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Old 01-23-2008, 12:55 PM   #1
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Default SI: QB Class of 2004 Finally Comes of Age (Roethlisberger)

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QB Class of '04 finally maturing into starring roles
By Lee Jenkins
Posted: Wednesday January 23, 2008 11:37AM; Updated: Wednesday January 23, 2008 11:46AM

At this time four years ago, the New England Patriots were getting ready to win the Super Bowl and three young quarterbacks were getting ready to take over the league.

There was the little brother with the big arm from Ole Miss, the willful leader with the awkward motion from NC State and the nimble giant with the wild streak from Miami of Ohio. All three were going to be first-round picks and franchise-altering quarterbacks. That much was obvious. But which one of them was going to be best?

The debate, which began about this time four years ago, is no closer to a resolution. The quarterback class of 2004 -- the Giants' Eli Manning, the Chargers' Philip Rivers and the Steelers' Ben Roethlisberger -- is just as hard to figure out as ever.

In '04, Manning appeared to be the best quarterback in his class, considering he went first in the draft. In '05, it was Roethlisberger, considering he won the Super Bowl. In '06, it was Rivers, considering he went to the Pro Bowl. And now, with the Giants off to face the Patriots in the Super Bowl, Manning has come full circle, valedictorian again.

Manning's victory in the NFC Championship Game was a victory for all of the '04 quarterbacks. In four years, two of them have reached the Super Bowl. The third one, Rivers, has reached the AFC Championship Game. In fact, all of them made the playoffs this season. By contrast, the similarly decorated quarterback class of '06 -- Vince Young, Matt Leinart and Jay Cutler -- has been to one playoff game combined.

Comparing NFL quarterbacks can be a futile exercise, especially when Tom Brady and Peyton Manning are involved. But with the class of '04, comparisons come naturally. Unlike Brady and Peyton, these three made mistakes. They suffered indignities. They endured criticism. And they appear to have emerged the stronger for it.

From the beginning, they took unnecessary risks. Manning pulled a power play before the '04 draft, forcing San Diego to trade him to New York. Roethlisberger rode his motorcycle around Pittsburgh with no helmet. And as recently as this season, Rivers was scolded by the NFL's etiquette police for talking back to fans and opposing players.

All three quarterbacks have long been prone to caricature. In '05 and '06, Roethlisberger was the superstar, Manning the bust, Rivers the bench warmer. For two years, Roethlisberger could do no wrong in Pittsburgh, Manning could do no right in New York, and Rivers could do nothing at all in San Diego, sitting behind Drew Brees.

Then, in one offseason, they swapped roles. Roethlisberger crashed his motorcycle, suffered a concussion, and promptly led the league in interceptions. Manning retreated from the spotlight and learned under his veteran teammates. Rivers emerged as suddenly as Roethlisberger had, winning 14 games with his three-quarter delivery.

But nothing seems to last for these guys. After coaching changes in San Diego and Pittsburgh last offseason, Rivers struggled while Roethlisberger thrived. Then Roethlisberger struggled while Rivers thrived. In a stunning upset, though, Manning became the most consistent passer of the three, winning 10 straight road games, three in the playoffs.

Still, in the shadow of Brady and Peyton, the nitpicking never ends: Eli is too aloof in the huddle, Rivers too vocal on the sideline, Roethlisberger too reckless off the field. Manning can wing the ball, but can he control it? Rivers can control it, but can he wing it? Roethlisberger can do it all, but what about his decision-making?

The NFL experienced a quarterback crisis this season. The league needed Manning, Rivers and Roethlisberger to become headliners. Instead, it got Vinny Testaverde and Kurt Warner. But in the past few weeks, the class of '04 came of age. Roethlisberger tried to lead the Steelers with a depleted running game. Rivers tried to lead the Chargers on a torn ACL. Manning led the Giants to the Super Bowl.

They have provided hope for the future of the forward pass. And in so doing, they have also provided hope for that next generation of young quarterbacks, the class of '06.
I disagree with the writer's notion that the debate over who's best is "no closer to a resolution." Ben has far and away proven he's the best of the three up to this point. Even if Eli Manning somehow manages to lead the Giants to a win over NE (and I wouldn't mind that one bit), I still think Ben's total body of work puts him in first, followed by Eli and then Rivers at a distant third. And when exactly in this season did Ben "struggle?" Assuming the writer is referring to all the sacks - if anything, given the lack of protection Ben faced almost constantly, his accomplishments (TD/INT ratio, passer rating, completion percentage, etc.) this season are all the more remarkable.

Eli Manning has a team around him that has peaked at the right time, but it wasn't so many weeks ago that Manning, who was playing terribly, and the GIants were written off and left on the scrap heap. They became consistent late in the season, and that's what the "experts" remember - how you finish, not how you start.
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Old 01-23-2008, 01:04 PM   #2
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Default Re: SI: QB Class of 2004 Finally Comes of Age (Roethlisberger)

Ben's never going to get his due until he gets back to a SB and completely kicks ass in it. Until it happens, get used to it.
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Old 01-23-2008, 01:14 PM   #3
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Default Re: SI: QB Class of 2004 Finally Comes of Age (Roethlisberger)

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Ben's never going to get his due until he gets back to a SB and completely kicks ass in it. Until it happens, get used to it.
I know, you're right. Sigh.
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Old 01-23-2008, 01:21 PM   #4
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Default Re: SI: QB Class of 2004 Finally Comes of Age (Roethlisberger)

