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08 Feb 2011

Quick Reads: Super Bowl XLV

by Bill Barnwell

The case for Ben Roethlisberger as a big-game quarterback before Super Bowl XLV was very clear. The narrative's not that hard to follow, since it eventually boils down to his 10-2 playoff record and pair of Super Bowl rings. His performance in wins over the Ravens and Jets to get to the big game on Sunday merely added to his book of clutch wins, leading the team to a dramatic comeback over the Ravens before shutting the Jets up with two key completions and a rushing touchdown.

After the loss to the Packers, though, it's temporarily difficult to say that Roethlisberger finds a way to win when the game's on the line. He was clearly outplayed by his opposite number, throwing two picks and failing to lead his two-minute offense to the Packers' side of the field. That's not enough to take away his reputation, though, is it?

The truth is that it's not totally clear why Ben Roethlisberger deserves such a reputation in the first place. A closer look at his play in big games suggests that Roethlisberger's actual performance isn't all that it's been purported to be.

Truthfully, Roethlisberger hasn't played very well in this year's playoffs. That incredible comeback against the Ravens came on the heels of a 17-point third quarter, in which the Steelers scored on three drives with 25 yards to go or less. (Their magic mysteriously vanished on the two drives that started inside their own territory during that quarter, which produced 26 yards and two punts.) He needed those two critical passes against the Jets because his offense had totally shut down after producing 17 points in the first half, with an interception, a drive that produced 13 yards before a punt, and a Roethlisberger fumble that resulted in a safety. He finished the day 10-of-19 for 133 yards with two picks. No matter how you slice it, that's not a good performance.

The other numbers don't look good under the light of day, either. One of those rings, of course, came during Roethlisberger's ugly day in Super Bowl XL, in which he was 9-of-21 for 123 yards with two interceptions. That's not leading your team to a ring; it's being dragged by the other 52 guys towards one. Among his wins are another ugly performance against the Jets (17-of-30 for 181 yards with two picks) and an abbreviated showing against the Chargers (17-of-26 for 181 yards with a touchdown and a 25-yard pooch punt).

There are two problems with the conventional wisdom here, and they're not new to readers of this column. One is that using win-loss records as a measure of player performance reduce them to "good" and "bad" games without any context. Would anyone say that Roethlisberger's performance against the Seahawks was as good as his truly impressive performance against the Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII? Of course not. By solely saying Roethlisberger produced two rings, though, we place equal value on his performance in those two games.

The second problem is that you can unfairly squeeze and expand "clutch performance" to mean whatever you want it to be. During the regular season, Matt Ryan had some clutch comeback victories that got him a rep as one cool cucumber; because his defense totally collapsed in the playoffs, he was able to mostly retain that rep because he played poorly in a blowout, not a close game. Peyton Manning had an incredible performance in the AFC Championship Game last year (and would have been derided as unclutch had he not performed well), but got his old rep of failing-in-the-big-game back after a mediocre Super Bowl. Had Roethlisberger converted on that final drive for a game-winning touchdown, we would all be hearing the same stories about how Roethlisberger just comes up big when his team needs it the most. Meanwhile, we would also have forgotten about the two big overthrows of Mike Wallace earlier in the game because they weren't in as quite an important moment. It's insipid logic -- those plays happened in the Super Bowl! Of course they're important.

Let's take a reasonably fair look at how Roethlisberger performs in the clutch versus players of similar pedigrees and recent vintage. We'll use the simplest version of clutch imaginable, comparing Roethlisberger's performance in the playoffs to his regular season numbers, using three simple-but-effective rate statistics: Completion percentage, Yards per attempt, and Attempts per Interception.

Because they face tougher defenses, we know that quarterbacks should see their numbers decline in the playoffs. That's true of Roethlisberger, although it's mostly a slight decline. The exception is interception rate. Roethlisberger throws an interception once every 32.6 attempts during the regular season. In the playoffs, he throws a pick once every 23.1 attempts. That's 29.2 percent more frequently, or a difference of about seven interceptions over the course of a full season. If you compare Roethlisberger to those quarterbacks from his generation who won a Super Bowl and have 10 postseason starts, well, he's not all that impressive:

 
Regular Season
Playoffs
Playoff Decline
Player Cmp % Y/Att Att/INT Cmp % Y/Att Att/INT Cmp% Y/Att Att/INT
Ben Roethlisberger 63.1 8.0 32.6 61.2 7.8 23.1 3.0% 3.1% 29.2%
Tom Brady 63.6 7.4 45.7 62.2 6.5 42.6 2.2% 12.2% 6.8%
Brett Favre 62.0 7.1 30.3 60.8 7.4 26.4 1.9% -4.2% 12.9%
Peyton Manning 64.9 7.6 36.4 63.1 7.5 37.8 2.8% 1.3% -3.8%
Kurt Warner 65.5 8.0 31.8 66.5 8.6 33.0 -1.5% -7.5% -3.8%

As compared to his regular season numbers, Roethlisberger's performance in the playoffs isn't all that impressive. It's right in line with Tom Brady and Brett Favre, each of whom see their performance drop in one category or another. Peyton Manning actually retains more of his regular season performance during the playoffs than any of the three, while -- incredibly -- Kurt Warner actually put up better numbers in the playoffs than he did during the regular season! Part of that is because most of Warner's playoff experience came as part of the Greatest Show on Turf Rams teams at the beginning of the 21st century, but Warner is criminally underrated as far as late-game heroics go. He threw a game-winning touchdown pass to Isaac Bruce on the only play of his final drive in Super Bowl XXXIV, produced a game-tying touchdown on his final drive in Super Bowl XXXVI, and then threw a touchdown pass to Larry Fitzgerald to take the lead with 2:37 left in Super Bowl XLIII. (His final drive started needing 89 yards with 30 seconds to go.) He was let down by his defense in both of those losses.

None of this suggests that Ben Roethlisberger is a subpar quarterback or that he isn't somebody that a team should feel comfortable employing in whatever a big-game situation is. He has plenty of good games to his credit, and he deserves plaudits for the big plays he has come up with in the past. But there's nothing about Ben Roethlisberger's past that definitively proves anything about his ability to come through in the clutch. That was true before Sunday night.

Quarterbacks
Rk
Player
Team
CP/AT
Yds
TD
INT
Total
DYAR
Pass
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
1.
Aaron Rodgers GB
24/39
304
3
0
163
163
0
Simply put, Roethlisberger was worse than his numbers indicated. Aaron Rodgers was better than his. While Roethlisberger left big plays on the field, Rodgers created big plays and had his receivers gently place them on the ground for him. Our numbers aren't weighted for why a pass fell incomplete, but it sure seems cruel to find fault with Rodgers on that would-be touchdown pass that James Jones dropped in the third quarter. Facing a pass defense that had been downright fantastic over the second half of the season, Rodgers played well and deserved even better. During one stretch in the first half, he went 11-of-12 for 133 yards, producing two first downs and two touchdowns. A dismal stretch in the second half -- two completions for a total of 15 yards on nine dropbacks -- came amidst that sea of drops. He finished the game by producing seven completions for 110 yards in his final ten dropbacks, although that came with two sacks and an incompletion on third-and-goal from the five-yard line that would have sealed the game.
2.
Ben Roethlisberger PIT
25/40
263
2
2
95
86
10
Roethlisberger was facing the league's best pass defense, but they weren't the league's best pass defense by halftime: Charles Woodson was gone for good with a collarbone injury, and Sam Shields was gimpy-at-best with a shoulder injury that prevented him from tackling. Roethlisberger just didn't capitalize on his chances. His eight dropbacks in the third quarter produced just a single first down. He was much better in the fourth quarter, completing passes on eight of his first nine dropbacks before throwing three incompletions to end the game as a contest. Those throws produced 96 yards. Those are the sort of numbers you should be putting up against a defense with Patrick Lee at cornerback, Charlie Peprah at safety, and the inimitable Jarrett Bush playing Woodson's role in the slot.


Five most valuable running backs
Rk
Player
Team
Rush
Yds
Rush
TD
Rec
Yds
Rec
TD
Total
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
1.
James Starks GB
52
0
0
0
17
21
-4
Because the Packers prefer Brandon Jackson in pass protection, Starks's role in this game was relatively limited. Considering the quality of the run defense across from him, though, he had a pretty solid day: Four first downs on 11 carries, including two short-yardage conversions. His biggest run of the day was 14 yards, but it came totally untouched, thanks to the success of the passing game. It was a big enough hole to the outside for Tito Jackson to break through, let alone Brandon.
2.
Isaac Redman PIT
19
0
0
0
8
8
0
3.
Mewelde Moore PIT
13
0
0
0
6
6
0
4.
Brandon Jackson GB
0
0
14
0
3
0
3
In addition to his 14-yard reception in the opening quarter, Jackson did a very good job in pass protection as the evening went along. Even with Starks usurping his role and Grant coming back next season, Jackson might make it back to the Packers because of his ability as a pass blocker.
5.
Rashard Mendenhall PIT
65
1
7
0
-7
-9
2
If you want to pick a point where the game turned against the Steelers, it's awful hard to pick anything but Mendenhall's crucial fumble on the opening play of the fourth quarter. It came on a second-and-2 play from the Packers' 33-yard line with a four-point deficit; realistically, chances are that they convert and either end that drive down a point or with the lead. Instead, they took over down ten points and spent the rest of the game trying to catch up. It's a shame, too, because Mendenhall had been effective before that: His 13 previous carries had produced six successes, three first downs, and a touchdown. The Steelers used a nice mix of draw plays to get Mendenhall some running room, and he was able to break tackles at the line of scrimmage to pick up additional yardage.


