Ben Roethlisberger: Hall of Famer in the Shadows

For perhaps the first time in his career, Ben Roethlisberger is strongly being considered an NFL MVP candidate following his record feat of back-to-back games with six touchdown passes. He's playing as well as he has at any point in his career and the numbers put him in the same company as Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Andrew Luck and Tom Brady this season.

Roethlisberger's always kept great company, but he's often been pushed aside to the shadows when it comes to the discussion of great quarterbacks despite a resume that has been building towards the Hall of Fame since his rookie season.

The perception of Roethlisberger has never matched the reality, which is that of being one of the best quarterbacks of his era. He is not the pretty pocket passer in the Brady-Manning dominated era of quarterbacks. He plays for the Pittsburgh Steelers, who are known for running the ball and tough defense. He's more "meathead" than "methodical." More cocky than cerebral. Too daring to be durable. He's the ugly duckling of the pack, always picked over for the flashier choices.

That's what made Sunday so fitting. On a day when the football world stopped for Brady-Manning XVI and watched the Steelers retire Joe Greene's number at halftime, Roethlisberger was the story of the week again with six more touchdown passes against rival Baltimore.

During his first five seasons (2004-08), I thought Roethlisberger was clearly the best quarterback in the NFL behind Manning and Brady. He's always played in their shadows, but no one else had that combination of efficient statistics and team success on such a consistent basis in that time. Despite getting an early lead on the two quarterbacks (Eli Manning and Philip Rivers) drafted ahead of him in that famed 2004 class, a record-setting rookie season wasn't enough to outshine Manning's MVP campaign or Brady's completion of a dynasty in New England. But Roethlisberger made a mark with his unique style of making plays under pressure in the league's most vertical offense. His volume numbers were low, branding him a dreaded game manager, but he played a high-risk, high-reward style and was very efficient at doing so, ranking third and second in DVOA his first two years.

Winning a Super Bowl in his second season did not provide the instant credibility we expect from the media today, because Super Bowl XL did not go so well for Roethlisberger. His 22.6 passer rating against Seattle is cited so often you think he never won the game. What's never mentioned is how he converted eight third downs in that game with his arm and legs, including the longest third-down conversion in Super Bowl history: a 37-yard pass to Hines Ward on third-and-28.

Super Bowl aside, Roethlisberger made his first major off-field headline that summer in 2006 with a highly publicized motorcycle accident where he was not wearing a helmet. Add an emergency appendectomy before the regular season started and a concussion midway through and Roethlisberger struggled in the worst season of his career. Some analysts soon began to flock to young quarterbacks in pass-happier offenses like Carson Palmer, Jay Cutler, the emerging Tony Romo in Dallas, or Rivers, who led the Chargers to a No. 1 seed in 2006. Roethlisberger rebounded statistically in 2007 and made it through an injury-plagued 2008 behind what was likely the worst offensive line to ever win a Super Bowl.

After that second Super Bowl win, I thought Roethlisberger would finally get the Manning-Brady recognition, but 2009 proved to be a pivotal year. The first allegation of sexual assault emerged that summer, which brought into question his character. Around the league, Drew Brees had his best year in a Super Bowl season and Aaron Rodgers had a breakout performance for Green Bay. While Roethlisberger played very well in 2009, the Steelers missed the playoffs. That offseason a more detailed allegation of sexual assault in a Georgia restroom was headline news. Despite never being charged or arrested in either case, Roethlisberger was suspended by Commissioner Roger Goodell to start the 2010 season, which damaged his reputation for many.

Roethlisberger played very well after returning from suspension, ranking second in DVOA in 2010. He led the Steelers to a Super Bowl for the third time, but lost to Rodgers and the Packers after being unable to deliver another drive for the ages. In this fantasy football-crazed world, people just are not going to respect a season with 3,200 yards and 17 touchdown passes. Roethlisberger has five seasons in his career with 17 or 18 touchdown passes, because he rarely ever plays a full season due to injuries.

In 2011, Rodgers had his ring and ascended to another level with a MVP season. Brees was making 5,000-yard seasons look routine in New Orleans and that big four of Manning (neck pending), Brady, Brees and Rodgers was well established in NFL circles. Roethlisberger continued to take poundings behind a bad offensive line in Bruce Arians' system and a high-ankle sprain left him in bad shape for the end of the season. Tim Tebow embarrassed Pittsburgh's defense in the 2011 AFC Wild Card and that is the last we saw of Roethlisberger in a playoff game. Eli Manning and Joe Flacco even stole some of Roethlisberger's thunder in the quarterback pecking order after both followed up claims of being "elite quarterbacks" with Super Bowl MVP-winning seasons in 2011 and 2012.

Roethlisberger threw some crucial interceptions to lose games in 2012 and had a miserable 0-4 start along with the rest of the team in 2013. Both seasons ended 8-8 and out of the playoffs. In this time many experts were falling in love with the new breed of "athletic" quarterbacks, such as Cam Newton, Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick. These guys were getting to the playoffs and Super Bowls while Roethlisberger sat idle in January, losing relevance in the growing franchise quarterback market.

Speaking of markets, that's another area where Roethlisberger has fallen behind his peers. Signing his big deal in 2008, Roethlisberger's average salary ranks 14th at his position with unaccomplished (relative to Ben) players like Matthew Stafford, Matt Ryan, Andy Dalton and Alex Smith ahead of him. The good news is he's playing his way into one nice final payday that should put him ahead of some of those names.

When it comes to great quarterbacks from this era, Roethlisberger should be the first guy after the big four. Given those players could all be among the top 15 quarterbacks in NFL history when it's all said and done, fifth is a great spot to be and more than worthy for the Hall of Fame one day.

Roethlisberger has proven that when healthy, he's one of the most consistent quarterbacks in the league. He's gotten better at getting rid of the football faster and has taken fewer hits the last few years. This season he's finally enjoying a talented receiving back in Le'Veon Bell. He's never gotten real credit for his always changing core of wide receivers, including his role in the development of several mid-to-late-round draft picks. Last year he no longer had Mike Wallace, so he threw 10 touchdowns to Jerricho Cotchery. This season he's already found rookie Martavis Bryant for five scores in three games. That's what you expect from a quarterback who is accurate with the ball. He makes his teammates better and we know he's succeeded in spite of many subpar offensive lines.

Roethlisberger does the "backyard football" thing as well as anyone. He's one of the few quarterbacks actually capable of breaking out of sacks, but most of his damage is still done from the pocket. Despite the "cerebral" criticisms, the Steelers are consistently successful in the no-huddle offense with Roethlisberger calling his own plays. He has the efficiency stats. He's getting up there in volume with 40,000 yards and 300 touchdown passes in sight. He has many memorable moments with 23 fourth-quarter comebacks and 33 game-winning drives. The game-winning touchdown pass to Santonio Holmes in Super Bowl XLIII is as good as it gets. He probably has the all-time highlight in NFL history for a quarterback that's not a pass or run: the tackle in Indianapolis that saved Jerome Bettis' legacy and a Super Bowl championship.

In this golden era of quarterbacks with the absurd numbers put up every week, it's Roethlisberger who will always be the first quarterback with multiple 500-yard passing games. It's Roethlisberger who will always be the first quarterback to throw six touchdowns in back-to-back games. Not Peyton. Not Rodgers. Not Brady. Not Brees. Not the flavor of the month.

A lot of quarterbacks have received praise over the last decade, but Roethlisberger is still going strong in his 11th season, which could go down as his finest yet. Does he need 40 touchdown passes and a MVP for more vindication? No. He's a future Hall of Famer in his own way.

Now if only we could let him step out of the shadows and into the proper light he deserves.


115 comments, Last at 20 Nov 2014, 8:05am

#1 by jonnyblazin // Nov 04, 2014 - 12:55pm

"During his first five seasons (2004-08), I thought Roethlisberger was clearly the best quarterback in the NFL behind Manning and Brady."

Big Ben rarely threw the ball the first couple of seasons (under 300 attempts both years), even though he had a high DVOA I'm not sure anyone thought of him as an elite, top-3 QB at that point. He was doing well but had an amazing defense, running game, and WR corps.

In his third year he complete under 60% of his passes and led the league in INT's, and even in his 5th year he compiled a 17/15 TD/INT ratio and completed under 60% of his passes again.
That's the 3rd best QB in the league?

While he's been consistently very good since 2009, so have a lot of other QBs. I think for his career he's always been about the 5th to 10th best QB in a given year. I'm not sure that's HOF worthy, but obviously winning two super bowls helps.

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#2 by drobviousso // Nov 04, 2014 - 1:11pm

"Big Ben rarely threw the ball the first couple of seasons"
"amazing defense, running game,"
These things, they are not independent variables. You do know that right?

'and WR corps"
Off all the amazing WR corps Ben has thrown two, there's been exactly one WR who's been as good after leaving Pittsburgh.

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#4 by RickD // Nov 04, 2014 - 1:21pm

"Off all the amazing WR corps Ben has thrown two, there's been exactly one WR who's been as good after leaving Pittsburgh."

I guess we can dismiss Hines Ward because he stayed in Pittsburgh his whole career?