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I know, you're right. Sigh.
However, I share the annoyance, especially when Romo has been called a better QB than Ben and has accomplished basically NOTHING in the NFL besides choking in two playoff games so far. I also remember earlier this year after his 1 TD, 4 INT performance in the Giants' blowout loss to Minnesota and Eli was declared a complete bust by more than one media pundit, but now his career to date is virtually indistinguishable from Ben's? Yeah, right.
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Old 01-23-2008, 01:45 PM   #5
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Default Re: SI: QB Class of 2004 Finally Comes of Age (Roethlisberger)

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I disagree with the writer's notion that the debate over who's best is "no closer to a resolution." Ben has far and away proven he's the best of the three up to this point. Even if Eli Manning somehow manages to lead the Giants to a win over NE (and I wouldn't mind that one bit), I still think Ben's total body of work puts him in first, followed by Eli and then Rivers at a distant third. And when exactly in this season did Ben "struggle?" Assuming the writer is referring to all the sacks - if anything, given the lack of protection Ben faced almost constantly, his accomplishments (TD/INT ratio, passer rating, completion percentage, etc.) this season are all the more remarkable.

Eli Manning has a team around him that has peaked at the right time, but it wasn't so many weeks ago that Manning, who was playing terribly, and the GIants were written off and left on the scrap heap. They became consistent late in the season, and that's what the "experts" remember - how you finish, not how you start.
i agree ben is far and away the best QB

Manning is 2nd but in a tight race with rivers...
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Old 01-23-2008, 01:51 PM   #6
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Default Re: SI: QB Class of 2004 Finally Comes of Age (Roethlisberger)

I actually really enjoyed the article.

I agree that Ben is the best of all three at this point though.

I guess I just take the literary flourishes in style, and realize that they are giving a lot of praise to my QB, and heaping a little unnecessary (at this point) praise on the other two.

I think Eli Manning will come of age, and almost as good or as good as Ben in the long run. I am not sure about Rivers... he has maturity issues that need to be fixed.

SIDE NOTE: Can you imagine the discussion around the dinner table next Christmas at the Manning house if Eli wins a SB? A little too much wine flows.. suddenly, the topic of SB's comes up. ELi pops up, "Now, big bro.... just HOW long did it take you to win a SB in the NFL."

And it is off to the races!!

I would LOVE to be a fly on the wall in that discussion!
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Old 01-23-2008, 02:47 PM   #7
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Default Re: SI: QB Class of 2004 Finally Comes of Age (Roethlisberger)

1. Ben Roethlisberger
2. Eli Manning
3. Phillip Rivers

And it's a close race.

I think we all feel about the same about Big Ben. I would take him over the other two any day of the week, and thrice on Sundays.

I am warming up to Eli Manning. He isn't as ****y as I thought, and he's begining to show why he was the #1 overall pick.

Phillip Rivers has heart. Not many guys would play on a knee 6 days after having arthroscopic surgery on it, much less with a torn and sprained ligament.
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Old 01-23-2008, 03:25 PM   #8
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Default Re: SI: QB Class of 2004 Finally Comes of Age (Roethlisberger)

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Originally Posted by fansince'76 View Post
However, I share the annoyance, especially when Romo has been called a better QB than Ben and has accomplished basically NOTHING in the NFL besides choking in two playoff games so far. I also remember earlier this year after his 1 TD, 4 INT performance in the Giants' blowout loss to Minnesota and Eli was declared a complete bust by more than one media pundit, but now his career to date is virtually indistinguishable from Ben's? Yeah, right.
You're right about Eli being savaged in the media, and I for one don't think he has deserved it. He's held to a higher standard than the other two simply because of his pedigree, and he could very well never come close to being the talent that his brother is. There's also the extra pressure of being the no. 1 overall pick, and all the family machinations that went with forcing the trade kind of left a bad taste in the mouths of the New York Media Machine.

He comes across in interviews as not the brightest bulb on the tree, to be honest, but I see him play every week and he's actually a pretty good quarterback when his play is consistent. I've never seen any player before so consistently display such a lack of emotion, whether things are good or bad. The smile on his face last weekend, as he jumped into the arms of a teammate after they won, was an astounding level of emotion for him. But I think that's just his personality.

It's nice to see him doing well, and I along with 99% of everyone not living in New England would love to see him take it to the Pats (oh, well, a girl can dream, right?). However, despite Eli's recent success, I still consider Ben to be the best of the three, and I would even if I were a Giants or Chargers fan. His body of work is better at this point.
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Old 01-23-2008, 04:19 PM   #9
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Default Re: SI: QB Class of 2004 Finally Comes of Age (Roethlisberger)

he said about eli taking back the best qb of the 3.. he shouldn't even think about being back on top until he actually wins a SB... bens been to the playoffs 3 out of 4 yrs. and 2 of them were AFC championship, 1 sb. rivers only 2 yrs and eli 2 yrs.. not going far except for this yr..
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Old 01-23-2008, 04:59 PM   #10
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Default Re: SI: QB Class of 2004 Finally Comes of Age (Roethlisberger)

I think its great that we finally have one of the QBs taken in the 1st round and that we can be proud of him, and compare him to the others taken in the same draft. Its awesome knowing we didn't pull another "Marino" and let one get by us.

1983, John Elway, Jim Kelly, Dan Marino (11 superbowl appearances, 2 wins)
2004, Ben, Eli, Rivers (2 superbowl appearances and counting, 1 win so far)

Could be the making of some history for my kids to talk about when they are my age about the greatest class of QB drafts ever.
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