., etc.
As a Steelers fan, I was offended. As a fledgling amateur journalist, I saw an opportunity to start an argument.
Besides, who doesn't like a good debate every now and again?
As I stated, anyone can play the stats game. I suppose I will be countered on numerous fronts. That's the point.
Yes, there will be a lot of stats, going all the way back to high school days. Stats are the only objective measuring stick with which to measure a player's performance.
That's not meant to discount personal viewpoints, because they matter in the grand scheme of things as well.
So I will insert those when I feel necessary to bolster my argument, or possibly to give you something to argue about.
Fair warning: I am a Steelers fan, so there is a better-than-average chance that my stance will come down firmly in Roethlisberger's camp.
So join me, friends, as we take a journey back, and compare the so far successful careers of these three great quarterbacks. In this article we will examine each of the three, their accomplishments, their hardships, and their overall performance up to their entry into the NFL.
Hopefully in the end we can determine which of the three can lay claim to the title of the "best in show" (little pun there...it's a slide show. Get it?) And if not, I'll have my quarterback and you'll have yours, which if you think about it, is the way it should be. How else would they sell jerseys?
It all began back in 1976. March 24, to be exact.
Peyton Williams Manning was born into this world to Archie and Olivia Manning in New Orleans, LA.
One year later, Thomas Edward Brady, Jr. graced us with his presence, followed six years later by a bouncy Benjamin Todd Roethlisberger.
None of these three boys knew that one day he would reach the pinnacle of football greatness as a Super Bowl Champion. All they knew was that it was bright, it was cold, and they were hungry.
Quite an inauspicious entrance for a future champion, eh?
Beginning in high school, these three guys began compiling the work history that would eventually lead them to the careers they enjoy. But they didn't all necessarily have it easy.
Big Ben suffered from "Coach's Kid Syndrome". Until his senior year, he was a wide receiver for Findlay High School, catching passes from Ryan Hite, the head coach's son.
In his senior year, Roethlisberger threw for 4,041 yards, 54 touchdowns, and seven interceptions and began to build his reputation as a quarterback who could make things happen when they absolutely positively had to happen.
He also gained some measure of national attention by being featured in Sports Illustrated's "Faces In the Crowd" segment of their magazine.
Ryan Hite? The year prior he threw for 1,732 yards, 14 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions. Won a conference championship. Went to college and played for...Denison.
He's still in football. As the Tight End coach for Ohio Northern University.
You've heard of them, right? The school's located just outside of Findlay, so he can commute.
Young Tom was introduced to the game of football at the ripe old age of three when his parents, Tom Sr. and Gaylnn, took him to a San Fransisco 49ers game.
He cried for the entire first half because Mom and Dad wouldn't buy him a foam finger.
Then, in the second half of the NFC Championship game between San Fransisco and Dallas, Joe Montana hit Dwight Clark in the end zone for "The Catch", and Tom's life began to change that very instant.
Although not a particularly athletic kid growing up, he was intensely competitive and had a knack for analyzing his own performance in order to get better.
This served him well not only with the neighborhood kids, but once he began his football career as a freshman at Junipero Serra high School—the same school that has turned out the likes of such players a Lynn Swann and Barry Bonds.
Although he started as the JV backup, by the time he was a senior he was a starter in football and baseball, had compiled 3,702 yards and 31 touchdowns, won awards as an All-State and All-Far West performer, and had been drafted by the Montreal Expos in the 18th round of the MLB draft.
He chose football.
You're welcome, New England.
Young Peyton had the easiest route in high school, as he was his team's primary starter for three of his four years at Isidore Newman High School. He compiled a record of 34-5, with 7,207 yards passing and 92 touchdowns.
As a senior, Manning was named the national Gatorade Player of the Year, racking up over 2,500 yards and 39 yards as his team went 10-0 in the regular season. Although they would ultimately lose in the second round of the state playoffs, he was still spectacular, with 395 yards and three touchdowns.
Not bad for a skinny kid from New Orleans.
After high school, young Peyton defied convention and chose to accept a scholarship to the University of Tennessee in Knoxville instead of following in his father's footsteps at Ole Miss.
This proved to be a good move, although his pedigree did not translate into an anointing as the starter upon arrival as might have happened at Ole Miss.
He saw time as the third string quarterback behind Todd Helton and Jerry Colquitt, but injuries to both put him in the driver's seat in a game against Mississippi State, which he lost.
