Now that two of the three “Big 3” quarterbacks in the 2004 Draft have Super Bowl rings, I thought it would be a good idea to take a look back at the QB class that made up that 04 Draft. By “Big 3” I am of course speaking about Eli Manning (Giants), Philip Rivers (Chargers) and Ben Roethlisberger (Steelers). In looking back, many forget that “Big Ben” was the 11th overall pick of that draft, as he fell to the Steelers after Manning and Rivers went 1 and 4 overall.
Another point many forget was the trade that the Chargers made with the Giants. Eli and his family didn’t want him playing in San Diego, so they forced them to trade with the Giants, who gave San Diego their 04 third round pick, and their 05 first and fifth round pick. In the end, each of the three teams liked what they got, and now just four years later, the only one without hardware in the form of a ring is Rivers. So looking back, who would you rate as the best QB of that draft? Here are some arguments for each three.
1. Eli Manning – In 4 seasons Manning has played in 57 career games, throwing for 11,385 yards, 77 touchdowns and 64 picks. He has a QB rating of 73.4. He has led the Giants to a playoff birth in each of his last three seasons, losing in the first round the first two times before his magical run this past season which led them to the upset of the Pats last Sunday. This past season was another up and down season for Manning until he caught fire at the end, as he threw a total of 23 TD’s and 20 picks, and averaged 208.5 yards throwing per game. One has to wonder despite the ring and MVP from the Super Bowl, if he has truly arrived, and if next season he will take that next step into being one of the top 5 QB’s in the NFC.
2. Philip Rivers – Rivers sat behind Drew Brees for two seasons in San Diego, playing in just four total games with 17 pass attempts before being handed the starting job before the 2006 season. He played great that first year, throwing 22 touchdowns and 9 picks, and leading the team to a 13-3 record. He also threw for 3388 yards that first season, showing a lot of poise for a rookie. He also had a solid 92 QB rating. Rivers couldn’t lead the Chargers past the Pats in an AFC Divisional playoff game in January of 07. The 2007 season was a tough one at the start for Rivers, but by the end he was playing well, throwing for 21 TD’s and 15 picks. He helped the Chargers to the AFC Title game, which they lost to the Pats again. Rivers earned a lot of props for playing that last game hurt. Will he be able to lead SD to the next level in 2008?
3. Ben Roethlisberger – Big Ben was forced to start as a rookie with an injury to Tommy Maddox, and basically has had a charmed NFL life since then. He has played in 56 games, a QB rating of 92.5, 11,673 yards and 84 TD’s and 54 picks. He was the driving force behind the team reaching the Super Bowl in the 2005 season, as he was lights out in beating the Bengals, Colts and Broncos on the road. After a down 2006 where he threw 18 TD’s and 23 picks, he came back and played solid this past year with a banged up O-line and little from the running game the last two games. He is a Pro Bowl QB this year, throwing a career high 32 TD’s and 11 picks. Roethlisberger is a guy that the Steelers would like to keep in Black and Gold for years to come.
So that’s the big three, Manning, Rivers, and Roethlisberger. It’s an interesting debate to ask if you were starting a franchise who you would want today if you could pick one of the three. And it will be interesting to see down the road where each one of these franchise guys end up by the end of their careers, and with how many total rings.