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Old 01-20-2008, 05:03 AM   #1
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Default 2004 draft yields quality QBs

2004 draft yields quality QBs
By John Harris
TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Sunday, January 20, 2008


Eli Manning, Philip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger were selected No. 1, No. 4 and No. 11, respectively, in the 2004 NFL Draft. Rarely in the league's history has a group of young quarterbacks made such an impact.
Roethlisberger quarterbacked the Steelers two years ago when they won Super Bowl XL. As a rookie, he started in the AFC Championship Game.

Today, four years after the quarterback draft that changed the fortunes of their teams, Manning and the New York Giants face the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game. Meanwhile, Rivers helped lead the San Diego Chargers to the AFC Championship game against the unbeaten New England Patriots.

Three quarterbacks, three satisfied teams.

"I would just say, if you had said that to me: 'Wow, I'm shocked,' " said Phil Simms, the former Giants quarterback and Super Bowl XXI MVP, now an NFL broadcaster on CBS. "I can't imagine three organizations taking a quarterback high and making it work."
Said Fox announcer and former Super Bowl-winning QB Troy Aikman: "It's a good group of quarterbacks. To take those three guys and the success all three have had, that's pretty uncommon."

It isn't always so rosy for quarterbacks taken high in the draft. The quarterback class of 2004 is an exception.

Of the five quarterbacks taken in the first round of the 1999 draft, only Donovan McNabb and Daunte Culpepper have started a game in the past four seasons. McNabb is the only quarterback from the first round of that draft to reach the Super Bowl.

"For whatever reason -- head coaching, offensive coordinators -- there are so many reasons why it doesn't work," Simms said. "All three (Roethlisberger, Manning and Rivers) found themselves with organizations that backed them. They were going to build their teams or make it work with them."

The 2004 draft class also included J.P. Losman, who was taken by the Buffalo Bills with the 22nd pick. Matt Schaub was taken in the third round by the Atlanta Falcons and now is the starter for the Houston Texans.

Roethlisberger is the youngest quarterback to win a Super Bowl and, this year, set team records for single-season passer rating (104.1) and touchdown passes (32).

Manning and Rivers didn't enjoy immediate success like Roethlisberger, but each is making his mark in this year's postseason.

Manning had a career-high 132.4 passer rating in the Giants' upset of the Dallas Cowboys last week and has thrown 54 passes without an interception.

Rivers is doubtful for today's game against the Patriots because of a right knee injury. But he has thrown for 292 and 262 yards in back-to-back playoff wins, and some of his best work in the postseason has come on third down, when he has completed 16 of 20 passes for 264 yards. In the Chargers' eight-game winning streak dating to the regular season, he has thrown 14 touchdown passes and just five interceptions.

The '04 draft, although impressive, still takes a back seat to the 1983 draft, considered the grand daddy of all quarterbacks drafts.

In 1983, a record six quarterbacks were selected in the first round, all by AFC teams -- John Elway, Todd Blackledge, Jim Kelly, Tony Eason, Ken O'Brien and Dan Marino. Four played in the Super Bowl, and three were inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. In 11 of the 16 years following the 1983 draft, the AFC was represented by a team whose quarterback was taken in the first round of that draft.

The 1999 draft was the next big draft featuring quarterbacks. The first three picks that year were Tim Couch, McNabb and Akili Smith. Culpepper was the No. 11 selection, followed by Cade McNown one pick later.

Only McNabb and Culpepper remain. Couch, Smith and McNown are out of the league.

The 2004 draft was all about rebirth. Three of the four quarterbacks taken in the first round have led their teams to the playoffs.

"As it turns out, it's a pretty good class," said Aikman, a Hall of Fame Dallas Cowboys quarterback and MVP of Super Bowl XXVII. "It's a little bit like the '83 class. Not in sheer numbers, but just in terms of the debates as to, 'OK, who was right, who was wrong, should that guy have gone here?'

"All three have turned out to be very productive players. I know Ben was very disappointed he didn't end up with the Giants because that's where he thought he was going. He was led to believe that's where he was going, even as late as the day before the draft. (Instead) he goes to Pittsburgh.

"In a lot of ways that benefited him more than the other two, because it got him with a better football team. He has won a Super Bowl and had a great year this year."

Aikman and Simms were high first-round draft picks who struggled early in their careers before hitting their stride. They agree that a big reason for the early success of Roethlisberger, Manning and Rivers is because they have the full support of management and the coaching staff.

"I know how hard it is for quarterbacks. I know what it feels like to struggle," said Aikman, who was 0-11 as a rookie starter in 1989. "I know what it feels like to win. I know it goes beyond just how good you are as a player. You've got to have good players around you. But sometimes what goes unnoticed is who's coaching who? What's the environment like within the organization? Is it a team that has confidence in you?"

Said Simms: "Philip Rivers took off like a house afire. Ben Roethlisberger too. Eli Manning probably had the hardest time establishing himself. When he did play bad, the Giants organization and coaches never quit backing him. There was never any doubt who their guy was going to be for a long time. They never wavered. That's a hard thing not to do in the NFL."
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Old 01-20-2008, 09:10 AM   #2
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Default Re: 2004 draft yields quality QBs

All three quarterbacks got lucky with the fact that all three went to teams with established star running backs.

Ben Roethlisberger got Jerome Bettis

Phillip Rivers got Ladanian Tomlinson

Eli Manning got Tiki Barber

This meant that they didn't have to completley carry the load right fron the get-go.

Rivers also got to sit behind Drew Brees for two seasons which let him learn the offense without being thrown in the fire. However, Manning got to sit for a while behind Kurt Warner. Ben got to sit for a game and a half before injury forced him into the starting role.
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Old 01-20-2008, 09:13 AM   #3
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Default Re: 2004 draft yields quality QBs

Quote:
Originally Posted by RoethlisBURGHer View Post
All three quarterbacks got lucky with the fact that all three went to teams with established star running backs.

Ben Roethlisberger got Jerome Bettis

Phillip Rivers got Ladanian Tomlinson

Eli Manning got Tiki Barber

This meant that they didn't have to completley carry the load right fron the get-go.

Rivers also got to sit behind Drew Brees for two seasons which let him learn the offense without being thrown in the fire. However, Manning got to sit for a while behind Kurt Warner. Ben got to sit for a game and a half before injury forced him into the starting role.
Half a season. That's not much of a breaking in period.
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Old 01-20-2008, 12:46 PM   #4
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Default Re: 2004 draft yields quality QBs

Quote:
Originally Posted by RoethlisBURGHer View Post
This meant that they didn't have to completley carry the load right fron the get-go.
who actually does get to carry the load from the start now a days? jamarcus sure hasn't played much... lately (meaning the last 10 years) should be an indication of how starting a QB from the get-go is a baad idea... tim couch, akili the list goes on...
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