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#17 by PatsFan // Nov 04, 2014 - 3:19pm

Remember, this is Scott "I've been in the tank for Pittsburgh since I was still_life on KFFL" Kasczmar you're talking about. Of course there will be cherry-picking and data misrepresentation.

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#8 by jonnyblazin // Nov 04, 2014 - 1:37pm

"Off all the amazing WR corps Ben has thrown two, there's been exactly one WR who's been as good after leaving Pittsburgh."

Sorry but I've watched the games, every QB would dream of throwing to Hines Ward, Plexico Burress, Santonio Holmes, Mike Wallace, and Antonio Brown over the course of their career. Heath Miller isn't exactly chopped liver either.

So, Ward, Brown, and Miller have only played for the Steelers.

Burress played well for the Giants.

Holmes didn't fare so well with the Jets, but everyone knows he had personality issues (hence he was cut by Pitt) and suffered a foot injury.

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#14 by Led // Nov 04, 2014 - 2:38pm

Holmes was very effective for the Jets for two years. Things obviously fell apart after they gave him a big extension. Plus he never really recovered from his lisfranc injury, although I suppose it's possible the injury just coincided with normal age related decline. In any event, in other circumstances Holmes would have been very successful. He couldn't carry an offense, but he was a very good complementary receiver, which is how he was used in Pittsburgh.

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#3 by RickD // Nov 04, 2014 - 1:20pm

Let's look at the rankings
2004 3 11
2005 2 7
2006 15 10
2007 13 11
2008 27 26

Let's consider the Boilermaker
2004 5 7
2005 9 8
2006 2 2
2007 12 5
2008 3 1

I don't see how anybody could argue that Roethlisberger, not Brees, was the 3rd best QB from 2004-2008. Big Ben had two seasons where he was good in DVOA, but he wasn't being used a lot compared to the elite QBs.

Based on his first two seasons, I expected more from Roethlisberger. But by 2008 he was dreadful and underperforming his talent level.

If he'd spent the last seven years passing at the level he's done the past two weeks, he'd be a slam dunk for the Hall of Fame. As it stands, there's a case to be made, but it relies heavily on the Super Bowl victories. He really hasn't been an elite regular season QB.

Philip Rivers has the opposite problem: consistently good-to-great regular season numbers and a huge lack of postseason success on some very talented Charger teams.

Sorry, but any analysis that puts Roethlisberger ahead of Brees is something I cannot take very seriously. I know which QBs scare me, and Big Ben is not one of them. I never think he'll win a battle of wits with Belichick, the way Peyton Manning has done several times. Brees and Rodgers also scare me. Roethlisberger? Not so much. He's in the Flacco/Eli/Ryan/Rivers category of guys who can be dangerous but aren't really elite.

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#35 by JimZipCode // Nov 04, 2014 - 4:50pm

>> I know which QBs scare me, and Big Ben is not one of them.

I tell you what: I'm a Ravens fan who's watched Ben's whole career, and Ben scares the hell out of me on 3rd and long. I don't think there's a tougher QB to get off the field on third down, not excluding the Big Two. He also scares me when you're up by less than a TD with about 4 mins to play.

Ben's scariness is somewhat situational. Most of the game is he's not a danger to go off (Sunday night notwithstanding); and you will get opportunities to hit him, which is nice. But he is absolute murder on third down and end-of-game situations.

Ben also has that weird quality which some players seem to have, like Hines Ward and Steve Smith, where he seems to thrive on getting knocked around a little. If you hit him, you'd better absolutely drill him like Bart Scott did that one time, or Courtney Upshaw a few weeks ago. Otherwise a good hit just seems to wake him up.

I am halfway serious about that. Those screen grabs from the other night of Roethlisb stretching his jaw after Ngata walloped him, those make for some hilarious memes; but is it my imagination or did Ben throw all 6 TD passes after that? Steelers fans seem to think he's a crybaby; but I swear, unless you break a rib or concuss him, Ben seems to play sharper when he gets hit. Brady can be rattled if you hit him a few times early, but it seems like you have to injure Ben to have any effect.

So take that as testimony from an opposing fan. Ben is a plenty imposing figure.

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#59 by Noahrk // Nov 05, 2014 - 11:24am

The first couple of paragraphs sound like John Elway. Some people loved him, some not so much (relatively speaking). In the end it was the SB wins (and their timing) which won the narrative.

Who, me?

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#100 by intel_chris // Nov 06, 2014 - 8:36pm

Most of the article sounded reminiscent of Elway, except that until the end Elway didn't have the defense/run game to win the SB, whereas with Roethlisberger the SB's came earlier in his career.

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#36 by DisplacedPackerFan // Nov 04, 2014 - 5:21pm

Not only would I have put Brees in front of Ben in those years, Stubbleface was still around and had several very good years in there, actually 24.5% DVOA that he had in 04 and 07 were tied for the 3rd highest of his career behind the 34.5% in 09 (playing for Minn) and the 27.5% in 1995. Favre was only over 1000 DYAR 7 times in his career, was never ranked higher than 2nd in DYAR and never higher than 4th in DVOA. Of course the prime of his career was 94 - 01 where he was top 10 DYAR every year in that stretch, but it's not crazy to consider him better than Ben in the 04 - 08 years brought up. Brees is a no brainer better QB 05 being the one year you might have a good argument for Ben over him.

Year . . Favre . . . . . Roethlisberger . . . . Brees
. . .DVOA . . DYAR . . . DVOA . . DYAR . . .DVOA . . DYAR
2004 24.5( 8) 1284( 5) . 31.7( 3) 908(11) . 31.4( 5) 1135( 7)
2005 03.6(19) 0606(10) . 35.8( 2) 885( 7) . 15.2( 9) 0883( 8)
2006 -1.5(21) 0394(15) . 08.2(15) 623(10) . 25.6( 2) 1409( 2)
2007 24.5( 5) 1311( 3) . 12.7(13) 668(11) . 14.2(12) 1159( 5)
2008 -8.6(28) 0095(27) . -8.1(27) 097(26) . 28.6( 3) 1694( 1)

Now the Favre comparison is not to put down Ben, in fact I think it can be used to strengthen his HoF credentials if you are looking at the broader range of the article. I think Ben has gotten better since 08. If he keeps up the recent crazy play and finishes the year as a legit MVP candidate I think that would seal a HoF entry for him. His lows were never as low as Favre or Warner. He has the "hardware" requirement the media wants. He has several signature games, not just these last two. He just hasn't been able to get out of the shadow of some of the best QB's to ever play.

If you do a +/- 3 year window from when someone entered the league to define their peer group that would make Ben's group the following current starters. Yes this does mean that you'll end up in multiple peer groups.

Vick, Brees, Palmer, Romo, E. Manning, Rivers, Alex Smith, Orton, Rodgers, Fitzpatrick, and Cutler

Ben would be 3rd on that list too for most people, and I think there might be arguments made for Rivers and Romo who, as pointed out would be held back by post season numbers. However his full career of work has some advantages over Rodgers already thanks to Rodgers sitting behind Favre for 3 years. Compiling solid stats can help. But that group is over 1/3 of the current NFL starters. I can see the argument of very good but not great given to Ben. But like I said if this year can peak out in that Manning / Brady / Brees / Rodgers rarefied air I think it's all he needs along with a few more solid seasons. He gets to another Super Bowl and he's a HoF lock based on how the process works. The other option is to play at levels he's played at most of his career and stick around as long as Favre did, even with missing 2 or 3 games a year the way he tends to, that would still be enough.

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#40 by RickD // Nov 04, 2014 - 5:58pm

Yes, when I thought about Brees, I thought that he wasn't the only candidate for #3, and that the case for Favre is certainly there. (Certainly he was in the top 3 for hype at the time, but I digress.) I just figured it would suffice to show Brees should be ahead of Roethlisberger. If other QBs are, too, that also works.

I would really want to see Big Ben end his career with more performances like he's had the past two weeks. If he can do a reasonably good job of doing something like that, his HoF case is strong. His low points have never been as low as Warner's or Eli's (though his high is also nowhere near Warner's).

In terms of sticking around, the guy is a rock. I'd say he's physically the toughest QB in the league, and that includes Cam Newton (with all due respect).

I guess when it comes down to it, I think Ben started his career roughly at the same level that Brady started his career. Super Bowl title in his second year. And the early Brady was not the passer that he became in the past five years. I haven't seen Roethlisberger take that kind of leap. Maybe he's doing so now, and that would be great for him (and Steelers fans). I just thought he'd improve more by now. As rookies, he was clearly ahead of Rivers and Eli. But that advantage faded to the point where right now Rivers is the most respected of the three. Seems like Roethlisberger has wasted some of his talent.

And then there's Eli, who's wasted the most. It's probably tough being Peyton's younger brother. But Eli goes through long stretches where he doesn't seem like he's trying very hard. Oh well, that's a discussion for another day.

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#51 by BIG D DADDY // Nov 05, 2014 - 2:27am

hey u wussy i wood like seein ur sorry as. laid out one time like big ben / still hav the wits to talk about it(from ur statements think u were hit once/couldnt hack it!!!)big ben is elite as they come!! hes had sorry as.offensive lines protectin him,gets banged up / is still a gamer! if 2 super bowls aint enuf 4 ur sorry as f..,k u!!lol

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#54 by PantsB // Nov 05, 2014 - 10:20am

Take it a step farther and look at other QBs from that time period. During that time Palmer was considered a better QB *in the same division*.