Five most valuable wide receivers and tight ends
Rk
Player
Team
Rec
Att
Yds
Avg
TD
Total
DYAR
1.
Hines Ward PIT
7
9
78
11.1
1
39
Ward played a huge role on the two-minute drill that got the Steelers back in the game, producing three catches and 39 yards on four targets. He converted a third-and-10 there before picking up another first down and then catching an eight-yard touchdown pass. The injuries to Charles Woodson and Sam Shields helped create the opportunities here, but that's still a great drive. Ward added another 15-yard catch and then closed out his line with a classic Ward reception -- fearlessly going over the middle -- for 15 more on second-and-18.
2.
Greg Jennings GB
4
7
64
16.0
2
35
Three catches on seven targets isn't great, but those three receptions included two touchdowns and a 31-yard completion on third-and-10. That first touchdown pass to Jennings was a carbon copy of his early touchdown catch against the Steelers in their game last year. The Packers lined Jennings up in the slot as part of a trips formation (three wide receivers on one side) and had him run a seam route up the hashmarks. The play works because it gets Jennings matched up in coverage against an overmatched linebacker. In last year's game, Jennings caught the pass and bounced off safety Tyrone Carter (the replacement for an injured Polamalu) for an 80-yard touchdown; this time, he narrowly escaped Ryan Clark to make the catch, and then held on through a typically brutal Polamalu hit for the touchdown.
3.
Jordy Nelson GB
9
15
140
15.6
1
31
When we were putting together KUBIAK before the season, Aaron and I had long discussions about what the "role" variable should be for two players. One was Mike Tolbert in San Diego, who ended up having a bigger role than either of us anticipated. The other was the Jordy Nelson-James Jones battle in Green Bay. Jones won the battle during the season, but Nelson really emerged by the end of the playoffs as a devastating matchup problem. He's a lot like a Colts wideout; big enough to overwhelm smaller defenders in the slot, but with the speed to get past bigger cornerbacks when they play him at the line. His touchdown against William Gay was a bit of both, with Nelson taking advantage of single coverage against a smaller player to catch Rodgers's pass before Gay could even contest it. Although he had a number of drops, he also threw in three first downs and three nine-yard completions, each of which was successful.
4.
Antwaan Randle El PIT
2
2
50
25.0
0
27
Randle El only had those two catches, but one was a 13-yarder on third-and-6, and the other one was a 37-yarder to start the Pittsburgh two-minute drill at the end of the first half. Although there's been chatter as to whether Super Bowl XLV represented Donald Driver's last game, it could also end up being Randle El's, too. It's going to be hard for him to hold down a roster spot as a fourth wideout with eroding athletic ability, and as one of the most eloquent players in the league, he likely has a media job waiting for him upon retirement.
5.
Mike Wallace PIT
9
16
89
9.9
1
17
Once and for all, Roethlisberger proved that you can overthrow Mike Wallace. Their pitch-and-catch on the Wallace's 25-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter, though, was a thing of beauty. Roethlisberger made a great throw, but Wallace did an incredible job of creating separation at the line of scrimmage. All those quick hitches and smoke routes helped create that uncertainty for the defense (and it was a great throw by Roethlisberger), but it's going to be terrifying if Wallace can consistently create that sort of separation at the line.


Least valuable wide receiver or tight end
Rk
Player
Team
Rec
Att
Yds
Avg
TD
Total
DYAR
1.
Heath Miller PIT
2
4
12
6.0
0
-19
After a huge game against the Packers last year, Miller went missing for most of this one. You would normally attribute that to him chipping as a blocker on Clay Matthews, but Matthews spent most of his time as a decoy in the pass rush, dropping back and spying Roethlisberger. Miller was instead simply a zero in the passing game, with two incompletions in the first half giving way to a completion for -3 yards in the third quarter. His only positive contribution as a receiver ended up being a 15-yard completion to start the Steelers' final drive.

Posted by: Bill Barnwell on 08 Feb 2011

150 comments, Last at 17 Aug 2011, 4:42pm by AT

Comments

1
by jklps :: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 12:06pm

Starks made the wrong choice against at least 1 blitz that caused a lot of pressure against Roethlisberger..I forget which play, but he went right and got caught behind some lineman, allowing a guy a free run straight at Rodgers.

2
by Randy Hedberg (not verified) :: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 12:11pm

That must have been a REALLY wrong choice if it caused a lot of pressure against Roethlisberger.

6
by jklps :: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 12:17pm

Yeah yeah, still early and busy at work, haven't finished my coffee..wrong QB choice in name.

3
by Kal :: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 12:12pm

Funny that this is cribbed from the ESPN article we were talking about in Audibles.

I think this gives Ben something of an unfair shake. While he does have a higher interception rate in the playoffs, in two games he had 3 each. He had 11 interceptions in his first 4 years, but only 5 in his last 3.

I agreed that a lot of his hype is overblown, but something that I found with the research I did is that a lot of the hype around him being clutch in comeback situations really isn't overblown; a lot of the time he's either passing or running and making the big plays that matter.

In any case, looking at Ben's stats as a rookie and using them to bake the playoffs seems silly; 3 of his interceptions in the playoffs came as a rookie and 8 in his first two years. That's a bad sample bias, and it doesn't help your argument pass muster.

12
by 'nonymous (not verified) :: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 1:27pm

I agree, and I appreciate your speaking up for him, Kal!

Quoting statistics from just the playoffs truly is very common, and such stats are usually given more importance or meaning than they're due. It's a small sample size and is against particularly good opponents, as FO frequently points out.

But I don't think the right response to bad arguments for "clutchiness" based on a 10-3 playoff record is a bad argument against "clutchiness" from playoff interception rates. (Though it's a valid reductio, it's just salt in the wound right now!) When I hear playoff stats (like Timmons' excellent sack rate), it just makes me recall the games involved and enjoy (or wince at) important stories in those games.

I think the Steelers have usually run the no-huddle at the end of games very well under Roethlisberger, and they have had the defense to make those points hold for a W. I think he (and the team and the coach) should get some credit for this; I would be interested in seeing a sophisticated way to measure and compare these traits-- either for teams as a whole or for the QB's contributions in particular.

59
by MJK :: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 5:51pm

Agree, and while I detest Roethlisberger as a person, I have to admit he's pretty good, in the playoffs and in the regular season.

The article says:

...Roethlisberger's performance in the playoffs isn't all that impressive. It's right in line with Tom Brady and Brett Favre...

Somehow, saying that someone's performance in the playoffs is right in line with two sure-fire first ballot hall of famers who have four Superbowl rings and five league MVP's between them doesn't strike me as an effective way of saying that someone is not all that impressive.

66
by DenverCheeze (not verified) :: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 7:20pm

Dont deny that Rothlisberger is pretty good...but the Steelers have a traditionally above average defense, right? Didn't Trent Dilfer win the superbowl with a consistently good defense? We dont talk about Trent Dilfer being a clutch QB ever.

Defense wins games...and championships and Rothelisberger is a recipient of that. He is above average in many areas, but I say his 'clutchness' is more attributed to his defense than his individual skills. Note the short field he had in his 'clutch' drives in the playoffs as noted in this article.

67
by dmstorm22 :: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 7:40pm

Trent Dilfer and Brad Johnson won Super Bowls with historically good defenses. The only Steelers defense I would put somewhere near that category is teh 2008 defense, and they didn't play like it in the Super Bowl.

Roethlisberger is miles better than Trent Dilfer, or Brad Johnson, or going back, even Jim McMahon.

70
by Spielman :: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 9:13pm

Guh. Even a cursory glance at the statistics should be enough to demonstrate that any sort of Dilfer/Roethlisberger comparison is a non-starter.

4
by GlennW :: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 12:12pm

This is a fair analysis. Overall Roethlisberger has been a very good QB in the regular-season and a very good QB in the postseason. Shake and stir with the postseason W-L record and you get the more subjective reputation of "clutch", even if the postseason performance has slightly declined from the regular season (as expected against tougher competition). I find neither the conventional assessment of "clutch" nor the qualified dissent to that claim terribly controversial. Rather it's about a more precise definition of terms.

5
by Trust Doesn't Rust (not verified) :: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 12:16pm

When people talk about clutch and quarterbacks, they're really talking about 2-minute drills and performance in other decisive situations like tied and late, and overtime. There's also an association of a certain player being a "winner," of course. Joe Namath is basically in the hall of fame for being "clutch" for winning super bowl 3, even though he threw zero touchdowns that game and the colts committed 5 turnovers.

So if we're talking about late 2-minute drill performance being a big factor, it should also be understood that QB's have a big inherent edge in those situations because they get an extra down (if behind), they've had all game to get a feel for the defense, they're passing on every play, the defense is usually risk-averse so there's less threat of a pass rush (and underneath routes are often wide open). When you add all that up, most quarterbacks are going to play better in those situations and at least move the ball a little.

And since better quarterbacks are more likely to play for better teams, they are also more likely to play in big games and be in big moments than quarterbacks for lesser teams. So if late game situations inherently favor the QB anyway, it's not hard for a QB on a good team to develop a rep for being clutch.

7
by commissionerleaf :: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 12:24pm

Comparing Roethlisberger to Manning, Brady, and Warner was a little bit vicious. No one thinks he's as good as any of those guys. Comparing him to Aikman, or BEARS QB, or something would be more accurate. Roethlisberger is a dying breed; the quarterback of a team that isn't good BECAUSE they have a great quarterback. He's like MegaDilfer.

He is a good "clutch" quarterback in the following sense: His scrambling ability and ability to shake off tackles are especially useful in must-pass situations where plays often break down. This makes him a better 4th quarter QB than he is a 1st quarter QB.

8
by Kal :: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 12:36pm

Roethlisberger is a dying breed; the quarterback of a team that isn't good BECAUSE they have a great quarterback. He's like MegaDilfer.

I don't think that's true, and I think that sells him short considerably. He's not an elite QB (though he's awfully close), but he's far from being a guy that needs his defense to prop him up. He's had plenty of comeback games in his career, including some on the biggest stage where it really was all him. He's had plenty of games where he and the offense just took over and played insane - including that game last year against Green Bay where he ended up throwing for 500 yards. If Dilfer tried that his arm would literally fall off.

Before Ben Pittsburgh was a team with a good to great defense and sporadic, one-dimensional offensive capability. Since he's gotten there they've gotten to three superbowls and won 2. Yes, he didn't do much in the first one, and his playoffs weren't amazing this year (though he was going up against BAL and NYJ, not ATL or PHI), but saying he's an advanced game manager is really selling him hugely short.

15
by are-tee :: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 1:34pm

"If Dilfer tried that his arm would literally fall off."

Literally? Is that medically possible, just from throwing a football?

21
by Kal :: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 1:46pm

Sadly, humane laws will never let us test that, but based on my studies of legos and motors put on overdrive I think we can conclusively state yes.

134
by The Ninjalectual :: Thu, 02/10/2011 - 12:52am

In 2004, Ben Roethlisberger came literally out of nowhere to be drafted 11th overall by the Steelers!

10
by ebongreen (not verified) :: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 12:58pm

It's funny that you mention BEARS QB. My impression of Roethlisberger's play reminded me of Jay Cutler on a good day: can scramble, can make a big play, NFL-quality arm strength, can hit players when they're open. What I didn't see from BR yesterday that I've been seeing from Aaron Rodgers with regularity is a sense of accuracy bordering on telekinetic, and Aaron's newfound discipline as a passer. The latter has been present all season, while the former has been in evidence since his return from the second concussion.

On accuracy, Aaron's SuperBowl throws to Jennings on the first touchdown and on the 3rd down late were perfect - just like pretty much all his tosses in the Atlanta playoff game and his touchdown to Finley in the home game vs. Detroit, all of which can be found on NFL.com's highlight videos. No margin for error on most of them - the ball goes exactly where he wants it. Even on Jones' huge drops, on the SB sluggo and in the Eagles' playoff game, ball placement is impeccable. I don't watch BR much, but I wasn't seeing that OMFG-caliber drop-it-in-the-bucket stick-throw talent on display on Sunday.

