What Makes a Quarterback Elite?

Nick SignorelliSenior Writer IMarch 12, 2009

There is much debate, especially here on the Bleacher Report on who is and who is not an elite Quarterback.

To start off, Colts and Patriots fans, we are not including your boys, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, respectfully. I have already said that they are the elite.

Brady and Manning are the best of the best. I am not questioning their talent. They are both elite. They are both first ballot Hall of Fame. Enough about them. 

There is much talk about who comes in third to the great ones (eye roll).

There are five Quarterback that I want to discuss today. They are all legends. They are all in the Hall of Fame, or will be when eligible.

Dan Marino, Miami Dolphins

The original gunslinger had one of the quickest releases in the history of the NFL. Was so good at QB, the Dolphins never gave him a running game.

Joe Montana, San Francisco 49ers, Kansas City Chiefs

A master of the West Coast Offense. Could read a defense like an English professor could read Dr. Seuss.

John Elway, Denver Broncos

Led his team to back-to-back Super Bowl victories in the late '90s. Rocket arm and could scramble out of trouble when needed.

Jim Kelly, Buffalo Bills

Only QB in the history of the NFL to lead his team to four consecutive Super Bowls.

Brett Favre, Atlanta Falcons, Green Bay Packers, NY Jets.

Now that the retirement is official, he will be inducted into the Hall of Fame in his first attempt.

I do not think anyone would say that any of these players are not among the best to ever play the game. They all had consistency, poise, pocket presence, and were field generals.

Montana, Elway and Favre have all won the Super Bowl. Jim Kelly went to 4, but lost them all. Marino went once, and if he would have had a running game, probably would have won at least one.

No one that has any knowledge of football would say that these men are anything but elite.

Lets take a look at the numbers.


3,409/5,391, 40,551 yards, 273 TD, 139 INT with a QB rating of 92.3


4,967/8,358, 61,361 yards, 420 TD, 252 INT with a QB rating of 86.4


4,123/7,250, 51,475 yards, 300 TD, 226 INT with a QB rating of 79.9


5,720/9,280, 65,127 yards, 464 TD, 310 INT with a QB rating of 85.4


2,874/4,779, 35,467 yards, 237 TD, 175 INT with a QB rating of 84.4

All very impressive stats.  Stats that were good enough to get all of them in the Hall of Fame.

If you break it down by year, it  still looks good.


213/337, 2,535 yards, 17TD, 9 INT.

Completion 63.2%, Rating 92.3


292/491, 3,609 yards, 25 TD, 16INT.

Completion 59.4%, Rating 86.4


258/453, 3,217 yards, 19 TD, 14 INT.

Completion 56.9%, Rating 79.9


261/434, 3,224 yards, 21TD, 16 INT.

Completion 60.1%, Rating 84.4


318/565, 3,618 yards, 25 TD, 17 INT.

Completion 61.6%, Rating 85.4

Now I want to take a look at Big Ben Roethlisberger. In his five year career, the stats he has accumulated look pretty good against these five Hall of Famers.


1189/1905, 14,974 yards, 101 TD, 69 INT.

Completion 62.4%, Rating 89.4

Roethlisbergers yearly average?

238/381, 2995 yards, 20 TD, 14 INT.

If you were to look at the overall stats of the elite QB's of all time, Big Ben is better in many categories than these superstars.

Yards per year - Better than Joe Montana

TD's per year - Better than Montana and Elway

Completion percentage - Better than Marino, Elway, Favre and Kelly

QB Rating - Better than Marino, Elway, Favre and Kelly

As you can see, my argument that Big Ben should be considered elite is not that far fetched. The career numbers of the men listed above are all outstanding.  But there is one other category that needs to be added.  Super Bowl Victories.

Montana - 4.  1 every 4 years

Elway - 2.  1 every 8 years

Favre - 1

Marino - 0

Kelly - 0

Big Ben Roethlisberger - 2.  1 every 2.5 years

At the rate Big Ben is going, if he plays the same number of year as the average of the men above, 16 years, his career stats will be as follows.

3,808/6,096, 47,920 yards, 320 TD, 224 INT. He will also, by this average be the holder of 6 Super Bowl rings. More than anyone in the history of the NFL.

After looking at the stats, I can come to no other conclusion that Ben Roethlisberger is in fact an elite Quarterback.


The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.