Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The 2004 Draft, Revisited

Seeing as how The Couchwarmers NFL Draft Live-Blog Extravaganza is now just a little more than a day away, I thought I'd whet your appetite with a post about a previous NFL draft that also happens to have some current relevance. Going into the 2004 NFL draft, there were three consensus top quarterbacks: Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, and Ben Roethlisberger.

Most of us still remember how draft day went: Manning refused to go to the San Diego Chargers, who had the first pick. They drafted him anyway, but shortly thereafter, traded him to the New York Giants for a package that included Rivers, who had been picked fourth. A little while later, the Pittsburgh Steelers drafted Big Ben eleventh overall.

Overall, all three of these quarterbacks have had both varying levels of success and disappointment in the league. But watching all of the Roethlisberger suspension coverage today at the gym got me thinking: Knowing everything we know now, and keeping past histories and looking at predicted future performance -- at this moment, which quarterback would you want on your team? Let's take a look at the arguments:

Manning: Football performance-wise, Eli has probably had the most up-and-down career of the three. Three seasons into his NFL career, he was struggling mightily and even being labeled a bust by some news outlets. Then, out of nowhere, he and the rest of the team caught fire and led the Giants to championship, one that was capped by being named Super Bowl XLII MVP. Less than a year after being labeled a bust, people were saying that Eli had become a better quarterback than his brother, Peyton, but a late-season collapse ended that talk. Right now, Eli has become an effective NFL quarterback, but his statistics might not be as robust as those of Rivers or Roethlisberger.

Rivers: After backing up Drew Brees for a couple seasons in San Diego, he finally got his chance to start in 2006 and made an immediate impact. In his first season as a starter, he led the Chargers to the best record in the league; however, they were upset in their first playoff game. In the seasons following that, Rivers has led the Chargers to the playoffs, but has yet to win a conference championship. He has also drawn heat for being a trash-talking punk. It seems that Rivers has a bright future with the team, as he has the best overall statistics of the three. Nevertheless, he is the only one of the group without a Super Bowl ring.

Roethlisberger: Ben had immediate success as a rookie, going 13-0 in the regular season, before losing in the AFC Championship game. The next season, he won his first Super Bowl. There was some controversy over his refusal to listen to his team and stop riding his motorcycle. Shortly thereafter, he was involved in a motorcycle accident, and according to some reports, almost died. He came back though, and over the next few seasons, he continued to put up consistently solid numbers, and won his second Super Bowl title in 2009 with an amazing last-minute pass. Off the field, he is known as being a douche. A huge douche. He was suspended for the first six games of the 2010 NFL season for being a douche. Reports out of Pittsburgh now are that the Steelers may be looking to trade him.

So the question is: knowing everything we know at this point, and assuming everything would have played out the same regardless of which team had taken them (this is where the hypothetical leap-of-faith part comes in), which of these three quarterbacks would you want for your franchise? Keep in mind, you're combining predicted future performance AND past success here.

To simplify, the three choices are:
  • The one with no rings but the best current stats and arguably the brightest future
  • The one with one ring that some consider a fluke championship, but squeaky-clean image (minus a drunk picture or two)
  • The one with two rings but a ton of off the field baggage, who may only play 6 seasons for your franchise
I have my own (biased) opinion, but first, let's hear what you guys think.


  1. Did your link to "some news outlets" really just go to deadspin? The website whose front page story right now is that Ben Roethlisberger's penis is grey?

  2. eli won the super bowl in his 4th year, not 3rd.

  3. @ADF: I never said he won the SB in his 3rd. Just that he struggled in his 3rd. But yes, he struggled in his 4th too, up until December.

    @Feldy: Yes. Daily. Expect a full explanation when I decide to post my equivalent of Kubin's bifurcation thingy.

  4. Feldman, I was about to type the same thing.

    I would pose this question: which QB is the best when playing at highest potential?

  5. To answer Lil G's question, I think it is pretty clearly Big Ben...or PacBen, as Jason Whitlock calls him.

  6. I will throw in the obligatory old man post starting with "I once saw....." I once saw Eli Manning carry a piss poor ole miss team to double overtime in gainesville and he made every and any throw humanly possible....I declared him the best I have ever seen that day and if he could put that game together on the pro level look out....but his usually delivery would be too high for all three George(s) stack on top of one another however.....

  7. Weren't people arguing that Eli was "Better than Peyton" last year? If you're playing better than the best in the league- I think Steve Young calls that "living up to huge upside." Yes Ben has the rings, but when you played the 06 & 09 Steeler, you were worried about the defense, not Big Ben. Ben is the best out of the pocket. But I would argue for Rivers. SD never has a good defense, so the pressure is on Rivers to win.
    This is one hell of a debate. But I'd take Eli AT HIS BEST over the other two.

  8. I love Eli. I really do believe that he has a lot of potential that has, for whatever reason, only manifested itself in that one season. That said, the bits of the season I was lucky enough to catch this year made him look easily flustered, streaky, and generally not the superstar we saw in 2008. I think there is great potential there, but I think the greater potential is in Rivers, for the reasons that guy above me said.