On discipline, I think Aaron has been a significantly different QB since coming back. Earlier in the year and all through last season, I'd watch him at home and audible, "Aaron - get rid of the ball! GET RID OF THE BALL!" He wanted to make the big play every play - a lot like BR. Now he goes through his progressions, avoids the rush, and gets the ball out on time nearly every time. He's working McCarthy's West Coast offense as designed and letting his receivers YAC defenses to death, rather than wanting to be the new Daryle Lamonica and hit the deep route.

My hunch is that, as long as he doesn't regress in the latter aspect, he'll be a terror next year and beyond, and defenses will come to fear and respect him as a top-three QB. For Ben and Jay, until they stop depending on sandlot ball and refines their own accuracy and discipline, they'll always be good QBs, but never great ones.

22
by troycapitated p... :: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 1:47pm

The accuracy, or lack there of, that Roethlisberger displayed in Super Bowl 45 and throughout much of the second half of this season is not representative of his typical accuracy level. The foot injury had a noticeable impact on his effectiveness throughout the season, but until they ran into Green Bay, they were always able to come up with enough plays to make up for the fact that Roethlisberger was frequently not as sharp as usual. The Super Bowl was the only game in this playoff year in which Ben completed more than 60% of his passes. Last season, when he had a career high in attempts, he completed a career high 66.6% of his passes- in fact he completed only 52 fewer passes than he attempted in 12 games this season. As Mike Tomlin would say, "the standard is the standard," and Ben's play, as well as the teams's as a whole, didn't meet the standard on Sunday. But it would be a mistake to look at those missed easy passes on Sunday and assume that they were indicative of Roethlisberger's typical performance throughout his career.

39
by ebongreen (not verified) :: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 2:53pm

That's good to know, especially for Steelers fans. I didn't hear anything about his foot injury in the pre-Super-Bowl coverage, so I was unaware that there was an issue and that, in a typical year, he's sharper than that.

26
by Kal :: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 1:57pm

I think there's room in the world for an amazingly accurate QB and a QB that has an incredible gift of improvisation that combines well with big-play receivers. I don't think that Ben can't be a huge star just because he's not as accurate as Rodgers any more than I think Rodgers can't be a big star because he's more injury-prone than Ben.

If anything, that's the real knock on Rodgers; he's already suffered multiple concussions and is not great at avoiding sacks, which puts his career life expectancy short.

For Ben, sandlot ball works. There's a reason Matthews was there as a spy the entire second half - it was because sandlot ball consistently and reliably breaks defenses in half. There's no reason to think you can't be a good QB doing that or even an elite QB, and there are plenty of examples of players who can't do it (like Cutler) that say that it really helps. I don't think ti's fair to compare Ben and Cutler; Ben's accuracy is better, his decision making (at least on the field) is better, and his mobility and strength are far better. And I'm a fan of Cutler!

Really, I don't think there's a need to put down Ben's skills to boost up Rodgers. They both can be good. And honestly, Ben's already so far ahead of Rodgers in what he's done that it's not a real comparison. Until Rodgers consistently gets to the playoffs and consistently plays at the level he did this year he could simply be...Kramer.

31
by troycapitated p... :: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 2:04pm

In the regular season Roethlisberger's career completion percentage is 63.1.

Rodgers' is 64.4.

I'm not sure how significant those 13 more completions per 1000 attempts are in determining which QB is more accurate.

104
by RickD :: Wed, 02/09/2011 - 2:31pm

Well, that depends on how many passes are involved.

If we're talking about 1000 passes, the p-value there is an enormous 20.4%

Even with 2800 passes (Roethlisberger's career total), the p-value is still 7.4%, which is fairly suggestive. Would you take a 7.4% chance that Roethlisberger is just as accurate as Rodgers?

I'm being lazy and doing the wrong test (Roethlisberger vs. a fixed probability as opposed to Roethlisberger vs. Rodgers). Should really something more sophisticated, but that would only make the p-value worse, I think.

120
by troycapitated p... :: Wed, 02/09/2011 - 6:05pm

Thanks. I was genuinely curious about how significant it might be. Certainly appears to be more significant than I would have guessed.

41
by ebongreen (not verified) :: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 3:19pm

Oh, there's absolutely room for every style. I read another commentator who noted that Ben was playing with an injury that has affected his accuracy this entire season, so perhaps what I saw wasn't "typical Ben". And Ben absolutely works sandlot. With his offensive line, it's a matter of survival. ;)

At the same time, watching the guys from NFL's Playbook show break down BR's performance, I saw a lot of "earlier Aaron" in him. Wanted to make the big play, didn't take what the defense gave him when that was all that he needed, wasn't running the offense as designed. (They may be rebroadcasting that segment tonight - IMO, it's a worthy counterpart of NFL Matchup.) It's not nearly the only thing that went badly for the Steelers, but he didn't play well, and as someone who rarely watches him play, I personally wasn't impressed. There's improvisation when it's necessary and appropriate, and there's improvisation "just because". On Sunday, BR seemed to be doing more of the latter.

BTW, I like Cutler too. He's got all the physical tools a QB could want, but he believes in his arm too much. If he gets his head screwed on straight, he'll be a terror.

All this being said, I spend my Sundays watching the Packers, not the Steeler or the Bears, so I've got a lot of sampling of one and not nearly as much of everyone else. :) My bottom line is that I think Rodgers has grown into a very complete and potentially dominant quarterback, complete with escapability and improvisation skills that rival the best. Durability is absolutely an issue, one that he'll need to answer as the seasons go by. But if I were playing or coaching defense for any other NFC North team, I'd be pretty worried about seeing him twice a year.

45
by Kal :: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 3:47pm

I think the most damning thing about Ben that could be said is that he doesn't react to different defenses particularly well and doesn't often take advantage of what defenses can give him (or is at least slow to recognize it). The counterexample was Ward just exploiting the hell of Bush in three straight passes, but that was Ward actually talking to Ben and telling him 'just throw me the ball, I'll be open'.

He's not nearly as good as analyzing defenses, and I think he's not as good as taking the sack or the smaller penalty instead of going for that risk. At the same time, that can often be a strength; a lot of his incredible plays have come from taking those risks, and he is very good at them.

Rodgers has settled down some. Ben hasn't, and I'd be surprised if he does. I don't think that you need to in order to be successful. Ben's accuracy is very good (even compared to Rodgers), his arm strength is solid. It's his decision making that is at best suspect, and it's his inability to exploit weaknesses reliably that makes him not as great as Manning or Brady. Rodgers can exploit well and will find matchups, but he doesn't adapt to changing situations as fluidly and cannot improvise nearly as well.

As a Bears fan I'm honestly a lot more afraid of Ben than Rodgers. Rodgers can be pressured, you can force him to throw things away and you can hit him hard and make him go to easy passes. That the steelers didn't do that is a testament to his line, but it was clear he was getting frustrated. With Ben, physical play doesn't matter, and it's hard to get him down. Getting contact on him won't disrupt him like it will Rodgers, and his receivers are good enough that they will get open in man coverage or find holes to sit in on cover 3 calls.

But mostly, as a Bears fan I'm afraid of the GB defense. That's their true strength, and that's what won them the superbowl. Rodgers played well, but he likely loses that game without big plays on the defensive side of the board.

13
by Dave :: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 1:32pm

Comparing Roethlisberger to Manning, Brady, and Warner was a little bit vicious. No one thinks he's as good as any of those guys.

I disagree. Tons of people think that. That narrative is alive and well, which is why Bill had to write this to bring it down a bit. Folks like Whitlock will never listen, of course, but it's good to at least have the facts out there.

To me it's more about the element of luck, sample size, and misattributed hype than it is about Ben. Ben's a great QB and a unique weapon. But a fair amount of luck has elevated the narrative about him to much greater heights.

19
by 'nonymous (not verified) :: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 1:44pm

I was annoyed with the old narrative that Ben is "merely a game-manager" that hung around well into the period where his play and stats showed otherwise. I'll admit that, as a Steelers fan, the Ben is "magically clutch in big games" narrative doesn't annoy me the same way; but I don't buy it, either.

I look at the 10-3 playoff record with amazement; it's quite an awesome run! In a few of those wins, the Steelers were the better team and showed it convincingly; but most of those games were anything but inevitable (wins and losses).

24
by Kal :: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 1:49pm

Well, the 10-3 record is Ben's even less than the interceptions per game stat is Ben's; The STEELERS are 10-3 in the playoffs since Ben got there. That doesn't mean Ben has no role in those wins (or those losses), but especially in the Steeler's case - where they've traditionally had very, very good defenses and a fairly good running game - the wins and losses aren't about an individual player. Of those 10 wins, I'd only count a couple that I'd say were really aided by Ben. Of them I'd count quite a few that Ben was actually a detriment (yes, like superbowl XL) and the team won in spite of his performance.

And that's not bad, mind you, but it's the kind of idiocy that says that because Manning actually got to the playoffs every single year that he's somehow worse than Ben, who managed to miss the playoffs 2 times in 6 years. It's easy to not have a losing record in the playoffs when you don't play in them.

18
by JIPanick :: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 1:43pm

Troy Aikman is a heckuva lot closer to Brady, Manning, and Warner than he is to BEARS QB or even Ben Roethlisberger.

127
by commissionerleaf :: Wed, 02/09/2011 - 7:03pm

Aikman? He had one 20 TD season and never threw for 3500 yards despite playing for some of the best teams of the era, with arguably a top 5 wideout of the DVOA era in Irvin (seriously, Irvin's numbers are craaazy). I understand he's got three rings, but that makes him more similar to Roethlisberger (valued solely because he played on really awesome teams) not less.

In the early 90's, I agree, passing offense isn't what it is today. But that doesn't make Aikman a Warner, Manning, or Brady (Okay, maybe an ELI Manning...barely). It makes him... 5th in yards and touchdowns (1992), 7th in yards and 13th in touchdowns (1992)... He's not even a top quarterback from his era.

That said, I will admit the BEARS QB point applies to Roethlisberger a lot more than Aikman.

44
by CoachDave :: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 3:45pm

I totally disagree...on the NFL Network last week, they did an entire segment of should Big Ben get in the HOF?

The HOF? Are you kidding me?

A guy who has been a Pro Bowler once? Christ, Vince Young has made the PB twice. A guy who has never been All Pro anything? A guy who has only led the league in Interceptions? A guy who has played his entire career on a defense-first team.

This article is absolutely necessary, IMO.

50
by GlennW :: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 4:18pm

The Pro Bowl thing is a red herring, a joke just as so many of the selections and non-selections are every season. Hell, this year Matt Cassel went to the Pro Bowl.

While certainly a flawed stat (substitute career DVOA or the like as you wish), a career passer rating of 92.5 over his first seven full seasons (since debuting as a true rookie to his statistical disadvantage) at least puts Roethlisberger in the Hall of Fame discussion. Or at least it's such a start that I expect that in 10 years he'll still legitimately be in that discussion. Just wait. The NFLN didn't just pull this discussion out of thin air-- such a debate in the mainstream media (which selects the HoF entrants) kind of speaks for itself, doesn't it?