Carson Palmer's 2008 was very injury shortened but before that
2004 17 16
2005 2 3
2006 3 4
2007 6 10
2008 30 30 (only a handful of games)

After his injury he's never been the same, but at the time he was #3 with Brees charging hard and eventually overtaking him.

McNabb DVOA ranks- 6 12 6 17 13 DYAR ranks 6 14 9 14 9 average around 10th for both. Better than BR.

Its the exact kind of hack writing that Football Outsiders was founded to avoid. He's writing as a Steelers fan first and football fan/observer/analyst second.

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#5 by dmstorm22 // Nov 04, 2014 - 1:21pm

To put it another way, Ben's first two seasons map out quite nicely to Russell Wilson's. Ben was actually better by most advanced metrics (way ahead in DVOA). Both had good running games adn great defenses. Both won the Super Bowl in their second year.

I don't remember many putting up Roethlisberger the way people have with Russell Wilson.

I agree that his '06 season was not good, and '08 looks bad on paper (his o-line was absolutely horse-bleep that year), but since '09 he's been consistently a very good QB.

There are often more than 5 HOF QBs at any one time. The only people with definitely better resumes are Manning/Brady/Brees/Rodgers. He's right there with Rivers, ahead of Eli in my view.

I'll just say this, if Eli Manning is a HOFer, then I sincerely hope Ben is, because the argument that Eli was better is flimsy at best and laughable at worst.

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#7 by RickD // Nov 04, 2014 - 1:33pm

Among so-called "borderline" QB candidates, I'd put Warner >> Roethlisberger >> Eli.

I think Warner should definitely get in. Other QBs from recent years that are must-inducts include P. Manning, Favre, Brady, and Brees. Rodgers will be there eventually, and I suspect Luck will, too.

Beyond that, I'm not really seeing a great need to induct QBs. There are too many players from other positions getting left out to lower the bar to admit a QB every year.

"I don't remember many putting up Roethlisberger the way people have with Russell Wilson."

Actually, there are strong analogies there. Both entered the league with relatively little hype compared to not one, but two highly regarded QBs. In 2004 it was Eli Manning and Philip Rivers. In 2012, it was Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III. Both also won Super Bowls very quickly, albeit as QBs for teams known more for their defenses. By "put up Russell Wilson", are you saying that people are claiming he's one of the best QBs? My sense is that he's usually counted as maybe top 10, but definitely not top 5, and that's about how Roethlisberger was viewed 8-10 years ago.

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#10 by dmstorm22 // Nov 04, 2014 - 1:38pm

I have seen a fair share of 'elite' articles on Russell Wilson, but maybe memory is clouding my judgement.

I didn't include Warner and Favre (who I think are both HOFers - Favre obviously) as to me they are the previous era, though Warner and Favre did have long overlap.

My point about 5 HOFers was more to say that there have been many HOF QBs at the same time plenty of times.

Montana/Marino/Elway/Aikman/Young/Kelly/Moon/Favre all overlapped (Favre and Montana less so). Having Ben has a HOF doesn't really lower the bar at all. Eli on the other hand....

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#15 by coremill // Nov 04, 2014 - 3:03pm

FO itself ran a "Wilson is the non-Peyton MVP" article last year:

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#55 by PantsB // Nov 05, 2014 - 10:39am

There are often more than 5 HOF QBs at any one time. The only people with definitely better resumes are Manning/Brady/Brees/Rodgers. He's right there with Rivers, ahead of Eli in my view.

John Elway played for 15 years, in largely a QB known era. During that time Montana, Marino, Young, Favre, Fouts, Warner, Moon and (barely) Manning were active. That's 9 over a 15 year span. That's an insane amount.

There have been during at least 6 Roethlisburger's career. Favre. Warner. Brady, Brees, Manning, Rodgers. Six plus whomever else becomes HoF worthy - Eli or Luck or Wilson or... Plus whoever barely overlaps at the end of his career (like Elway with Warner or Manning).

Roethlisburger has never been All-Pro, even second team. He's been to the Pro Bowl only twice and never started. He's won 2 Super Bowls but wasn't the Super Bowl MVP either time. He's never been a serious MVP candidate.

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#57 by Theo // Nov 05, 2014 - 11:13am

I'd adjust that to 7 people for Elway.
He and Warner just missed each other. Elway's last season was 1998, Kurt Warner only became 'Greatest Show on Turf Kurt Warner' in 1999.
Also, Peyton Manning played like a real rookie in 1998. So I wouldn't count his HOF career crossing paths with Elways HOF career.

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#92 by Stillerz Bar // Nov 06, 2014 - 1:03pm

Ben’s case is made more by wins than by stats (though those are pretty good too):

• 2 Super Bowl wins; 3 appearances
• 4th fastest QB in history to 100 regular season wins (behind Montana, Brady & Bradshaw - ahead of Manning)
• 2nd best post season winning percentage in NFL history

He has shown he can excel in both the regular season & the playoffs. Unfortunately, today’s NFL media gets more excited by fantasy numbers than by finding a way to win.

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#6 by Raiderjoe // Nov 04, 2014 - 1:28pm

Best qbs pf this era-
Barsy, Peyron Manning, Brees, Rodgers, Roethlisberger.

These ar the top 5. Read 'em and weep.

Up and comingers are A. Luck, D. Carr, T. Bridgewater and R. Wlson.

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#13 by ChrisS // Nov 04, 2014 - 2:05pm

I certainly agree with your first four, but the drop to number five is pretty steep and the difference between five and six (whoever that may be) is much much smaller.

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#46 by Bobikus // Nov 04, 2014 - 11:24pm

The only reason there's a huge perceived dropoff between the top 4 and Ben is that Ben's been in easily the worst situation of all of them for most of his career in terms of putting up numbers. He's had the worst surrounding offensive cast in most of his years while playing in usually a tougher defensive division. It should come to no surprise at all that the moment the rest of the offense beyond him and Brown (and Bell early this year) started playing well he puts up possibly the best two game stretch ever.

DYAR/DVOA is a nice stat for looking at how meaningful a team's passes really are, but it's not a stat that ignores supporting cast.

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#53 by nat // Nov 05, 2014 - 9:12am

He's had the worst surrounding offensive cast in most of his years...

Not quite. He's always had two, sometimes three targets who were drafted in the first round. So we know that before Ben started throwing to them they were expected to be top receivers or running backs.

That's less than someone like Peyton Manning, whose median season featured three and had seven seasons with four or five first rounders as targets. But comparing his experience to Manning's would be nuts. No one has had supporting casts like Manning has. Something like 65% of his career completions went to first rounders.

What's odd about Roethlisberger is how in most of his career his top receiver wasn't a first round pick. He made good use of a lot of lower picked guys. Hines Ward is first among those, of course, but by no means the only one.

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#68 by DisplacedPackerFan // Nov 05, 2014 - 2:22pm

Interesting way to measure the surrounding cast. Not saying it's bad, just hadn't looked at it.

If you use that measure then I'm pretty sure Rodgers has had one first round draft pick as a target, that being Cedric Benson, the cast off running back they picked up and used for awhile.

Rodgers has 3205 attempts in his career, the numbers will be a bit off because I grabbed all the WR/TE with more than 30 targets + the top two running backs from each season he has been a starter. But there isn't an easy way to get just who Rodgers targeted. So there are 3007 targets in the list and some of them (250 or so) would be from Flynn/Tolzien/Wallace. So the percentages are not quite right either as they are based on the 3205 number. I figure they are ballpark enough. I should go back and get the targets for guys like Kuhn and Starks when they were the top two targeted running backs. I might update with that, but it's not going to change things a ton.

Running backs have a first initial in the list, sorted by draft order, then alpha on the UDFA's.

Nelson . . . 2nd (36) . .523 . 16.32%
Jennings . . 2nd (52) . .428 . 13.35%
Adams . . . .2nd (53) . . 35 . 1.09%
E. Lacy . . .2nd (61) . . 68 . 2.12%
B. Jackson . 2nd (63) . .115 . 3.59%
Cobb . . . . 2nd (64) . .237 . 7.39%
Jones . . . .3rd (78) . .425 . 13.26%
Finley . . . 3rd (91) . .289 . 9.02%
A. Green . . 3rd (96) . . 30 . 0.94%
Rodgers . . .3rd (98) . . 11 . 0.34%
Quarless . . 5th (154). .108 . 3.37%
Lee . . . . .5th (156). .104 . 3.24%
J. Starks . .6th (193). . 50 . 1.56%
Driver . . . 7th (213). .370 . 11.54%
Boykin . . . UDFA . . . . 83 . 2.59%
R. Grant . . UDFA . . . . 76 . 2.37%
J. Kuhn . . .UDFA . . . . 55 . 1.72%

He's thrown to a lot of 2nd rounders but not any first rounders. 16.3% or so of his attempts in his career have gone to Nelson (again approximately he's probably only targeted Neslon 500 times so it's more like 15.6%).

I included the pick because Nelson was close to a first round pick, but everyone else was bottom of the 2nd round or later.