That game would turn out to be one of only five games Manning lost at Tennessee in the regular season. By the time he left the Volunteers—even though he finished his degree in three years and was projected to go in the first round of the 1997 draft, he returned for his final year of eligibility—he had compiled a list of accomplishments that lead to his being chosen No. 1 in the 1998 draft.
11,201 yards passing.
A 39-6 win-loss record—an SEC record for career wins.
Two bowl wins.
First-team All American—a consensus vote.
The Maxwell Award.
The O'Brien Award.
The Johnny Unitas Award.
The Best College Player ESPY.
Finished second to Charles Woodson in the Heisman Trophy voting.
Can't win 'em all, I suppose.
In 2005, the University of Tennessee retired his No. 16. They also renamed a road leading to Neyland Stadium, where the Vols play football, as "Peyton Manning Pass."
Mr. Brady had a rough time of it in college. Enrolling at the University of Michigan, he was relegated to seventh-string, and playing time was non-existent.
Red-shirted immediately by head coach Lloyd Carr, Brady spent his first two years of college football languishing in a backup role, and he was none too happy.
In fact, he was so distraught when Brian Griese won the starting job in 1997 that he considered transferring to Cal so he could have a chance to start, or at least play.
After talks with the head coach and sessions with a sports psychologist, he decided to stick it out in Ann Arbor, and his decision paid off. After heated battles with Drew Henson over the starting position, Brady ultimately won the job, leading the team to bowl victories in both 1998 and 1999.
Brady finished his college career with 5,351 yards passing, 35 touchdowns, and a 20-5 record.
Not exactly re-writing the record books, but it was enough to get him picked in the draft.
At No. 199. Scouts questioned his durability. At 6'4" and only 205 pounds, he was an accident waiting to happen.
"Big Ben" got his first start at quarterback as a red shirt freshman for Miami (Ohio) University.
Ryan Hite, the coach's kid who he played with in high school? Wide Receiver at Dennison.
Fate is a fickle old broad sometimes.
Once he got the job as starting quarterback, Roethlisberger quickly went to work setting or breaking every major passing record at the school, as well as a number of records in the Mid American Conference and two NCAA records.
He ended his college career win 10,829 yards passing and 84 touchdowns, both school records.
He was named MAC Freshman of the Year with 3,105 yards and 25 touchdowns during his first season as a starter.
He earned his nickname on a 70-yard, game-winning Hail Mary pass to Eddie Tillitz in a game against Akron.
Was named Special Teams Player of the Week his second year as quarterback when he filled in for the Red Hawks injured punter, Mike Wafzig, against Toledo. He placed three of his punts that day inside the opponent's 10-yard line, and had one go for 58 yards.
"Slash" Stewart ain't got nothing on this guy.
He became just the fifth quarterback in MAC history to have multiple years with 3,000-plus yards passing.
He tied the NCAA records for the most games in a season and most consecutive games in a season with 200+ yards per game passing—both 14—during his 13-1 final year.
He compiled a 27-7 overall record, including a 48-28 drubbing of Louisville in the GMAC Bowl in 2004.
Ben's number was retired in 2007 during the 91st Homecoming ceremonies, the first time in 34 years that has occurred, and making him only the third luminary to be bestowed the honor.
the other two guys?
Bob Hitchens, a tailback for Miami (Ohio) who was a perennial All-American or All-Mid American honoree, as well as the holder of multiple school rushing records during his playing years.
As co-captain in 1973, he helped lead his team to an 11-0 record, a MAC championship, and a Tangerine Bowl victory over the University of Florida. He is also a member of the Miami University Hall of Fame.
And John Pont, who was a head coach at Miami (Ohio) University, as well as Yale, Northwestern, and Indiana. He was the only coach in Indiana history to lead the Hoosiers to a Rose Bowl game, the championship match before the dreaded BCS.
He is inducted in the MAC and Indiana Halls of Fame, and was a member of the "Cradle of Coaches", who are the subject of the book "Fields of Honor".
With everything he wanted to accomplish in college complete, Big Ben entered the 2004 NFL draft and was taken in the first round, 11th overall.
And there you have it. From high school through college, the accomplishments that got these three guys where they are today.
I'm sure I missed something, so go ahead, let me know what it is. I think I've been pretty fair, but you never know. I might have left a thing or two out on purpose just to see who's paying attention.
Tomorrow, we'll take a look at their pro careers, and at the end, we'll see how they all stack up. I'm sure there will be opinions galore when this is all said and done.
Just remember: I warned you up front of my bias.