55
by thebuch :: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 5:32pm

If people don't think you're one of the best 6 players at your position out of 32 starters, there is no way you're a Hall of Famer.

58
by GlennW :: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 5:50pm

Who are these "people"? Aaron Rodgers wasn't named to the Pro Bowl this season either (it was Vick, Ryan, Brees from the NFC). Sorry Aaron, you weren't one of the 7 QBs to be named to the Pro Bowl this year (Cassel replaced Brady as an alternate)-- you're out of the discussion of the best QBs in the NFL. Better luck next year.

I repeat: use of Pro Bowl appearances as a metric for almost anything is idiotic. Players are selected in a popularity contest that even includes a fan vote, for crying out loud.

61
by Spielman :: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 6:02pm

Also, I'm looking at the numbers and trying to come up with a justification for why David Garrard was a Pro Bowler in 2009 while Roethlisberger was not. Roethlisberger was more prolific, and more efficient, and Garrard's team wasn't exactly super-successful. And I won't even get into Vince Young that same year.

62
by GlennW :: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 6:25pm

You also now have the situation where alternate Pro Bowl selections are made based on whether a player is available and willing to show up for the game. Hence, Matt Cassel is a "Pro Bowler" while Ben Roethlisberger is committed to the Super Bowl. The entire thing is a mess that is best ignored.

Hell, Football Outsiders is the thinking football fan's source for analysis with its advanced statistics such as DVOA, right? Well, Roethlisberger was #2 only to Brady in QB DVOA this season (further down at #7 in DYAR due to the lost four games), and has ranked highly in DVOA (and in the NFL's more flawed passer rating) in most of his seasons thus far. Isn't that more credible than garbage like number of Pro Bowl appearances?

So, in 15 years I still think it probable that many such productive seasons combined with some continued postseason success will leave Roethlisberger in the Hall of Fame discussion. He may not make it, but there will be a debate. I don't find this opinion a bit controversial.

63
by Spielman :: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 6:58pm

I don't think it should be controversial, but apparently it is.

68
by thebuch :: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 8:33pm

Last I checked, we talk about Pro Bowl selections, not Pro Bowl appearances. Anyway, my point is if you're a hall of famer, you should at least be at the top of the league at your position for a couple years, so dominant that everyone knows it. If you aren't a Pro Bowler, that perception of dominance isn't there.

As for Rodgers, yes it was terrible he wasn't selected, but as a Packer fan I see why. Matt Ryan won more games, Drew Brees is the reigning Super Bowl champion, and Michael Vick was turning heads left and right. Rodgers was the odd man out. Now, if he has the same regular season next year and the year after, its a virtual certainty he will be in the Pro Bowl after winning a Super Bowl (if he's not representing the NFC in the Super Bowl himself). When the voting closed this year, he was 8-6, and 0-1 career in the playoffs (not that the loss was his fault), with three guys seemingly more deserving. We all know how the playoffs turned out. As for Big Ben before this season, he had already won two Super Bowls but the players, coaches, and fans still didn't think he's one of the top 3 in the AFC. If, for the next couple years, he remains unable to be viewed as one of the top 3 in his own conference, how are we supposed to say he's one of the best of his era? Or do we want to induct every above average QB into the hall of fame?

69
by Kal :: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 9:03pm

It's a bit harder in the AFC, where every year it's pretty much a certainty that two of the slots are already filled.

107
by thebuchonhisphone (not verified) :: Wed, 02/09/2011 - 3:13pm

Well then, how many hall of famers should be playing one position at a time? You just admitted there's no way he is the 1 or 2 guy and he can never get that third (or fourth if one doesn't play) slot in his own conferance, how does that translate into best ever? If you're a hall of famer, people should fear playing you, and Ben just doesn't have that level of respect.

111
by Spielman :: Wed, 02/09/2011 - 3:46pm

Interesting question. Let's look at some round numbered years, and which HoF QBs were active that season.

1960 - 7 - Jurgensen, Layne, Tittle, Van Brocklin, Dawson, Starr, Unitas
1970 - 9 - Bradshaw, Jurgensen, Namath, Staubach, Dawson, Griese, Starr, Tarkenton, Unitas
1980 - 4 - Bradshaw, Montana, Fouts, Griese
1990 - 7 - Aikman, Elway, Montana, Young, Kelly, Marino, Moon

114
by thebuch :: Wed, 02/09/2011 - 4:44pm

The next question is, how many are at the top of their game at that time? Sure, some years might see 7 or 9 QBs active, but that doesn't mean they're all in their prime, and I'm sure nearly every HoF QB was at one point viewed one of the top 4 players at their position. Now let's speculate for 2010. Brady and Manning are on their way in and in their prime. Looking back on the whole season (not the pro bowl selection season) I'd say the two QBs most worthy of joining those two as the best QBs now are Rodgers and Brees. Roethlisberger is probably a step below that with Matt Ryan and Philip Rivers and the other good but not great QBs. Anyway, we have Manning and Brady as sure hall of famers at the top of their game right now, and Favre as another sure hall of famer past his prime. Then you have to consider all the young QBs and who can go on to having a Hall of Fame career that are just establishing their dominance or who haven't gotten there yet, but aren't there yet (maybe Rodgers/Sanchez/Freeman/Ryan/Stanton, maybe someone else, we don't know who but I'm sure there are one or more likely two young guys poised to be the greatest for the next decade). My point is, just because there are 7-9 HOFers playing at once doesn't mean you only have to be the seventh best in your prime and have a couple rings because you're always going to have the old HOFers and up and comers who don't necessarily have their names amongst the NFL elite at the moment.

128
by commissionerleaf :: Wed, 02/09/2011 - 7:12pm

Leaving aside that I'm sure you meant Stafford and not Stanton, which would be hilarious but probably was not what you meant to say...

Surefire HOF: Manning, Brady, Favre [& Warner IMO, although he's been out a year]
Potential HOF "if they keep it up": Brees.
"On the bubble" but young enough to pull it out: Roethlisberger (Needs to actually play well consistently), E. Manning (Needs another ring and a few less INTs), Rivers (Needs to win after Christmas), Rodgers (Needs to keep up the pace - very similar to Brees but much shorter track record).
Unlikely but have the talent if they get lucky: Schaub, Vick, McNabb.
Too young to tell: Sanchez, Stafford, Ryan, Flacco.

Assuming that given the importance of the passing game that at least four or five QB's from this era get in, I'd say Roethlisberger's a 50-50 bet. He's got two rings, and he's young and on a team that hasn't fallen apart yet (See: Manning, Peyton). His chances are better than Eli's or Rivers', but Rodgers is already putting on a good show.

131
by tuluse :: Wed, 02/09/2011 - 9:42pm

A few more

Unlikely but have the talent if they get lucky: Cutler
Too young to tell: Freeman, Henne

145
by Noah of Arkadia :: Fri, 02/11/2011 - 1:13pm

Go Chad, go!

133
by thebuch :: Wed, 02/09/2011 - 11:07pm

Yes I meant Stafford, sleep deprivation can make the seemingly simple task of getting the names of players who went on IR three or four months ago quite a bit more difficult (I actually realized my mistake about ten minutes after posting it, its hard doing your research on a cell phone in class). But my point is, we really have no idea which of those quarterbacks will emerge, but its safe to say that one or two of them will dominate the next decade if for no reason other than someone has to be the best. IMHO, if Ben wants to be amongst the Hall of Famers, he has to get his name amongst the best players at a given year, and watching the Super Bowl I couldn't help but feel that although he may be an above average QB he just isn't as good as Rodgers.

112
by GlennW :: Wed, 02/09/2011 - 3:52pm

Good question. Given that it's the most important position on the field (and only getting more important by the year), I think it's possible and even defensible to have several Hall of Fame QBs playing at the same time. In the general timeframe of 1980-2000, you have Aikman, Elway, Kelly, Marino, Montana, Moon and Young (7 QBs) already in the Hall of Fame, and from 1960-1980 you have Bradshaw, Dawson, Fouts, Griese, Jurgensen, Namath, Starr, Staubach, Tarkenton and Unitas (10 QBs). It's an over-represented position, and not unjustifiably so in my opinion.

From almost every angle you look at this question of "is Ben Roethlisberger a *potential* Hall of Fame QB?", I think the answer is yes, if he enjoys longevity, some continued productivity at the current level, and team success (I acknowledge that this last element is historically a major factor to Hall induction even if not completely fair). It's just not a crazy proposition, as the cited NFL Network discussion on the matter would suggest.

116
by Kal :: Wed, 02/09/2011 - 5:12pm

One thing I think people miss here is the distinction between HoF and first-ballot HoF.

Manning and Brady are first-ballot HoF, no question.

Ben could be, but he's certainly not yet. That doesn't mean he's not HoF worthy. It just means that he might get passed up on depending on who else is there.

If he continues with the production he's had in the last 4-5 years with another 4-5 years like that, even if he gets zero more superbowl wins he'll likely get into the HoF.

124
by troycapitated p... :: Wed, 02/09/2011 - 6:57pm

Double post

123
by troycapitated p... :: Wed, 02/09/2011 - 6:56pm

Roethlisberger declined an invitation to the Pro Bowl last season, citing an injured shoulder, so they asked Gerrard.

126
by GlennW :: Wed, 02/09/2011 - 7:02pm

And the NFL didn't credit Roethlisberger's invitation to his record? You mean to tell me that there are imperfections to this "Pro Bowl selections" metric?!

129
by troycapitated p... :: Wed, 02/09/2011 - 7:13pm

Had he accepted, then pulled out later, he would have been Ben Roethlisberger: 2 time Pro Bowler, rather than 1 time.

108
by tuluse :: Wed, 02/09/2011 - 3:23pm

Pro Bowl doesn't mean you are one of the 6 best players, it means you are considered top 3 in your conference.

If the 16 best QBs were all in one conference, you could be the 19th best QB and make the pro bowl.

93
by CoachDave :: Wed, 02/09/2011 - 10:06am

So the Pro Bowl is a red herring, but career passing rating is meaningful.

Dear F-ing God...

96
by GlennW :: Wed, 02/09/2011 - 11:43am

A career passer rating of 92.5 over the player's first 7 seasons is a hell of a lot more meaningful than Pro Bowl appearances, for all of the reasons given (the most important one being that two sure-fire Hall of Famers in Brady and Manning-- not to mention Rivers on the fringe-- play in the same conference. Is it impossible that three or more HoF QBs can play in the same conference at the same time?). And just completely ignore my statement about career DVOA, which I certanly favor over passer rating but unfortunately just isn't in the mainstream as a statistic.

So as you say, "dear F-ing God".

121
by CoachDave :: Wed, 02/09/2011 - 6:07pm

Ridiculous.

Tony Romo has a career passer rating of 95.5...think he's getting into Canton any time soon?

John Elway has a career passer rating of 79.9...should we revoke his membership?