So he's had very good talent, but generally not first round talent.

Points: 0

#70 by nat // Nov 05, 2014 - 4:03pm

Nifty. I like that you used targets rather than receptions. You get extra points for showing the round and pick. Sorted by targets might be even better.

My original inspiration was this article:

CSNNE seems to have trouble counting to 25 or realizing that Dallas Clark was a first round pick. But the concept was interesting. They show twenty-plus top receivers by receptions rather than targets. It's amazing how much Manning has had to work with, especially when compared at Brady (14% completions to first rounders vs. Manning's 65%) and now Rodgers (0%!!!)

Before someone comes in and says "but but Welker!!!" I'd like to say that this is more a measure of how much Mom and Dad spent on toys than it is of how good the toys turn out to be. Sometimes the rusty old vibrating football game (Wes Welker, UDFA, bought at a garage sale) is the best toy of the year. But usually the expensive new toys are the cool ones. Used toys are better judged by their resale price, not the original sticker anyway.

And to bring us back to the topic:

Quit your complaining Roethlisberger fans! At least Ben GOT first rounders to throw to!

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#71 by DisplacedPackerFan // Nov 05, 2014 - 4:34pm

Updated a bit. I got the missing targets for the guys that were on the list but were not 30 targets in some year, sorted it by targets, and added his one first round pick, Cedric Benson, that he did throw 15 passes to, onto the end of the list. Also did the pick and round a bit differently more like the article if people want to cross compare. Again the targets are team targets so still a bit off.

Nelson . . . 36 - 2nd . 523 . 16.32%
Jennings . . 52 - 2nd . 428 . 13.35%
Jones. . . . 78 - 3rd . 425 . 13.26%
Driver . . .213 - 7th . 383 . 11.95%
Finley . . . 91 - 3rd . 301 . 9.39%
Cobb . . . . 64 - 2nd . 237 . 7.39%
Lee . . . . 156 - 5th . 116 . 3.62%
B. Jackson . 63 - 2nd . 115 . 3.59%
Quarless . .154 - 5th . 112 . 3.49%
Boykin . . . .UDFA . . . 89 . 2.78%
J. Kuhn . . . UDFA . . . 87 . 2.71%
R. Grant . . .UDFA . . . 78 . 2.43%
J. Starks . 193 - 6th. . 73 . 2.28%
E. Lacy. . . 61 - 2nd. . 68 . 2.12%
Adams. . . . 53 - 2nd. . 35 . 1.09%
A. Green . . 96 - 3rd. . 31 . 0.97%
Rodgers. . . 98 - 3rd. . 11 . 0.34%
C. Benson . . 4 - 1st. . 15 . 0.47%

Adams and Rodgers are both rookies and likely to climb the list.

And like you say it's more a measure of what the GM is attempting to put around the player. Driver is the only player on the list that wasn't brought in by the current management. He gives Rodgers 3rd and 5th round Tight Ends (DJ Williams no longer with the team was a 5th rounder) and generally 2nd (Terrance Murphy was a 2nd rounder in 05 who had a career ending injury in his first or 2nd game), 7th, and UDFA receivers. Running backs are usually 2nd round pick-ups. It was a trend I had been noticing out of Thompson for awhile but this data helped bring it home. First round picks tend to go to linemen and linebackers many of which have not panned out recently, though Harrel and Sherrod (recently cut) are the only TT / MM first round picks not currently on the roster.

I should look more at those drafting patterns since the only free agents generally brought in are UDFA's and there being a fairly clear pattern on what round what positions are taken, it really shows what they think the value of certain positions are, as well as which you can catch lightning in a bottle. Hence all the 7th round and UDFA WR they tend to get. Not that many tend to get a lot of targets.

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#72 by Thomas_beardown // Nov 05, 2014 - 4:40pm

Measuring these things by pass attempts seems like a terrible method for measuring resources invested. Like the Patriots spent a 2nd round pick on Chad Jackson. He was terrible and almost never saw the field, but it's the same resources invested either way.

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#75 by DisplacedPackerFan // Nov 05, 2014 - 6:42pm

I think listing the round / pick shows what resources are being used. The targets is more the ROI. Related, but not the same.

The 2nd round pick invested in Brandon Jackson was the same resource investment as the 2nd round pick invested in Eddy Lacy. Lacy had a much higher return as a rusher (not reflected in my charts) and he has seen half of the passing targets that Jackson had in only 1.5 vs 4 years, so is clearly on pace for a better ROI there too.

But yes it's still a fairly poor metric for either of those measures. It does help quantify things a bit though.

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#77 by Bobikus // Nov 05, 2014 - 7:28pm

Draft stock is really unreliable though, especially when you consider that probably the worst drafted player while Ben was there was a 2nd rounder (Sweed) while the best was a 6th rounder (Brown). Miller's the only high round pick that really lived up to his draft stock and played a significant amound of time with Ben, and he was drafted to be a solid receiver while being a good blocker, and not really a Gates/Graham/Clark type TE.

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#79 by Mr Shush // Nov 05, 2014 - 7:41pm

Flip side, subjectively at least, we also have had the chance to see Manning play a season with a supporting cast that was just flat out, top-to-bottom abysmal, which can't really be said of any of the others. Brady spent quite a few years at various stages playing on units that were generally clearly below par apart from himself, but they all had at least some redeeming features (usually the line). Roethlisberger's never had to cope with the shocking receiving groups that both those guys at one time or another have (though he has spent a lot of years with pretty poor O-lines).

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#80 by Bobikus // Nov 05, 2014 - 7:51pm

The o-line has been bad enough that the only starting lineman still in the league from SB43 is Willie Colon, who is on the Jets (and is pretty bad). This is probably the first year the line's been at least decent both run and pass blocking in awhile, and they've still had some really bad stretches.

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#85 by DBR96A // Nov 06, 2014 - 1:00am

The entire starting interior offensive line for the Steelers in Super Bowl XLIII was out of the NFL within three years of that game, and none due to old age either. And Max Starks was recently seen getting cut from the Chargers, Rams and Cardinals. He lost the starting LT competition in San Diego to King Dunlap. That says it all.

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#113 by Mr Shush // Nov 11, 2014 - 1:37pm

I freely admit that "pretty poor" was an understatement. That doesn't alter the fact that his receivers have been excellent, where Manning's in 2010 (with a similarly diabolical line) were rubbish.

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#81 by commissionerleaf // Nov 05, 2014 - 8:36pm

Counting the likes of Donald Brown and Anthony Gonzalez as "First Round Targets" is a little bit unfair.

At different times, we've seen fairly weak teams propped up by all these quarterbacks (except maybe Rodgers). Brady's offense last year was basically dragged to the playoffs by Old Tom. Manning's team in 2010 was probably actually worse than the 2011 Suck for Luck squad, except IT HAD PEYTON MANNING. Roethlisberger's career is weird, in that Pittsburgh has winning seasons even when he sucks and goes 8-8 or otherwise misses the playoffs when he's playing great football. His second Super Bowl year looks like an off-year Jake DelHomme stat line, while his 2013 looks like Old School Brady but they went 8-8.

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#115 by Jerry // Nov 20, 2014 - 8:05am

Sorry this is so late, but I just stumbled across this story about the Steelers' receivers in recent history.

"Only two wide receivers drafted by the Steelers since the late 1990s received multi-year second contracts — Hines Ward and Antonio Brown."

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#12 by JFP // Nov 04, 2014 - 1:52pm

In this golden era of quarterbacks with the absurd numbers put up every week, it's Roethlisberger who will always be the first quarterback with multiple 500-yard passing games. It's Roethlisberger who will always be the first quarterback to throw six touchdowns in back-to-back games. Not Peyton. Not Rodgers. Not Brady. Not Brees. Not the flavor of the month

Wow two freaky back to back games. Put that man in the HOF!

I've always liked Ben and think he deserves to be in the HOF once he's done, but I'm not impressed by the passing numbers. The same goes for every other QB for the past ten years.

I don't care if it's back-to-back six TD games, 500 yard passing games, consecutive games with a TD pass, 5000 yard passing seasons, 70% completion rates, or a 50 TD pass season. The NFL has pushed the advantage so far to the offense, particularly passing, all these passing stats are skewed.

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#16 by dryheat // Nov 04, 2014 - 3:07pm

I think that anytime you have the chance to put the 6th-8th best QB of his era in the Hall of Fame, clearly you need to do it. How could we earnestly refer to it as the HoF if we neglected to enshrine the guy who was in the top 25% of the contemporaries at his position? It is also for this reason that we should put in guys who are among the top 25% of their contemporaries at their respective positions. Guys like Devon McCourty, Martellus Bennett, Vincent Jackson, Rodney Hudson, and James Laurenaitis. I mean, if you're not quite the best of the best in your own time, you absolutely have a case to be among the best of the best all-time.

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#21 by DrunkenOne // Nov 04, 2014 - 3:25pm

Was just typing out something similar but forgot to login, then logged in and saw your post. Completely agree with what you said 100%. Despite the claims in this article, Ben was never considered a top QB at any point in his career, and Manning, Godgers, Brady, and Brees are all clearly a tier above him. A "bad" year for any of those guys is on par with Ben's best. Ben "led" the Steelers to 12-4 in 2008 on a sub-60% completion, 17 tds, 15 ints which is unthinkably bad for any of the big 4.

