Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The better quarterback: Ben Roethlisberger vs. Aaron Rodgers

A friend of mine wrote an article recently that proclaimed Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers “the best quarterback drafted in the last decade.” The writer’s name is Peter Christian and he lays out a strong argument for Rodgers (read the full article here). However, I disagree with Peter and believe Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is the best quarterback drafted in the last 10 years. Since these two quarterbacks will be facing each other in Super Bowl XLV on Sunday I thought I should make my case for Big Ben.

Before you read the rest of this article, you must take the emotion out of the debate. Yes, Roethlisberger has done some terrible things in his past, but we’re not talking about character here. We are talking about who’s the better quarterback.

When Roethlisberger entered the league in 2004 as a rookie out of the University of Miami-Ohio, the plan was for him to sit behind Tommy Maddox and Charlie Batch. After injuries to both quarterbacks, Roethlisberger stepped in and won the next 14 games (including a playoff game). During that season, Roethlisberger and the Steelers beat the defending Super Bowl champion and previously undefeated New England Patriots, ending their NFL-record 21-game winning streak. Big Ben followed that game up with a win over another undefeated team, the Philadelphia Eagles. Later that year, Roethlisberger led the Steelers on a game winning drive in the playoffs against the New York Jets, which they won by a field goal. Roethlisberger set a NFL rookie record in 2004 with five comeback wins in the fourth quarter, and six game-winning drives in the fourth quarter/overtime (including the playoff game).

If you haven’t figured it out by now, let me make it clear, Ben Roethlisberger has performed exceptionally well in big games and that makes him the best quarterback drafted in the past decade. Yes, Aaron Rodgers (who is 27-years-old) has the stats, but Roethlisberger (who is 28-years-old) has the rings and a ton of records.

Look at Roethlisberger’s resume:
  • He has two Super Bowl rings (2005 and 2008)
  • He has the most comeback wins (19) and game-winning drives (25) through the first seven seasons of a player's career
  • At age 23, he is the youngest quarterback to win a Super Bowl (Pittsburgh beat Seattle 21-10 in 2005)
  • He has a 10-2 playoff record (Peyton Manning is 9-10, Rodgers is 3-1)
  • He has the 4th highest career winning percentage (.704) as a starter in the regular season among quarterbacks with a minimum of 90 starts
  • In the 2005 playoffs, the Steelers pulled off upsets at Indianapolis and Denver and also beat higher seeds Cincinnati and Seattle
  • 51 wins as a starting quarterback in first five NFL seasons (NFL record)
  • Second quarterback in NFL history, along with Peyton Manning, to register three perfect passing games during the regular season, and the only quarterback to ever register two perfect passing games in one regular season
  • Highest postseason completion percentage – 61.1% (Min. 50 attempts)
  • Highest postseason passer rating — 85.4
It’s easy to argue that Roethlisberger got help from his defense and running game several of these games. But the stat that sealed it for me is comeback wins (19) and game-winning drives (25). When the Steelers need a big play, Big Ben has come through a lot more often than Rodgers has. Look at Rodgers’ stats in close games, 2-12 in games decided by four points or fewer. Rodgers is not to blame for all of those 12 losses, and he may be turning a corner with the three impressive playoff wins, but he’s not close to Roethlisberger.

Another argument I’ll make for Roethlisberger is he’s throwing to less talented skill players. Hines Ward has had a great career, but he’s not a dynamic playmaker. Heath Miller is a fantastic possession tight end, but not very versatile. Santonio Holmes and Mike Wallace are good, but not consistent enough to be called great. Rodgers is throwing to Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, James Jones, Jermichael Finley, Jordy Nelson – these are all guys who can stretch the field.

We have many more years ahead before this debate is finish. But as of right now, Ben Roethlisberger is the best quarterback drafted in the past ten years.

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