Anyone who uses "passer rating" or DVOA or any stand-alone single statistical criteria as justification for entrance into the HOF, but ignores PB selections needs to put down the slide rule.

Statistics should illuminate the comparative performance of football, not be the end-all-be-all of judgment like you are taking them as. Get a grip.

125
by GlennW :: Wed, 02/09/2011 - 6:57pm

Yeah, that DVOA thing (over 7 full seasons, not Romo's 4) is a joke. So are the other impressive statistics cited here, and their properly weighted contribution to an excellent W-L record and postseason achievement (all of which this very article states are quite good in the regular and post-seasons-- just not evidence of the vague and elusive "clutch"). Let's ignore all that and roll with this Pro Bowl thing as the primary factor. And exactly what do Pro Bowl selections have to do with "comparative performance", anyway? Maybe we should ask David Garrard, Vince Young and Matt Cassel.

53
by countertorque :: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 5:08pm

I believe he has led the league in YPA as well. He's certainly led all those QB's in that table regular season and post season.

I'm not currently advocating for him to be in the HOF.

65
by troycapitated p... :: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 7:16pm

In 2005, he led the league in Y/A, Y/C, TD% and AY/A. This season he led the league in Y/C. Negatively he has also led the league in INT's in 2006, sacks in 2009 and sack yardage in 2009 and 2007.

71
by troycapitated p... :: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 9:43pm

It's true that the Steelers have fielded pretty strong defenses for most of Roethlisberger's career.

Regular season DVOA by year:
2004: -18.7%
2005: -14.5%
2006: -1.4%
2007: -5.7%
2008: -28.9%
2009: -4.6%
2010: -15.0%

However, despite perception, it is much less true that he has been supported by a strong rushing attack:
2004: 12.6%
2005: 4.4%
2006: -3.2%
2007: -3.2%
2008: 5.8%
2009: 0.1%
2010: 0.2%

By comparison, here is the DVOA for the Steelers' passing attack during his career:
2004: 38.2%
2005: 35.1%
2006: 26.7%
2007: 21.4%
2008: 12.9%
2009: 38.7%
2010: 45.6%

74
by troycapitated p... :: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 10:17pm

So, the Steelers missed the playoffs in the 2 seasons where their defensive performance was closest to average, which could be used as fuel to support the theory that he only wins with good defense. On the other hand, if your team is defense first, and the defense is merely average, that's probably a bigger problem than it would be for an offense first team.

However, despite the fact that Roethlisberger's league-leading interceptions certainly played a big part in their losses in 2006, Roethlisberger still managed to lead a passing attack that was 26.7% over replacement- good for 6th that season. It's likely that the turnovers put the defense in a lot of bad positions and they simply performed as expected, rather than performing spectacularly and making up for them.

Likewise, in 2009 his league-leading sacks and yardage lost on sacks were certainly a factor in the Steelers missing the playoffs, however the Steelers passing offense was 38.7% above replacement- the second highest mark they've achieved in his career and the highest before this season- for 7th best in a season of strong passing games. 2009 was marked by how many times the defense failed to hold on to second half leads. In their 5 game losing streak, the only game I recall that Roethlisberger played poorly was the embarrassing game in Cleveland.

76
by Kal :: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 10:38pm

Sadly, a 12% rushing attack is strong by today's standards. It's not, perhaps, Seattle strong. But it's very, very good.

Compare that to what indy has this year as an example.

The last two years have been the oddity for the Steelers. Even then they remained committed to the run, even though it was less than effective for them.

77
by Jerry :: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 11:30pm

After 2009, ownership demanded more of a commitment to the run. And, of course, if the Steelers had won Sunday, we'd have the Trent Dilfer of offensive lines.

78
by troycapitated p... :: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 11:37pm

Well, I certainly wasn't suggesting that the 12.6% in his rookie season was not a strong rushing attack, I was pointing more towards the fact that in only 2 of the 6 seasons since then have the Steelers posted a rushing DVOA of higher than 0.2%.

In fact, comparing to Indy makes the opposite expected result. The Colts of 2008 do have the worst rushing DVOA of either team during this 7 year window, but while the Steelers had the more effective rushing offense, according to DVOA, in 2004, 2008 and 2009, Indianapolis has had the more effective in the other 4 seasons, including this season.

The Patriots running game has been even more effective. 2005 was the only season in which the Steelers' running game was rated more effective by DVOA and 2006 and 2008 are the only others season in which the Patriots' rushing DVOA was lower than the highest mark that the Steelers have achieved in that time frame.(12.7, -3.4, 7.2, 20.4, 19.3, 9.3, 27- in order from 2004 to 2010)

Now, offensive philosophy plays a large role here, no doubt. The Patriots and Colts have not tended to lean as heavily on their running games probably allowing them to be more efficient because they have tended to run when it was favorable to do so, whereas the Steelers have frequently chosen to run whether it was situationally favorable or not.

79
by Kal :: Wed, 02/09/2011 - 1:48am

No, that's fair. And I think that you're right about offensive philosophy; even when their running game hasn't been great Pittsburgh has still run the ball more, which does help.

It's...amazing that the Colts have a higher running DVOA, but I'll bet that the Steelers have higher DYAR.

In any case, having a 0 DVOA for running simply means an average running attack, no? It's not great, but it's certainly better than what the Bears have shown (as an example).

Still, Ben's dependence on the running game is not the same as his dependence on his running game's success. And while I do think that he thrives quite a bit on the threat of the run game and the ability to do play action at least passably, it's probably overstating the case that he needs it or is carried by it. Honestly, while I think the man is disgusting, vile, and represents a good chunk of what is wrong with professional sports he is a good quarterback who may simply be a great quarterback in a league with few great quarterbacks. He's clearly one of the best currently playing, and while there may be extenuating reasons for that greatness that's true for every QB who has shown greatness. His assocations with some successes (like superbowl XL) are overblown, his 'clutchiness' and 'just wins' are obvious fallacies and not worth giving credit to, but his actual successes are as potent sports stories as any QB playing has. Neither Manning or Brady have thrown a TD with 40 seconds left in the superbowl to win the game, for instance, and while a good chunk of why he had to do that was because of his sucking earlier in the game it doesn't diminish his goodness on that drive.

82
by tally :: Wed, 02/09/2011 - 3:16am

I'm pretty sure the Colts and Pats high rushing DVOA is more reflective of defenses selling out to stop the pass than the actual strength of their run game.

DVOA is too dependent on context. Perhaps if we eliminate context as a variable--say, look at rushing DVOA in obvious running or power situations--we'd get a better idea of each team's running games, although I still wonder if even Power Success is too dependent on passing success.

85
by troycapitated p... :: Wed, 02/09/2011 - 4:23am

Opponent defensive strategy certainly plays a role in the success that the Patriots and Colts have when they run the ball. On the other hand, while Pittsburgh's higher likelihood to run probably means defenses can't sell out quite as much to stop the pass, if they aren't paying the Steelers' passing game similar respect it would seem to reflect bad coaching given the consistently high level of success it's had. The only season in which the Steelers' passing offensive DVOA failed to place in the top 7 was actually 2008 when they ended up winning the Super Bowl. His rookie year was the only other season that the rushing DVOA had a higher ranking than the passing DVOA. 2004 & 2005 were the only 2 seasons in which their rushing DVOA ranked in the top 10.

That said, in this season's playoffs, the success they had in the running game was crucial to each victory and played a large role in keeping them in the Super Bowl as well, prior to Mendenhall's fumble. Of course, it's hard to say how much their opponents were focused on stopping the running game versus trying to avoid getting burned by the Roethlisberger-Wallace combo.

97
by GlennW :: Wed, 02/09/2011 - 11:54am

More solid analysis. However, in the Football Outsiders discussion threads, analytical data such as passing DVOA should only selectively be used when it suits the user's purpose, and certainly should take a backseat to more obvious and relevant factors such as the quality of the unit on the other side of the ball (i.e. the Steelers' defense somehow magically makes Roethlisberger an excellent career passer), and of course number of Pro Bowl selections.

84
by randomname (not verified) :: Wed, 02/09/2011 - 4:17am

He's an upper-middle-class man's Mark Sanchez.

87
by troycapitated p... :: Wed, 02/09/2011 - 4:57am

Ok, this comment just made me laugh, so I decided to see just how ridiculous the comparison is. Other than the fact that they both reached the AFC Championship their first 2 years in the league, and they both have a history of questionable off field decision making, there is very little to compare these 2 QB's.

Roethlisberger's career completion percentage: 63.1
Sanchez: 54.4

To make the picture clearer, Roethlisberger would have go 0-for-his-next-446 attempts to drop his career completion percentage to 54.4. That's roughly an entire season's worth of attempts. For the sake of argument, and laughs, let's pretend Roethlisberger starts all 16 games next season and attempts 466 passes completing none. Obviously he'd gain no yards and throw no TD's, so, just for simplicity, let's also assume he throws no picks and takes no sacks. At the end of our hypothetical season, these would be Roethlisberger's career numbers vs. what Sanchez has done in 2 years:
Completion percentage: Hypothetical Ben 54.4* - Sanchez 54.4
Y/A: 6.9* - 6.1
TD%: 4.4* - 3.3
Y/Game: 195* - 185
QB Rating: 80.05* - 70.2

Still better in every category, despite going a full season without completing a single attempt! So, yes, please continue to compare Ben Roethlisberger to Mark Sanchez.

90
by Spielman :: Wed, 02/09/2011 - 8:09am

Exactly.

There are two narratives that people keep dragging out about Roethlisberger:
1) He's a bad statistical QB that gets carried to success by his defense, like Dilfer or Sanchez, both of whom he's been compared to in the comments here.

2) He comes through in the big games; he's clutch.

Both of these are seemingly intended to explain all the postseason success that the Steelers have had with Roethlisberger, as though it needs explaining, as though Roethlisberger's bad statistically.

He's not. He's got a lifetime ANY/A+ of 110. That's not in the stratosphere with Manning or Brady or Montana or Young, but it's good. It certainly wouldn't seem to inspire comparisons to Trent Dilfer and his career score of 88, or Mark Sanchez's first two years where he's got an 89.

You want to hear a legitimate comparison? Bob Griese had a career ANY/A+ of 110 and won two Super Bowls while playing with teams with excellent defenses and powerful running games. He got put into the Hall of Fame. Roethlisberger gets compared to Dilfer. I don't like the guy at all, but he deserves better based on what he's done on the field.

91
by troycapitated p... :: Wed, 02/09/2011 - 9:18am

Since you used the word stratosphere to distinguish between Roethlisberger's career 110 ANY/A+ and those of Brady, Manning, Montana, & Young can you explain to me how significant the difference between 110 ANY/A+ and 116 ANY/A+, which is Brady's number? (The others mentioned are all over 120. Rodgers is 118, just to throw him in.)