Ben is on the same 2nd tier as guys like Eli, Rivers, McNabb, Hasselbeck, Romo, Carson Palmer, etc, who are very good guys who you want want on your team, but aren't elite. If a player isn't considered the best of or one of the best in his position theres no way he should get into the HOF. Its called the Hall of Fame, not the Hall of Pretty Good. The only real reason Ben would even get consideration is because of RANGS, not stats, in which case you might as well put Eli in the HOF.

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#27 by DrunkenOne // Nov 04, 2014 - 3:40pm

DYAR and DVOA rankings since we are on FO

2004 11th 3rd
2005 7th 2nd
2006 10th 15th
2007 11th 13th
2008 26th 27th
2009 8th 8th
2010 7th 2nd
2011 9th 11th
2012 9th 11th
2013 11th 12th

Looks like he is around 8th-10th.

Clearly HOF worthy

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#23 by Duff Soviet Union // Nov 04, 2014 - 3:34pm

"It is also for this reason that we should put in guys who are among the top 25% of their contemporaries at their respective positions. Guys like Devon McCourty, Martellus Bennett, Vincent Jackson, Rodney Hudson, and James Laurenaitis."

Do you really think a good QB is as valuable as a good tight end, middle linebacker or safety?

The 6th - 8th best QB of his era *does* deserve serious HOF recognition, the 6the - 8th best anything else clearly does not.

The big 4 are clearly ahead of him and I'd say Rivers is too (the only real argument for Ben is "COUNT TEH RINGZZZ", which doesn't persuade me too much). So, I'd say that Ben is probably the 6th best QB of an era notable for truly great quarterbacking. That's an HOFer to me.

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#31 by DrunkenOne // Nov 04, 2014 - 3:46pm

Players with HOF consideration should be compared to their peers. If they are much better than their peers, they should get in. Ben is clearly at least a tier behind the Big 4 guys (as you agree), so why should be get in if he isn't one of the best? You say that in the current era, the 6th-8th deserve consideration, but why should they if they are clearly not as good as the guys ahead of them? You are right that this is an era of truly great quarterbacking, but all that means is that all potential HOF candidates at QB should be compared to their contemporaries, and if they fall far short (as Ben does), they shouldn't get in.

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#32 by Duff Soviet Union // Nov 04, 2014 - 3:50pm

Because QB's aren't the same as any other positions. The 6th - 8th best QB is more valuable than the best safety or the best inside linebacker or tight end.

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#43 by jonnyblazin // Nov 04, 2014 - 8:35pm

"Because QB's aren't the same as any other positions. The 6th - 8th best QB is more valuable than the best safety or the best inside linebacker or tight end."

True, but does the HOF measure the absolute value of a player to his team, or how much he dominated the position he played? I think it's closer to the latter. It might be true that the 16th most valuable QB is more valuable that an elite ILB or TE, so following that logic the HOF would be populated by 80% QB's.

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#33 by dmstorm22 // Nov 04, 2014 - 4:11pm

Well, was Warren Moon equal to Montana/Marino/Elway, or a tier behind?

Ben is in line with 2nd tier HOFers from previous eras, like Moon/ & Kelly

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#44 by jonnyblazin // Nov 04, 2014 - 8:42pm

Warren Moon is somewhat of a special case, since he couldn't sniff a starting NFL job until he was 28 because of... um... questionable reasons.

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#94 by commissionerleaf // Nov 06, 2014 - 3:03pm

Moon might have broken every passing record in the book if he had started from the beginning and maintained a starting job with one team all the way through.

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#19 by Alternator // Nov 04, 2014 - 3:23pm

I suppose the question is, what defines a Hall of Fame player? Do we, as fans, want to see QBs inducted on a much lower standard of comparative excellence than other positions? If you can say "He was the fifth best player of his time" is that Hall of Fame worthy when there are, at most, forty guys at the position with any kind of reasonable starter qualifications - and even that includes the rookies sitting on the bench, or the teams with a backup who could start elsewhere? It'd be like saying the 15th best WR is Hall of Fame worthy, or the 10th best RB.

Because you really can't make a case for Big Ben being a top-3 QB for any sustained period. In 2004-05 he had fantastic efficiency, but remarkably low volume, and it's been known for a long time across many sports that as volume goes up, efficiency goes down - so how good would Ben have been if he'd passed an extra ten times per game? As Scott noted, by the time he'd really picked up his game after those first two years, you have some combo of Brady, Brees, Manning, and Rodgers ahead of him.

I just don't see an 85th percentile start, at any position, as Hall of Fame worthy.

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#22 by Thomas_beardown // Nov 04, 2014 - 3:29pm

From the 90s we have these hall of fame QBs:

Favre, Young, Kelly, Moon plus the tail end of Elway and Marino.

I don't really want to take any of those QBs out.

From the 00s we're probably going to get:

P Manning, Brady, Brees, and the tail end of Favre. Rodgers is really more of a 2010s qb (his first year starting was 08).

It seems perfectly in line to also include Roesthlisberger.

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#25 by Thomas_beardown // Nov 04, 2014 - 3:38pm

Oops on Aikman (and really the 90s are the tail end for Moon too).

I find the idea of kicking either Aikman or Kelly out ridiculous.

Aikman is actually an interesting comparison to Big Ben. A great QB who never needed to do as much as his contemporaries because he was on stacked teams.

For Kelly, you just don't have that run of success where the offense is even named after you (K-Gun) without being a HoF QB in my mind.

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#61 by amin purshottam // Nov 05, 2014 - 12:57pm

Sorry but Aikman was not great, that Cowboys team carried him. He was the least important part of that team. Boomer wins 3 rings on that team, Kelly wins 5. Young wins 9. I am sorry Aikman was average at best. Did he even have one seans where he threw 20 TD's?

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#86 by DBR96A // Nov 06, 2014 - 1:03am

Troy Aikman was the least important part of his team? In that case I'll invoke Bob Valvano when discussing Ben Roethlisberger's career in 2011:

"You can't keep telling me that the QB is the most important position on a football team and then all of a sudden claim that a QB has had nothing to do with his team's success."

So it goes for Roethlisberger, so it goes for Aikman.

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#30 by Raiderjoe // Nov 04, 2014 - 3:43pm

Kelly great with Gamblers and Bils. Of coirs, usfl days not cpnsidered byvoters.

Aikman ezcellent. Both deseeving pf hall enshrinement

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#20 by jonnyblazin // Nov 04, 2014 - 3:23pm

"It is also for this reason that we should put in guys who are among the top 25% of their contemporaries at their respective positions. Guys like Devon McCourty, Martellus Bennett, Vincent Jackson, Rodney Hudson, and James Laurenaitis."

Yeah but do those guys have two ringz? I personally can't wait until Chris Snee's HOF induction.

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#37 by Kurt // Nov 04, 2014 - 5:26pm

I get that the football HOF is not the same as the baseball HOF but man, do people not care about career length at all? To the point that Ben is being compared to Martellus Bennett?

He's 32 years old. He's already started about as many games as Aikman, McNabb and Hasselbeck. If he plays another 4 or 5 years at roughly his current level, he'll be top ten all time in passing yards and touchdowns. I know you have to adjust the numbers for the era he's playing in, but I'm pretty confident if he does that he'll be in the HOF.

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#38 by young curmudgeon // Nov 04, 2014 - 5:29pm

Not sure Kacsmar presents a convincing case, but I'd suggest that, when your cohort includes one QB who seems to be rapidly gaining more and more adherents who deem him the Greatest of All Time, and another QB whose adherents can present reasonable (and also unreasonable, as the infamous "Irrational...Thread" documents in exhaustive, albeit amusing, detail) and coherent arguments that their man is actually better, then being the 5th or 6th best QB of that group isn't all that bad.

If I'm the third smartest guy in the room and other people in the room include Stephen Hawking and Andrew Wiles, I'm feeling pretty intelligent!

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#39 by Cythammer // Nov 04, 2014 - 5:54pm

"His 22.6 passer rating against Seattle is cited so often you think he never won the game." I've never heard this mentioned before now…

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#65 by commissionerleaf // Nov 05, 2014 - 2:03pm

That's "shredding" the Colts?

Pittsburgh ran 42 times because they were afraid Roethlisberger would give the game away. And Pittsburgh won because Vanderjagt missed a field goal...

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#69 by Bernie // Nov 05, 2014 - 3:21pm

Pittsburgh won that game, because their front 7 pretty much spent the entire first half in the Colts backfield. By the time the Colts figured out their protection, it was pretty much too late. They still could have won the game on the fumble return, except for some reason, Harper tried to juke Roethlisberger, instead of just outrunning him to the sideline and then into the endzone.
Pittsburgh was fortunate that their defensive game plan was outstanding, because the offense was just ok.

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#87 by DBR96A // Nov 06, 2014 - 1:35am

Just shut up with your revisionist history.