Also, looking at Roethlisberger's season-by-season ANY/A+ he has 2 seasons in the mid nineties and all others are over his 110 average, leading me to believe it's reasonable to suppose that his career number may increase in the future.

106
by Spielman :: Wed, 02/09/2011 - 3:07pm

I made the reference using QBs that I knew would have significantly higher career AY/A+ numbers than Roethlisberger, without looking up the specific numbers. Had I done so, I'd probably have substituted Roger Staubach instead of Brady.

Still, six points is pretty darned significant on this stat, so despite the nitpick, using Brady may have made my point better than Staubach would have, despite opening me up to some F.O. nitpicking. As a quick illustration, among QBs who have thrown as many passes as Roethlisberger, Brady's 116 trails Dan Marino, Peyton Manning, Dan Fouts, Joe Montana, Steve Young, and Roger Staubach, and is tied with Kurt Warner. 116 is very high. Perhaps I would not use "stratospheric" to describe it, but that's a list of five Hall of Famers, a certain future Hall of Famer, and a guy people seem to think has an excellent shot.

110 is equal to Bob Griese, above some Hall of Famers.

104, down from Roethlisberger by six points, is matched by Ken Stabler, Elvis Grbac, Joe Theismann, and Neil Lomax. Fine quarterbacks all, but not a Hall of Famer among them, though Raiderjoe will think that's a travesty. Using this one measure, Roethlisbeger is as far behind Brady as he is ahead of Elvis Grbac.

Also, yes it's reasonable to suppose that Roethlisberger's career number may increase in the future. I don't see a great deal of reason to throw out his two lesser seasons from the calculations, though. He's had bad years before; he certainly may have bad years again in the future.

118
by TimG (not verified) :: Wed, 02/09/2011 - 5:28pm

Also, looking at Roethlisberger's two outlier years for ANY/A+ (2006 and 2008), those are the years following his motorcycle accident/appendectomy (2006) and the year he played through a sprained shoulder (2008) and probably aren't as representative of his level of play as the other years, where he averages 118 ANY/A+.

Incidentally, if you take out Brady's outlier year for ANY/A+ (2007, where it was an off the charts 142), he averages 112 ANY/A+.

119
by troycapitated p... :: Wed, 02/09/2011 - 5:55pm

Sorry if it seemed like nitpicking. I was genuinely asking if you could explain how significant the difference was, which you did. Thanks.

As far as the 2 seasons under 100, I wasn't attempting to throw them out, simply suggesting that the fact that only 2 of the 7 seasons were below his career number while 5 were higher might suggest that the career number is likely to rise. As a Steeler fan I looked at the 2 below average seasons and immediately connected them to seasons impacted by injury. 2006 was the post motorcycle season. I certainly hope we don't go through that again! 2008 was the season he injured his shoulder in the 3rd game or so. With his style of play, it's certainly likely that he'll have to play through more injured seasons, however this season he still put up a very good ANY/A+ despite his injured knee. I would guess that having his best season for INT's and the unreal season Mike Wallace each played roles in his better performance in this injured season.

EDIT
Ha. I see I was ninja'd on the second part of my comment.

147
by Spielman :: Mon, 02/14/2011 - 9:32am

Regarding the nitpicking: It's hard to tell how to take it sometimes. Attention to detail is probably the greatest strength of the commenters here. Questioning what's been said, whether it's by a color guy, mainstream columnist, FO writer, or fellow commenter, leads to a lot of the best discussion. On the other hand we sometimes fall into "you said 32.1 when you clearly meant 31.2!" style one-upmanship.

Your nitpick was an excellent one, and responding to it helped me to more fully understand my own point, which is pretty cool, actually. So thank you.

9
by Ben Stuplisberger :: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 12:38pm

Why not use AY/A instead of needlessly breaking up the stats? AY/A also adds in TD passes to give a clearer picture.

Regular Season:

http://www.pro-football-reference.com/play-index/pgl_finder.cgi?request=...

Playoffs:

http://www.pro-football-reference.com/play-index/pgl_finder.cgi?request=...

Differences from Regular Season to Playoffs in AY/A

Roethlisberger -11%
Brady -16%
Farve - 6%
Warner + 12%
Manning - 4%

You'll notice that in the playoffs, Roethlisberger's numbers go down more than anyone but Tom Brady's. I don't see too many articles written about Brady's underserved reputation for clutch play on this site. It makes sense that Roethlisberger's interception rate goes up in the playoffs, since he's facing better defenses and throws more deep passes than the other quarterbacks. His overall playoff numbers are closer to Warner's and Manning's than Brady's and Farve's. I think splitting the difference between 4 future Hall of Famers is pretty impressive.

That being said, I agree with Barnwell that Warner is awesome and criminally underrated as a clutch QB.

Just to deflect any arguments, no I am not saying that Roethlisberger is a better QB than Brady. However, Roethlisberger's beginning of his career is far more impressive than Brady's, hence his better numbers overall.

11
by Spoon :: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 1:12pm

Warner might indeed be underrated, but Barnwell correctly pointed out the selection bias present in Warner's statistics. Playoff statistics, of course, are only accumulated when your team makes the playoffs. It's a lot easier to make the playoffs when your quarterback is playing well, so it seems likely that Warner's playoff statistics reflect seasons when Kurt was playing at or near the top of his game. His regular season statistics, on the other hand, include a number of seasons where his performance was below average, costing his team wins, and denying Warner the opportunity to participate in the playoffs. Unlike Brady Manning or Roethlisberger, who find themselves in the playoffs every year, Warner actually had several such seasons in the middle chunk of his career. I think the statistics shown in Bill's table are actually a reflection of Warner's unique career arc - "Good Warner" vs. "Bad Warner" - as much as they reflect any postseason "clutchiness".

Bill, would it be possible to weed out this selection bias by only using regular season statistics from seasons where the respective quarterback actually made the playoffs? This would be a truer measurement of the difference you are looking to quantify, though of course with the caveat that we are talking about small sample sizes.

16
by JIPanick :: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 1:41pm

A quick look at PFR shows that Warner didn't have a season with an ANYA less than 104 (remember, 100 is average) in which he started more than six games; hardly a "number of seasons...below average". The years Warner missed the playoffs weren't years when he played badly so much as years where he was merely good instead of awesome and couldn't make up sufficiently for a bad defense. Kurt Warner is just underrated in general.

29
by Ben Stuplisberger :: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 2:02pm

^^^^ this.

Warner made very few attempts in his bad years, so they wouldn't drag down his numbers too much.

32
by Spoon :: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 2:05pm

All true. Regarding my post, read "below average" as "below Warner's average". The article was comparing Warner's performances to other Warner performances, after all. Point remains that his ANYA in seasons where his team made the playoffs is clearly better than in seasons where they didn't, especially due to those Rams years early on.

72
by JIPanick :: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 9:45pm

This is completely true. However, I'm sure that it follows for most quarterbacks that they get in on their better years and miss on their worst, so I'm not really seeing it as a strong case against Warner.

73
by troycapitated p... :: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 10:04pm

Small sample, of course, but, as I note above, the Steelers missed the playoffs in 2009 despite the fact that they had a passing DVOA of 38.7% or the best mark they'd reached under Roethlisberger until this season surpassed it.

When they won the Super Bowl the year before they had a regular season pass DVOA of only 12.9%. This tends to go against my feeling that the foot injury affected his passing this season more than the shoulder injury did in that season, but I still have that feeling despite these numbers.

43
by c0rrections (not verified) :: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 3:35pm

I was going to make this point but it also applies to Roethlisberger. After the first Super Bowl win his team missed the playoffs the next year. After the 2nd Super Bowl win same thing. Obviously the effect isn't as pronounced with Ben but it's still there. Manning makes the playoffs every year and Brady has made it practically every year he has been healthy.

64
by Aaron Brooks' Good Twin (not verified) :: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 6:59pm

The Pats missed the playoffs the year after Brady's 1st win.

Half the Steelers roster retired after Roethlisberger's 1st Super Bowl, it seemed like.

14
by Arkaein :: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 1:33pm

Part of the reason that there aren't many articles arguing against Brady's clutchness is that there's nothing to counter argue. No one in the mainstream has really been beating the "Brady clutchness" drum for about 4 years now, considering that New England hasn't won a playoff game since 2007, and in that case they eventually lost as heavy favorites.

33
by Ben Stuplisberger :: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 2:05pm

Perhaps I should change my statement to the past tense: I have not seen any articles arguing Brady's clutch play as a myth.

17
by Rabble (not verified) :: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 1:42pm

The narrative on Big Ben that he "doesn't put up great numbers but just wins games" is all wrong. If the talking heads actually looked at his statistics, they would see that he does in fact put up great numbers fairly regularly. Also there's been a great bit of revisionism over Super Bowl XL. For anyone who actually watched the game, he played far better than the statistics would indicate. And let's not forgot how great he was in the 3 road playoff games that led the Steelers to the Super Bowl.

20
by JIPanick :: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 1:45pm

I will never forget. I might forgive, but I will never forget.

Go Broncos!

23
by 'nonymous (not verified) :: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 1:47pm

Yeah, but when playoffs come, you throw out everything you know from the regular season. And when the super bowl comes, you throw out everything you know from the playoffs. (And once the super bowl is over, we take Al Micheal's narrative as fact.)

Didn't you get the memo?

27
by dmstorm22 :: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 2:01pm

I don't agree that he played better than his numbers in Super Bowl XL, but I agree with everything else.

Calling Ben "a winner" and "not someone who will ever put up the big stats" is really not fair to Ben.

Ben's career statistically has been great. Five seasons with a passer rating above 97 (by comparison, Brady has just 2 - although those two were well above 97). Ben has a season where he threw 4300 yards. He has a season with 32 tds. He has a career Y/A of 8.0. Roethlisberger is statisticall a great QB.

Calling him great just because his team was able to win playoff games is not fair to Ben. He shouldn't need to be propped up by some mythical ability to "win games." His numbers should speak for themselves.

25
by Bobby Wommack (not verified) :: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 1:52pm

Funny how no one mentions that Warner's two pick 6's cost him two Super Bowls. If he doesn't throw that Pick 6 against Law and Harrison, maybe he's 3-0 in Super Bowls. Is that clutch?

The whole argument over being "clutch" is dumb to begin with. Everyone just picks and chooses key situations to rationalize their own beliefs.

Almost every QB has clutch moments...and then moments when they fail. Its just how the media/fans spin those stories/narratives that leads to the perception of how "clutch" someone is.

Nobody remembers John Elway stinking it up in those early Super Bowls, they just remember those clutch drives in the AFC Championships and all those highlights of the helicopter run on ESPN.

28
by JIPanick :: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 2:02pm

I think that people are way too fast to categorize players as "clutch" or "chokers". Someone who struggles or appears to struggle with pressure in the playoffs or the Super Bowl earlier in his career can be fine later (John Elway is a great example), or be fine earlier and let the hype get to him later, and there's a long list of QBs who have been disasters in their first or first couple of playoff starts and gone on to be fine. Peyton Manning and Ben Roethlisberger are good examples there.

Of course, players can also have bad games without "choking". It happens all the time.

38
by Spielman :: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 2:48pm

I would say that someone always seems to mention those pick sixes.

As someone did here.

48
by Jeff (not verified) :: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 4:01pm

Funny thing about Elway and The Drive. His performance for the first 55 minutes of the game was lousy - 13 of 26 for 116 yards and a pick. If Cleveland had managed another score at some point, the Broncos would have been down by two scores and The Drive would probably have been a footnote.

Conversely, if Elway had played a good game up until that point, Denver would probably have been winning and The Drive wouldn't have been necessary. Only by stinking it up for the first 90% of the game did he put himself in position to win it with a clutch performance. :-)

51
by GlennW :: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 4:26pm

As a Steelers fan I can admit that this kind of thing (mediocre game with great finish) has happened with Roethlisberger more than once-- some part of that dynamic being that the desperation hurry-up best aligns with Ben's style and strengths. Including in the Super Bowl against the Cardinals, for instance. For whatever reason it does benefit the QB's reputation to perform with ascending quality as opposed to descending quality, as illogical as that might be.

80
by MurphyZero :: Wed, 02/09/2011 - 1:59am

As a Pittsburgh fan, I will say that with the run first mentality, Pittsburgh coaches have not known how to properly utilizes their QBs--accentuating their positives and protecting them from their negatives. Kordell Stewart could probably have been an average QB with fantastic running skills. With Ben they have done better, but I don't believe they game plan well enough to counter Ben's flaws. Ben has some fantastic football abilities, but decision making is not really one of them. Particularly when not in hurry up. I also think the foot was bothering him because he had severe accuracy problems. He was sailing many of his passes and not looking at all in Miller's direction. The Steelers definitely left alot of points on the field. The Steeler defense on the other hand performed even worse (for them) than the offense did. Green Bay had the offense best suited for this defense and left quite a few points on the field as well. Any other team in the NFC and Pittsburgh wins hands down--That GB team wins against that Steeler team 55% of the time.

92
by bengt (not verified) :: Wed, 02/09/2011 - 9:33am

There was a lot of coaching staff renewal since the Faneca/Bettis days of successful running. And I don't think you can say that Whisenhunt/Grimm don't know how to properly utilize their QBs in Arizona.

105
by commissionerleaf :: Wed, 02/09/2011 - 2:37pm

Hard to say either way, given that Arizona did not have any QB's to attempt to utilize this year.

95
by justanothersteve :: Wed, 02/09/2011 - 10:11am

I don't agree with Any other team in the NFC and Pittsburgh wins hands down. I think several other NFC teams could give Pittsburgh a challenge. The Steelers would likely be the favorite in those games. But teams with enough offensive weapons (Giants, Eagles, and especially Saints) would be tough, as would a Bears team with a healthy Cutler (defense could keep score down and Bears ST are far better).

100
by GlennW :: Wed, 02/09/2011 - 12:12pm

Agreed, but I would also say that the Steelers' coaches (read: Bruce Arians) have gotten much better at maximizing Roethlisberger's talents. Especially this season. Hey, #2 in the league in passing DVOA, right?

30
by Geo B :: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 2:03pm

While normally I am suspect of Mr. Barnwell's anti-Roethlisberger writing, he pretty much nails it here. The Steelers had a good season, but #7 did not help the cause as much as he did two years ago. The turnovers, while not always his fault, finally caught up to the Steelers. Having said that, when the Steelers got the ball back with two minutes to play, I thought for sure they would win. Nice job by Green Bay's defense to mix it up and get the stop to end the game.

The DYAR number for Roethlisberger was about what I expected, not bad, not great.

As for Roethlisberger's "clutchness" - someone recently posted a link showing how many fourth quarter "winning" drives he has produced, and it is a substantial number. I think that does show that normally he does a good job in those situations.

Steeler fan trapped in Houston!
Six Time SB Champs! ;-)

54
by djanyreason :: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 5:11pm

In 2010 Ben had a 1.4% INT rate, lowest of his career by more than a full percentage point. More completely, he had a 2.4% turnover-to-touch percentage: (INT+Fumble)/(PassAtt+Sack+RushAtt), lowest of his career by about 0.8%.

Ben may have been less effective this year (though FO's per-play stats suggest otherwise), but it wasn't due to turnovers.

102
by Geo B :: Wed, 02/09/2011 - 2:16pm

I was specifically mentioning in the playoffs for #7's turnovers, sorry if I was unclear. 4 INT's/4TD's passing if I recall the numbers from TMQ yesterday.

Steeler fan trapped in Houston!
Six Time SB Champs! ;-)

34
by joepinion :: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 2:05pm

Roethlisberger's as good as anybody in close games. We're always looking for that person who always comes through and wins in pressure situations. There is no such person. People who get lucky early get perceived that way, but the only way to keep up that myth about yourself is to retire early. Look at Brady. He was, 14-2 in mostly close games in the playoffs before he just lost 3 in a row. The fact is they're both great quarterbacks when the pressure's on; it's just that neither of them are perfect, and neither is anyone else.

35
by techvet (not verified) :: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 2:11pm

Mendenhall may be the better running, but James Starks does not fumble.

36
by thejoshbaker (not verified) :: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 2:36pm

Same mistake in the table as you had yesterday on ESPN. Manning's ATT/Int decline should be 0%, not -3.8%. Minor detail, I know.

37
by thejoshbaker (not verified) :: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 2:37pm

Ignore what I just said. I see that the difference was in the playoff ATT/Int, not the decline. Ignore.

40
by scottybsun (not verified) :: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 2:59pm

To me, Big Ben seems very inconsistent within games (really amazing "clutch" streaks and then stretches where he's very inaccurate) but pretty consistent between games. This means he's a bit of a rorschach test where people can place whatever narrative they want on him.

42
by Parker (The First One) (not verified) :: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 3:35pm

(Kurt Warner actually put up better numbers in the playoffs than he did during the regular season! Part of that is because most of Warner's playoff experience came as part of the Greatest Show on Turf Rams teams at the beginning of the 21st century.)

Ummmm....wrong.

First off, Warner played in 7 playoff games with the Rams and 6 with the Cards, so while most might be accurate, it is just 'most by one'. It might be more instructive to point out that just 41% of his career pass attempts were in a Ram uniform but 54% of his playoff games were as a Ram.

But, more importantly, when you break down his career numbers (regular and post season) by when he played for the Rams as opposed to when he didn't, you get this:

Warner with Rams
Comp YPA ATT/INT
Reg Season 66.4% 8.55 25.9
Post Season 63.1% 8.29 26.8

Warner with NY and Cards
Comp YPA ATT/INT
Reg Season 64.9% 7.51 37.8
Post Season 71.1 8.92 48.5

I'd say that Warners career improvement in the playoffs is in fact driven by his time with the Cardinals, not the Rams.

47
by Kal :: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 3:53pm

More accurately, it's fueled by some of the most amazing games anyone's ever seen by a QB - and those were while he was with Arizona. I understand that he put up nuts stats while on the Rams, but a lot of that was in the regular season. In the playoffs - at least in a couple of the playoff games - he was beyond incredible. He was savant level of QB play. He went into Madden mode.

Which really ultimately speaks to the small sample size. Ben threw 3 interceptions in two playoff games. Is that indicative of how well he'll do in the future? Is that a useful predictive tool? If you're doing a counting metric it messes everything up, or it certainly can - especially when ignoring things like the defenses he played against. This is FO, not ESPN - why not go with DVOA or DYAR in those games and evaluate it that way?

46
by CoachDave :: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 3:47pm

You can slice and dice Kurt Warner's playoff stats any way you want and cherry pick a throw here or there...you still should come to the same conclusion...the dude was lights out in the playoffs (against playoff-worthy defenses)...better than any QB I've ever seen in my lifetime.

/39 years old

49
by justanothersteve :: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 4:11pm

It should also be noted that the two offenses that killed the Packers 2009 defense were run by Warner and Rothlisberger.

81
by Red (not verified) :: Wed, 02/09/2011 - 2:56am

Measured against league average AY/A, Warner was above average in 12 of his 13 playoff games (the 1999 NFCC was his only blemish). That is spectacular consistency.

For comparison's sake (above average/playoff games):

Brady 8/19
Manning 11/19
Roethlisberger 7/13
Favre 16/24

Considering the better defenses faced in the playoffs, it seems most elite QB's are statistically above average in roughly half their games. For Warner to be 12/13 over average is truly remarkable. On top of that, he had three dominating performances over 12 AY/A.

Kurt Warner = HOF

83
by Kal :: Wed, 02/09/2011 - 3:59am

Considering the better defenses faced in the playoffs, it seems most elite QB's are statistically above average in roughly half their games.

I laughed. And it also turns out that about half the people are actually BELOW the median age!

But yes, Warner was very, very good in the playoffs. I don't know why. He probably doesn't know why. But he was really incredible.

98
by Ender (not verified) :: Wed, 02/09/2011 - 12:08pm

I don't disagree with what you are saying but I will add that the Green Bay defense he shredded in 2009 was not playoff quality. They were so banged up that just about any QB would have been able to shred them. Same thing for the huge game big Ben had, that was pretty much built on throwing at the Packers backups who had to start the game. Mostly at Bush. It is something the Packers do need to address still because they are always one injury away from putting a black hole on the field and your secondary is only as good as your worst CB.

52
by Will Allen :: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 4:32pm

I'll never forget Joe Montana shooting his 5000 degree fahrenheit clutch rays from his eyeballs, and striking Lewis Billups' hands, just before Montana's pass arrived at Billups' hands, causing Billups to drop the int. Then, Montana, ramped up his John Taylor-seeking clutch rays to complete the Super Bowl winning td. What clutch!

Playoff game stats aren't much better than using 10th game of the season stats, as a means of evaluating player performance.

56
by herm :: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 5:46pm

Well, he ramped up his clutch seeking rays later. The dropped interception was on the game tying, not game winning, drive.

60
by Independent George :: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 5:56pm

The game wasn't tied; the Niners were down 16-13 when they got the ball back.

75
by herm :: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 10:25pm

Nope. The 49ers were down 13-6. The play after the Billups drop they tied it. Later, the Bengals kicked a field goal to go up 16-13.

57
by jmaron :: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 5:48pm

You're absolutely right, and 99% of people will never believe you.

88
by ammek :: Wed, 02/09/2011 - 5:08am

And 'playoff stats' rapidly give way to 'Superbowl stats' once a quarterback reaches the big game.

Montana's playoff numbers from 1985-87 — which ought to have been the peak years of his career — were awful: 52% completion percentage, 5.7 y/a, 0 TD, 4 int, 2 fumbles and a hatful of sacks. It's worth noting that two of those games were against the Giants at their defensive peak, and the Giants seemed to have San Francisco's number. Too often a QB gets charged with a bad game rather than the opposing defense being recognized for a good one.