The Steelers passed more than they ran in the first half of that game (19 passes, 13 runs) and had a 14-3 lead at halftime. They had a 21-3 lead at the start of the fourth quarter and went super run-heavy to run out the clock (three passes, 11 runs). They didn't score any points that quarter, which means that they stopped scoring the moment they took the ball out of Roethlisberger's hands. This flies (and defecates) squarely in the face of your argument.

Bill Cowher said it himself when he talked about how he won games with Roethlisberger at QB: "Throw it early to build a lead; run it late to win the game." In other words, the Steelers built their leads on Roethlisberger's arm and then used to running game to wear down the opposing defense and kill the clock. Cowher trusted Roethlisberger to put points on the board, which he did very efficiently all throughout the AFC bracket of the 2005 post-season.

As for Mike Vanderjagt missing his late FG attempt, the Steelers wouldn't have even been in that situation if not for Jerome Bettis fumbling the ball. Funny, the Steelers built a double-digit halftime lead on Roethlisberger's arm, but damn near gave the game away when they went run-heavy. By the way, did you see Roethlisberger's statistics from the 2005 AFC Championship Game? 21/29, 275 yards, 2 TD, TD run. The running game had 90 yards and 2.7 YPC that day.

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#96 by commissionerleaf // Nov 06, 2014 - 3:14pm

I never said they didn't win. But Roethlisberger did not "shred" the Colts defense in that game. He adequately moved the ball in a game that the defense mostly won for him.

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#97 by commissionerleaf // Nov 06, 2014 - 3:24pm

Overall Big Ben Postseason numbers:

14 Games, 10-4-0, 248 of 409 (60.64%) for 3150 yards with 20 TD and 17 INT.

That's good. But it's merely good. For example, Kurt Warner has one less game:

13 games, 9-4-0, 307 of 462 (66.45%) for 3952 yards with 31 TD and 14 INT... starting in 1999, before passing statistics took off.

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#41 by friedrice // Nov 04, 2014 - 6:45pm

Ben has rarely if ever been a top 5 player at his position.
and he's never been the top player at his position even once. and that's not remotely arguable. there has never been any point in his career in a redraft version of the nfl that he would even rate in the top 10 probably.

he's been a really good qb, and thats it. his analog is boomer esiason, very good for along time, but overshadowed by a good margin by marino, montana, and elway. goodness, he's only even made the probowl twice. at least boomer had an all pro year. and we all know how easy it is to make the pro bowl. only twice, in 10 years. lets try to imagine him as a player not on one the historically well run franchises.

If you'd never once in a players entire career even contemplate putting him among the best at his position, how can they be hall of fame worthy? his name has never been mentioned among the best of his contemporaries. if you aren't even the best among your group, how can you be among the best of all time?

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#42 by coremill // Nov 04, 2014 - 7:33pm

You are being unfair to Boomer Esiason, who deservedly won the MVP in 1988, when he led the league in passer rating, Y/A, ANY/A, while being 4th in yards and 2nd in TDs on an average volume (14th in attempts). Roethlisberger has never had a season anywhere near as good as Esiason's 1988.

Esiason had an ANY/A+ of 136 in 1988, and has three more years of 120 or better; Roethlisberger's best ANY/A+ is 124 in 2005, when he had great rate stats but was 30th in the league in attempts, and that's the only year he broke 120. Esiason was almost certainly a better QB at his peak than Roethlisberger; his 1985-89 was legitimately excellent with ANY/A ranks of 2,2,14,1,4 in a league with HoFers Montana, Marino, Elway, Kelly, and Moon. Roethlisberger's best five-year ANY/A stretch was 05-09: 7,2,20,7,25. We don't have DVOA/DYAR for most of Esiason's prime, but in 1989 he was 3rd in DYAR and 5th in DVOA; I imagine his other prime years will come out similarly.

Esiason's issue was that his performance collapsed after he turned 29 and he was average or worse for the last eight years of his career, which is how most people remember him now. If he'd gotten hit by a bus after the 1989 season he might be in the Hall of Fame.

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#64 by RickD // Nov 05, 2014 - 2:03pm

Ben is a dumber, less mobile version of Elway who plays in a league that is much friendlier to passing. If Elway had played in the past decade, his numbers would have been comparable to Peyton Manning's.

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#73 by Noahrk // Nov 05, 2014 - 5:54pm

If Elway's numbers were comparable to Peyton's, I wonder what Marino's numbers would be like. I actually think the comparison to Ben is very adequate. Not volume players who excelled in difficult spots.

Who, me?

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#78 by Bobikus // Nov 05, 2014 - 7:30pm

Ben's passing efficiency is far better compared to his peers than Elway's, so the era argument is moot. He's less mobile but he's not a statue, and he certainly isn't dumber than Elway in terms of on the field (his off the field decision making is more questionable).

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#88 by DBR96A // Nov 06, 2014 - 2:58am

All this talk about how Roethlisberger is supposedly a dumb QB just needs to stop forever, because it's essentially libelous at this point.

Dumb QBs don't have only 1.9% of their passes intercepted over a period of four and a half seasons like Roethlisberger has since 2010. He's attempted 2,273 passes in that period of time, and only 44 of them have ended up in the hands of the opposing defense.

So far this season, his INT percentage is 0.9%, which is the lowest in the NFL. He's only thrown three INTs this season, and two of them were tipped at the line of scrimmage, which means that he's thrown only one INT this season that's squarely on him.

Furthermore, he has an ongoing streak of 138 consecutive pass attempts without an INT, which comes after a streak of 128 consecutive pass attempts without an INT earlier this season, and a streak of 207 consecutive pass attempts without an INT last season. Dumb QBs don't have any triple-digit pass attempt streaks without an INT, let alone repeatedly.

And here's Roethlisberger stat line since the Steelers' 0-4 start last season:

503/760, 5,750 yards, 45 TD, 12 INT

66.1% completion
273.8 yards per game
7.6 yards per attempt

5.9% TD
1.6% INT
3.75 TD/INT ratio

101.9 rating

These numbers span 21 games now, which means that it's a trend. Dumb QBs don't put up numbers like this over an extended period of time. And not only does Roethlisberger have two six-TD games this season, but he had two four-TD games last season when the surrounding talent on offense was even younger and more inexperienced than it is now.

You know what else dumb QBs don't do? Lead the NFL in passer rating against the blitz like Roethlisberger does so far this season. In fact, here's the exhaustive list of franchise QBs' ratings against the blitz so far this season:

133.7 - Ben Roethlisberger
133.6 - Carson Palmer
131.9 - Philip Rivers
121.0 - Tom Brady
119.2 - Andrew Luck
117.7 - Matthew Stafford
116.2 - Peyton Manning
115.6 - Matt Ryan
115.5 - Aaron Rodgers
114.9 - Tony Romo
109.4 - Drew Brees
106.6 - Colin Kaepernick
102.9 - Andy Dalton
95.6 - Jay Cutler
94.3 - Cam Newton
92.9 - Ryan Tannehill
91.7 - Joe Flacco
91.5 - Eli Manning
88.8 - Russell Wilson
87.4 - Alex Smith
72.4 - Nick Foles

And yet, clueless morons say that the key to neutralizing Roethlisberger is to blitz him because he doesn't recognize it, supposedly. He's only been sacked three times and intercepted once on 55 blitzes so far this season. And if that's not enough for you, he also has the fourth-highest third-down passer rating in the NFL right now, behind only Carson Palmer, Tony Romo and Andrew Luck.

Speaking of rankings, he ranks second in passing yards, second in completion percentage, fourth in yards per game, fifth in YPA, sixth in TD percentage, first in INT percentage, first (tied) in TD/INT ratio and third in passer rating so far this season. He has a passer rating of 100.0+ in seven of nine games, and 120.0+ in three. Dumb QBs just don't do this kind of stuff.

Quite frankly, anybody who even implies that Roethlisberger is dumb has no credibility whatsoever. They remind me of Thomas "Hollywood" Henderson calling Terry Bradshaw dumb right before Bradshaw lit their asses up and became the first QB in Super Bowl history to throw for 300 yards and four TDs.

The entire discussion pertaining to this article simply reaffirms that Ben Roethlisberger is not only the most underrated QB in the NFL right now, but also the most underrated QB of the last 20 to 25 years.

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#50 by Bobikus // Nov 05, 2014 - 12:09am

Fouts is underrated I think, but he did have a legendary offensive coach and threw to multiple Hall of Famers. I'd probably place him a lot higher though if he had one good postseason run. The multiple 5INT meltdowns really hurt.

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#67 by commissionerleaf // Nov 05, 2014 - 2:09pm

Well, let's think:

Here's a starting point for our discussion:

They put Roethlisberger 6th. I think that's probably too high, and that Andrew Luck and (a healthy) Tony Romo are basically inarguably better quarterbacks than Big Ben.

If Roethlisberger had three shots of Jose Cuervo before each game, he'd by Jay Cutler.

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#63 by commissionerleaf // Nov 05, 2014 - 1:59pm

I think the best comp for Roethlisberger is Eli Manning. They each have two rings, they each have less impressive regular season statistics than a number of other quarterbacks, and they are each good enough that they don't have to worry about job security even in down years.

Pittsburgh has had better talent around Roethlisberger than Eli has had, but Roethlisberger's numbers are mostly a bit better as well.