86
by randomname (not verified) :: Wed, 02/09/2011 - 4:24am

It's really too bad Woodson didn't pick that pass he got injured on, then the fact that, so long as Roethlisberger doesn't throw three INTs, the Steelers win in the postseason would have held true.

It must be nice to have that kind of team around you, knowing that as long as you don't make three huge mistakes, you're almost guaranteed a win.

89
by Jerry :: Wed, 02/09/2011 - 5:21am

Yeah, it's nice for a quarterback to have good teammates around him. It's also nice for those teammates to play with a good quarterback.

It's not a coincidence that the Steelers made the leap to elite after Roethlisberger replaced Tommy Maddox. It's also the case that Dan Marino wasn't enough to win championships for the Dolphins. Teams win, not individuals, and quarterbacks are so well-paid because they're considered such an important part of winning.

94
by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Wed, 02/09/2011 - 10:07am

All this fussing over quarterbacks and any review of the game shows that the two team areas exploited on both sides were the defensive backfields. Pittsburgh's issues were there throughout the game and Green Bay once the JV was inserted into action.

With the Uber-Troy apparently now just the Really Good Troy the Steelers are down to Ike Taylor and then hoping the pass rush gets there first. That's a problem against a quality team with the offense that can attack it.

99
by Ender (not verified) :: Wed, 02/09/2011 - 12:11pm

I don't think any pass defense in football could have really stopped Rodgers, his passes were placed so perfectly. You can't defense a perfect pass. A couple of them were blown coverages but the majority were just placed where they couldn't be defensed.

If the packers don't have an Injury I think Ben ends up with a very ugly stat line. He pretty much picked on the backups.

101
by Will Allen :: Wed, 02/09/2011 - 2:14pm

It is possible to cover a receiver well enough that it becomes impossible to complete any pass, no matter how well thrown, to that receiver. It is a very hard thing to do, however, and just about impossible to do to all receivers running routes. Thus, the critical factor to defending the Packers' offense in the next several years will be subjecting Rodgers to a lot of contact, thus making his accuracy and decision-maiking erode.

137
by Aaron Brooks' Good Twin (not verified) :: Thu, 02/10/2011 - 1:48pm

I think that's true for most WRs, but not all.

There wasn't a DB in the 1980s who could have prevented Harold Carmichael from catching a perfect pass, or Herman Moore in the mid-90s (6'4", with a 42-in vertical).

139
by tuluse :: Thu, 02/10/2011 - 3:06pm

It's still possible. Just hit him as soon as his finger tips touch the ball.

109
by tuluse :: Wed, 02/09/2011 - 3:33pm

The Bears held Rodgers to 14 points, and forced 2 interceptions.

And before you say "well they had to illegally hit him in the head to slow him down," he fared even worse in week 17.

113
by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Wed, 02/09/2011 - 4:02pm

Under Lovie Smith the Bears have played the Packers tough no matter the quarterback. This is clearly a Lovie Smith/Mike McCarthy thing versus the Bears actually knowing some magic formula against Rodgers specifically. Smith has the combination of personnel, approach and mindset to manage the game against GB/McCarthy.

A team would have to have all of those elements to duplicate what the Bears have accomplished. And even the Bears had moments where the defense was gashed repeatedly on multiple drives.

On a related note but not pertaining to tuluse's post, as for the suggestion that hitting Rodgers diminishes his effectiveness barring knocking him out of the game I see no trend that supports that contention. In the SB Rodgers was sacked 3 times and hit 11 other times and in the fourth quarter was highly effective. (Since folks are so fond of selective examples to support statements I will use one of my own.

)

117
by tuluse :: Wed, 02/09/2011 - 5:24pm

Ender said he didn't think any defense in football can stop Rodgers. The Bears have had success against him multiple times. So that is one defense that can stop him (or at least slow him down to a crawl.

122
by Will Allen :: Wed, 02/09/2011 - 6:45pm

Not all hits and sacks are created equal, and there has not been a quarterback born, nor will there ever be, who does not have his performance erode with consistent, violent, contact. They ain't cyborgs, and the more precise a guy is before getting lit up, the greater the descent will likely be when the lighting starts occuring with frequency.

103
by MCS :: Wed, 02/09/2011 - 2:18pm

Does anyone know Roethlisberger's splits before and after the Woodson injury?

110
by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Wed, 02/09/2011 - 3:45pm

MCS:

If you believe ESPN it was 30 before Woodson left and 115 afterward.

115
by Dave2000 (not verified) :: Wed, 02/09/2011 - 4:54pm

On NFL playbook they showed the Bush interception and Miller was running wide open with no one ahead of him. It would have been at least a 30 yard gain. On another play he was wide open but Ben slipped and underthrew it. Another was open for 10 yard gain but Ben ran for a short gain.

If his primary job was to to be a decoy he was awful at it as he got no one to try to cover him.

130
by Ezra Johnson :: Wed, 02/09/2011 - 7:30pm

Gee, Will Allen seems really hell-bent on getting Rodgers hurt. He's mentioned it just about every week since the playoffs started.

132
by Will Allen :: Wed, 02/09/2011 - 9:53pm

Yes, noting that the most effective defense against a highly accurate qb is to subject him to a pounding is quite novel. Hardly anyone has noted that prior to me, and the fact I did so while using a keyboard means I am hell-bent on getting said qb hurt. Next up, I am going to say that Maker's Mark tastes better than water, which means I'm hell bent on turning the brown liquid that flows from Minneapolis to New Orleans 100 proof!

135
by MCS :: Thu, 02/10/2011 - 9:30am

Get me a rock glass.

136
by Hurt Bones :: Thu, 02/10/2011 - 10:53am

Stand in line.

138
by Ezra Johnson :: Thu, 02/10/2011 - 2:22pm

If it's so obvious, why say it again and again?

Not to mention the quasi-legal barbarism it implies. People get hurt playing football, but despite what James Harrison says, the object of the game is not to hurt people.

140
by Will Allen :: Thu, 02/10/2011 - 4:20pm

I said it again because someone implied above that defending Rodgers was impossible when he is throwing with extreme accuracy, as is often the case. Human beings, when conversing, will often bring up a pertinent facts to illustrate how an implication may be false. I am happy to clear this up for you.

Violence, within the rules, is integral to the game of football, and a large part of it's appeal. Subjecting a player to violence, as a means of causing his performance to decline, has been part of the game since the game's inception. Ideally, the hope is that no player suffers debilitating injury, but it is also plainly recognized that debilitating injury is a real risk that one voluntarily accepts, when deciding to compete in a game in which violence is an integral part of the game's strategy.

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by Ezra Johnson :: Thu, 02/10/2011 - 5:16pm

Yes, and clotheslines, head slaps, and chop blocks were once "integral" to the game. Now pass rushers will readily trade 15 yards for a chance to get the QB out of the game, and that's wrong, too. I'm sure the Steelers - of all teams - had knocking Rodgers around as a central part of their strategy; in fact they did just that, and it didn't work. The reason it didn't work (other than that they weren't able to physically knock him out of the game) is that they had to do it by blitzing. And that's why the Bears *are* effective against Rodgers - because they can get pressure without blitzing, and can hold coverage with their back seven long enough for the pressure to get there. Then they occasionally bring a LB to keep them guessing. That was also how Tampa almost beat Kurt Warner in the 2000 NFCC. It is by far the best strategy against Rodgers, and is especially effective because of GB's weak running game.

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by Will Allen :: Thu, 02/10/2011 - 5:35pm

Look, if you want to completely do away with severe physical contact in football, just say so. Until those rules have been passed, however, then hitting people very hard, within the rules, will be an integral part of the game, as a means of causing an opposing player's performance to erode. Yes, accomplishing that task with four players, as opposed to five or more, is best, with regards to the opposing qb.

I've also writtten in the past couple weeks that pass rushers, who deliver helmet to helmet hits to qbs in the pocket, should be immediately ejected. Somehow you have chosen to ignore those proposals, in your diligent and oh-so-appreciated effort to review my scribblings here. Nevertheless, I wait your next response with urgent anticipation; I desperately need your oversight!

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by Ezra Johnson :: Thu, 02/10/2011 - 7:18pm

Look, if you want to turn football into an all-out bloodbath, just say so.

See, I can use cheap rhetorical tricks, too.

I'm not sure of the rationale behind limiting helmet hits only when in the pocket. When it comes to the head, as opposed to, say, the knees, the concept of a passer or receiver being vulnerable applies *all the time.* If the player contributes to the contact by lowering his head, etc., that's a different story.

And I STILL don't understand why this strategy of violence should apply uniquely to Rodgers, especially after seeing it used and fail for four straight weeks, in spite of imaginary pep talks from Rod Marinelli to Julius Peppers. They don't go any easier on the bad QBs. Here he is coming off a game against the pass rushingest, most violent team in football, and you say the answer is to hit him harder. If it's because he's too good and you can't beat him any other way, then I do see something kind of disturbing in it, especially coming from a Vikings fan.

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by Dan :: Sat, 02/12/2011 - 1:20am

The strategy worked in the conference championship game. The Packers offense was held to 14 points and a -1.0% VOAf (no opponent adjustments) and Rodgers had only 54 DYAR. Chicago lost because of their lack of offense / Green Bay's success on defense.

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by Will Allen :: Thu, 02/10/2011 - 10:25pm

Perhaps the issue is your reading comprehension, given I have repeatedly written that hitting ANY qb, not just Rodgers, often and hard, is the most sound strategy for limiting his effectiveness. The fact that it didn't work for consecutive weeks against Rodgers is simply because Rodgers is really good, and his pass blocking was rapidly improving. That still doesn't change the fact that trying to hit the quarterback hard and often is the surest way to limit a passing offense. All you have to do is see how HOF quality qbs like Manning and Brady frequently throw balls earlier than they wish, in order to avoid contact, to understand this.

Given how you have consistently voiced objection to the notion that hitting qbs with great force and frequency is a legitimate defensive tactic, it was not cheap at all to ask you if you wanted to eliminate that aspect of the game. In contrast, since I have repeatedly stated that such hits must be within the rules, and have advocated for more stringent penalities for illegal hits, the question you posed to me was either stupidly cheap, or once again indicative of cognitive deficits when you read.

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149
by KB (not verified) :: Tue, 05/31/2011 - 3:56pm

Mike Wallace on that TD was playing against a Injured Sam Shields.

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by AT (not verified) :: Wed, 08/17/2011 - 4:42pm

One thing to keep in mind is weather - Big Ben, Brady, and Favre all played in considerably worse weather in the playoffs than during the regular season on average. It is striking that the QBs with the least dropoff are also the ones that played in domes (Manning his whole career, Warner in his early playoff runs) or warm weather (Warner in his Cardinals playoff runs). It's a heck of a lot harder to get great passing stats in snow and sub-freezing temperatures. I'd be very interested to know the playoff splits by weather and then compare.