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#66 by RickD // Nov 05, 2014 - 2:08pm

Eli has his own inadequacies that he cannot blame on his teammates. He's simply not a reliably accurate passer. He's led the NFL in interceptions three times! He's shown that he can achieve at a higher level, but he just doesn't do the work to stay at the higher level.

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#74 by Mikey Benny // Nov 05, 2014 - 5:56pm

For what it's worth: I am a Steeler fan. I don't love Ben. I would trade him straight up for Manning and Brady, MAYBE Rodgers, MAYBE Brees. Even then, I'm not convinced they'd have performed as well on most of those Steeler teams with the horrible OLs than Ben did. Let's take a qualitative look:

* Brady/Manning are transcendent.
* That said, the Pats went 11-5 without Brady and made Cassell look like a competent QB. Still think Brady is clear #2 of the era.
* The immortal Matt Flynn came in for Rodgers and threw 5/6 TDs in Green Bay, beat the Patriots, etc.
* Brees was not great until he joined Sean Payton. The Saints fell apart without Sean Payton/Bountygate.
* In contrast, the loss of Roethlisberger is generally what causes the Steelers to completely fall apart.
* The Colts went from 14-2 to 1-15 without Manning, and the Broncos went from mediocre to great with him.

The only three QBs I am 100% convinced are carrying their teams, and are not a product of their systems, are Peyton Manning, Roethlisberger and Rivers.

In short, I think looking at what happens to teams when the QB is out should say something.

I want the Steelers to win above all else; and I would not trade Roethlisberger for Wilson, Luck, Rivers, Eli, or Kaepernick. I feel people seriously don't understand how good Ben is because he was underutilized most of his career.

That opinion counts for exactly nothing, and it's probably the dumbest thing you've ever read, but I thought I'd say it anyway. Why not, right?

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#82 by Mash Wilson // Nov 05, 2014 - 10:21pm

Throw in one pop culture reference per paragraph and one name drop every other paragraph, and this article would be a spot-on Bill Simmons impression.

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#98 by coremill // Nov 06, 2014 - 5:46pm

NinersNation has GIFs of some of the sacks discussed here:

Sheds a little more light on what was going on than just the stills.

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#101 by Scott Kacsmar // Nov 07, 2014 - 2:10am

I would have replied to some of these earlier, but I've had a rough week.

1. Re: #16 dryheat - I'm sorry but bringing up Martellus Bennett is just absurd. That guy's had 2.5 seasons worth mentioning in his career. Your comment is not a good representation of how the HOF actually works.

In 1994 there were 7 HOF QBs active, and that doesn't yet include Brett Favre. This isn't uncommon. In 1950 there were 8 HOF QBs, despite a league with just 13 teams. In 1970 there were 7 HOF WRs active, and that was well before the passing boom and that's also one of the positions with the poorest representation in Canton. The skill players have an easy way of acquiring "fame" in their careers. You're going to have the 5th, 6th, 7th, or 8th (and maybe beyond) best at their position in the HOF, and I don't see anything wrong with that, especially at QB. You could say most of the league is always trying to find the right guy while a lucky 20-25% can feel confident in the one they have as a legit franchise QB.

You act like I suggested Daunte Culpepper for the HOF. Not many QBs start 150+ games. Roethlisberger's in his 11th year. Jim Kelly only played 11 in the NFL. Troy Aikman played 12, and was awful in three of them. What really makes them any better than Ben?

As for the other HOF argument about Ben never being the best at his position - that's true, he hasn't been. But I also don't buy that as a HOF argument for any player at any position. This is also an insanely tough era to be the best QB in a given year. Since Roethlisberger's been in the league, Peyton has usually been the best QB every year except 2007/2010 (Brady) and of course the year he missed (Rodgers in 2011).

2. I hope you guys are just using the stats (DVOA/DYAR) as a guide and not a quick way to end the debate, but serious mentions of Palmer and McNabb lead me to think otherwise. I used DVOA in the article just to signify when he had a really good year. I don't think ranking 2nd in DVOA automatically means that QB was the 2nd best QB that season. I think it suggests he played very well. Try using those DVOA/DYAR rankings on 2001-06 Tom Brady and justify his consensus ranking as a top 2 QB in that time. Good luck. You have to factor in other things too.

If I could pick one number that transcends era rather well, I'd look at YPA: 7.86, ranked 8th all time. For some reason you never hear that one on a broadcast.

3. The 2008 season. I guess you had to watch it to understand, but what Ben did that year was far better than all his shoddy statistics suggest. He played with a separated AC joint in his throwing shoulder, which he first hurt in Week 1 and made worse in Washington. He had a three-game stretch against NYG/WAS/IND where he was playing hurt and missing practices. He accumulated 1 TD, 8 INT in that span of 10 quarters. That's going to kill your season stats. Even in those games he had some bad luck with two Hail Mary picks and I believe Nate Washington gift-wrapped an INT to the Giants on what should have been a completion.

Otherwise that year he had an awful game in Philadelphia behind the worst OL performance I may have ever seen in the NFL. So yeah, he stunk for 4 games and that killed his stats. But look at the rest of the season and he played well behind that inept line against one of the league's toughest schedules. And of course there's that little SB run at the end that season.

4. The 2006 season was Ben's worst, but that's not a bad low point of a career compared to what we've seen from other quarterbacks. Just look at Kurt Warner's abyss (2002-06), or 2005-06 Favre, or Rivers in the later Norv years or Eli Manning in the last few years. Look at how Drew Brees started 2007. Absolutely miserable stuff and he was healthy. That's always key to note.

5. Roethlisberger's statistical down periods can all be related to his health. I mentioned 2008, where he also had a concussion (Week 17). In 2006, he had that emergency appendectomy right before the season started and clearly wasn't at his normal playing weight and strength. He really struggled in those first two games, but you could see him regain his form with great games against KC/ATL before a concussion again slowed him down. In the second half of the season he stunk against Baltimore, which had the best defense that season. Otherwise he was fine.

The third year that looks like a down year statistically was 2011, but again, his worst stats came late in the year when he suffered that high-ankle sprain and tried to play through it, including a road game against a very good 49ers defense. He also struggled in 2012 after returning from that scary rib/aorta injury.

But when healthy, he usually plays very well. The biggest knock on him is a lack of durability, but he's done a good job of avoiding the real serious injuries. Just has a lot of stuff that's kept him out a game or two here and there.

6. Elway comparisons - Yeah I think they've always been there, and that's why he wears No. 7. But as someone mentioned here, compare their passing numbers relative to their peers and it's not even close. Roethlisberger's first 11 years piss all over Elway's.

CONCLUSION - I wrote a simplified 1500 words and not 5000. So I left some things out here, but wasn't going for a big HOF case anyway. I'd like to think it's pretty obvious he's been on a HOF path all this time.

I think his lack of 16-game seasons really hurt his volume stats, costing him respect in the process. Where he struggles in advanced stats is with sacks. I'm not ignoring them, but clearly he's more likely to avoid/break out of more sacks than the average QB, which makes up for some of the long ones he takes. That rare ability of making a play out of nothing also makes up for some of the times he takes a sack trying to do too much. You just have to take the good with the bad in this department with Ben, but it's not like he's Rob Johnson out there.

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#102 by coremill // Nov 07, 2014 - 11:52am

"If I could pick one number that transcends era rather well, I'd look at YPA: 7.86, ranked 8th all time."

If you think YPA transcends era, that you have absolutely no idea what you're talking about. The Top 10 in Career YPA all peaked either before 1960 or after 1990. That's not a coincidence. Four of the top 10 are active (Rodgers, Rivers, Roethlisberger, Romo) -- that is also not a coincidence. The only QB in the Top 20 who peaked in the 1970s deadball era is Staubach (Dawson and Jurgensen played into the 70s, but their best years were in the 60s and Dawson's stats are probably also inflated by the lower level of competition in the early AFL) -- that is also not a coincidence.

In career ANY/A+ (which IS era-adjusted), Roethlisberger is 18th among QBs wtih >2500 attempts in the ANY/A era (which begins in 1969 when sacks were first counted). The only HoFers he's ahead of are Kelly, Bradshaw, and Aikman. And there are are a lot of guys who played primarly before the ANY/A era who were probably better -- Baugh, Graham, Dawson, Layne, Starr, Tittle, Van Brocklin, Waterfield. So Roethlisberger is currently maybe in the 25-30ish range for all-time QBs, and while he's been consistent he has a very low peak (as evidenced by the lack of MVPs or all-pros or passing titles or single-season records).

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#103 by Scott Kacsmar // Nov 07, 2014 - 1:38pm

1970-77 is generally acknowledged as the toughest era to pass in since 1950. Specifically the 1973-77 seasons were really tough with an average YPA of 6.57, but that's just five years. There was also an extended period, 1993-2003, where YPA was just 6.74, so not much better. Over 1000 pass attempts you're talking about a difference of 170 yards.

I had Roethlisberger ranked 24th all time before this season started. I'm open to moving him up a couple notches if he completes his best season. I struggle with my own list, because I don't know what's stopping me from putting Ben ahead of Kelly and Aikman.

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#104 by coremill // Nov 07, 2014 - 1:55pm

Kelly had a higher peak: he won the passing title in 1990, was first-team all-pro in 1991, and 2nd-team all-pro in 1992. Kelly's 1989-1992, when he ranked 6, 2, 3, 7 in ANY/A, is much better than any comparable stretch of Roethlisberger's career so far. And Kelly's career stats are depressed because he wasted 3 years in the USFL and didn't join the NFL until his age-26 season.

Aikman probably shouldn't be in -- he's the classic right-place-at-the-right time guy. He was a good QB but if he hadn't played for an all-time great dynasty he would never have sniffed the HoF.

The real knock on Roethlisberger is the low peak. Every modern-era QB in the HoF except Aikman, and all the obvious not-yet-in candidates (Peyton, Brady, Rodgers, Brees, Favre, Warner), had a legitimate claim to be the best QB in the league at some point during his career. Roethlisberger has never even been the 4th-best QB in the league.

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#105 by dmstorm22 // Nov 07, 2014 - 3:33pm

I think there are a couple modern-ERA QBs in the HOF that you can make a case were never the best QB in the NFL.

The one that immediately came to mind was Elway. Was he at any point better than Montana/Marino/Kelly/Young/Favre? He may have had a full career higher, but Elway's peak value was pretty low.

Bob Griese?
Warren Moon?
Joe Namath?

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#107 by Scott Kacsmar // Nov 07, 2014 - 4:00pm

Ben's played in an era that's the toughest to be the best QB too. I also don't see what's stopping people from stubbornly claiming things like "Peyton Manning has been the best QB since 2003, so no one else has been better. Calvin Johnson and Adrian Peterson were the best WR and RB from 2007 to 2013. No one else can be better."

But it's not called the Hall of Best and it doesn't work that way, so I don't care about that point either way.

And I'm just posting some career numbers here out of interest:

Roethlisberger to Mewelde Moore: 95/126 (75.4%) for 764 yards, 4 TD
Roethlisberger to Le'Veon Bell: 91/121 (75.2%) for 821 yards, 2 TD
Roethlisberger to Willie Parker: 87/121 (71.9%) for 715 yards, 5 TD

Pretty similar numbers, but the difference is Bell's doing it in a season and a half. Roethlisberger is more comfortable with checking down to him than any back he's had before even though the numbers are basically the same. All the really good QBs in the NFL can complete around 70% to their backs unless the back has stone hands.

That's also part of why I never thought Rivers was a better QB than Ben. Never mind the fact that once you get pressure on Rivers the play is likely dead. He's also spent a lot of his career checking down to excellent receiving backs (LT, Sproles, Woodhead) and so much of his deep-ball success has been with really tall receivers (VJax, Floyd). Gates is one of the best red-zone weapons ever and was ready to go with Brees helping establish him in 2004-05.

Roethlisberger only had Plaxico Burress for 70 targets as a rookie. He's excelled in the vertical game with shorter receivers. Maybe Martavis Bryant will be his new tall deep threat, but that long TD to Markus Wheaton (5'11") on SNF shows he can still get it done with timing and accuracy. Look at how Mike Wallace went from a top deep threat in Pittsburgh to more of a possession receiver in Miami due to Ryan Tannehill's accuracy issues.

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#108 by coremill // Nov 07, 2014 - 4:50pm

All-pros and MVPs aren't perfect (voters can be biased), but they at least give us a good idea of how players were viewed at the time.

Elway won the MVP award in 1987, although he probably wasn't better than Montana and Montana and Rice split the vote that year -- he was 2nd-team all-pro behind Montana. He was also 2nd team all-pro in 1993 and 1996. Elway's stats are notoriously bad in the pre-Shanahan part of his career, but he had mediocre offensive coaches and not a lot of offensive talent around him. I think Chase Stuart wrote a long article about this.

Griese was 1st team All-Pro in 1971 and 1977, so he was clearly viewed as a great player at the time. He was 2nd in ANY/A in 71 75, and 4th in 77.

Namath might have been the best QB in the league in the late 60s. He was 1st team all-pro in 68, 2nd in 67, 69, and 72. He twice led the league in Y/A, and once in NY/A.

Warren Moon I'll grant you, just one 2nd-team all pro in 1990. His career is really unique -- he got the late start due to the USFL, then put up crazy stats in the run-n-shoot, then he lasted forever (he started 10 games in 1998 at age 42). There aren't really direct comparables for him.

Btw, looking at this stuff again makes it clear how badly Ken Anderson has gotten hosed. His resume is just as good as any of the bottom-tier HoF QBs, and better in many cases. First team all-pro and MVP in 1981, 2nd team all-pro in 1975, twice lead the league in ANY/A and in the top 3 two more times, 13th in ANY/A+ in the ANY/A era. He definitely needs to go in before we can even start thinking about Roethlisberger.

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#109 by Scott Kacsmar // Nov 07, 2014 - 5:11pm

I'd put Anderson in the HOF, but you might be focusing a little too much on peak here. Anderson has a good 6-8 years in his career that you could really just throw away.

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#110 by coremill // Nov 07, 2014 - 5:49pm

During the 11-year stretch of 1972-1982, he had only three years with an ANY/A+ below 110: 1978-1980. He was bad in 78 and 80, not sure what happened those years. He was average in 1979, mostly because he got sacked a league-leading 46 times. Every other year he was at least a well above-average QB, and several times (73-75, 81-82) he was truly elite -- his ANY/A ranks for those years are 5,3,1,1,2. And he tacked on a couple of average seasons in 83-84 at the end of his career, where he had declined but wasn't terrible.

When Chase Stuart did his statistical study a few years ago, he ranked Ken Anderson as the 12th best regular season QB of all time.

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#106 by David C // Nov 07, 2014 - 3:57pm

If you look at his peak years from 91-95, Aikman was probably the 3rd best quarterback in the league after Marino and Young. That puts him ahead of Montana, Elway, Kelly, Moon, and Favre for those years. If Warner had to play in the same era and was limited to 300 passes, it's doubtful he would've won a single MVP title, and nobody would even be suggesting he be enshrined.

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#111 by dryheat // Nov 07, 2014 - 6:04pm

That's fine Scott, you're certainly not the first to suggest Ben for the HOF, although the usual argument I hear is "Every QB with 2 rings is in the Hall". Well, Eli's not going, unless he has a phenomenal 2nd half of his career, and Flacco can win 2 more and not go in.

My issue with your response is:

You're going to have the 5th, 6th, 7th, or 8th (and maybe beyond) best at their position in the HOF, and I don't see anything wrong with that, especially at QB.

So you're OK with 8 QBs, in a 32 QB league, making the HOF? I think the HOF is way too QB/RB heavy as it is to start including 25% of the league's QBs. (Yes, I realize more than 32 QBs have had careers overlapping Ben's. But his contemporaries that qualify even for the Hall of Very Good have basically the same endpoints). I think this is ludicrous, and I brought up Martellus Bennett and the others because over the last couple of years, they're (IMO) in the top 25% of players at their positions. If I brought up punters, THAT would be ridiculous.

I think the top 10% of players at their positions at their era have a case for being among the best all-time. Obviously, exceptions exist.

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#112 by Scott Kacsmar // Nov 07, 2014 - 6:55pm

Jim Plunkett's not in the HOF (never will be either). I think 100+ regular season wins is pretty safe for the HOF, though Eli will challenge everything we know about QBs and the HOF. 8/8 so far. Favre/Peyton/Brady/Brees should make it 12/12. Ben's at 101 wins and could easily get to 125+ by 2016 to surpass Tarkenton. We'll see if he can get up to that 147-148 Marino/Elway range, which would basically mean he was a 16-year franchise QB like only a couple of guys in NFL history can lay claim to.

The problem with mentioning the guys you did like Bennett is that it's completely ignoring how long Ben's been good. Would Martellus Bennett be a top 8 TE over the last decade? I highly doubt it. Not with Gonzalez, Gates, Witten, Gronk, Graham, Miller, Clark, V.Davis, Shockey, Crumpler, Cooley, Olsen, Heap, etc.

Since 2004, 56 QBs have thrown 1000+ passes. If you concede Ben as the 5th or 6th best of the bunch, that basically is top 10%. Yeah, crossing over eras can be tough. I'd give Favre and Warner a career edge over Ben, but I'm not sure you can argue 2004-10 Favre or 2004-09 Warner were better than Ben in that time. Favre was pretty damn lousy in 2005-06 and his final season. Even if stats say otherwise, I'd take Ben's 2008 effort over what Favre did that year with the Jets every single time. Warner basically has 07-09 in that span, and I think Ben was better in 2007 and at least equal in 2009. Throw in 2004-05 when Ben was having a historic start and Warner was losing his job in two places and it's not much of a contest. There's a good chance Andrew Luck goes down as the better QB some day, and they may have ~8 years of career overlap when it's all said and done, but I don't think you could already put Luck ahead of BR based on career performance.

I have a file with the list of active HOFers in every season back to 1920. If you really want to see it maybe I could put a graph together and post a pic on Twitter to link to here, but trust me, many seasons have had 7 or 8 HOF QBs at once. There were even 10 in several years in the early 1970s with George Blanda somewhat skewing the total as a kicker, but still. This is common in the NFL.

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