Tuesday, January 25, 2011

8 comments Seriously Trying to Give Big Ben a Fair Shot

Only a few things must be said regarding this weekend's AFC/NFC Championship games:

1) The favorites won. Despite our innate need to point to some specific cause, it simply boiled down to the Packers' and Steelers' superiority. It's an odd phenomenon in sports: the team with better players seems to win more often.

2) We all know that the NFL media is full of hypocrites. If you care about player safety, you're not asking Jay Cutler to return to the game with a sprained MCL. That said, everyone needs to stop jumping the gun. As the eloquent Olin Kreutz put it, "They should turn that [expletive] Twitter off." You know, since the internet has an on/off button.

3) Brian Schottenheimer needs to purchase a treadmill. Mark Sanchez's headset had issues the entire game. With time winding down in the 4th the alert Sanchez sprints to the sideline to get a crucial play call on 3rd and goal (the Jets were down 24-12). Yet Schottenheimer made no effort to move closer to the end zone, instead choosing to remain 50 yards away and tire out his QB. There are only two reasons for such laziness. The first, and more unlikely scenario, is that he simply does not care about the game or understand the severity of the situation. The second, and more plausible explanation, was that he simply did possess the cardiovascular stamina to ease Sanchez's burden. With that in mind, I'm not asking for a sprint. Not even a jog. I would have settled for a long-strided power walk. But if Rex Ryan can amble (I imagined Chris Berman announcing Rex's sprint with a Mike Alstott, "bumblin', stumblin'" call.) 30 yards in celebration of a touchdown, you can help out your QB with a bit of physical effort.

4) Rashard Mendenhall is the real Pittsburgh rapist. See the video below for evidence. When it happened live, I was stunned. But you know the world is a great place when 10 minutes later Youtube has already captured the moment. How can you not appreciate videos with titles such as "Rashard Mendenhall humps Big Ben," "Rashard Mendenhall rapes Big Ben HD" or "Steelers Victory Hump?" Thank you for the high definition and music, "samplethief."

As DeeznutsFYC proudly proclaimed in the comments, "Karma's a bitch, ain't it Ben?" It's remarkable that someone with such a horrendous username could muster such creative thought. The wonders of the Interwebs, I guess.

Anyway, onto bigger and better things.

Namely, where Big Ben is ranked among the all-time QBs if he defeats Aaron Rodgers and the Packers to grab Super Bowl #3.

No matter what he does, Big Ben will never be able to rehabilitate his image. Deadspin reminded everyone last week that Mark Sanchez was also accused of sexual assault in his freshman year at USC. In an attempt to slander the media's random portrayal of certain athletes, they claimed that the Sanchez event was cast as a one-time incident that allowed him to mature. Big Ben, meanwhile, has made every effort to clean himself up but cannot lose the bad rep.

Everything about him oozes American infatuation. We love the small college, underrated star who plays the game just like they do in the Wrangler commericals. In short, we love the Brett Favre way of life. Big Ben, it seems has every one of these traits. His greatest assets are his big arm and creativity. He usually has an unecessarily long beard to give him the "I don't make enough money to be groomed" look. He's the QB of a blue collar town. His play elevates when it matters. He's already got two Super Bowl rings.

Detractors will ultimately use his reputation as a means to lower his all-time rankings because statistics say otherwise. When I ask you for the best QBs in the league at this moment, you will ultimately say Brees, Brady, Manning, Rodgers, Rivers and Roethlisberger (in some order). I've already ranked the QBs and suffered from the same malady. Despite statistical and visual evidence, I knocked Big Ben for no other reason than, "well, I don't really like you now that you have sexual assault women." In an attempt to correct misgivings, I went back to the stats. In Manning, Roethlisberger and Brady's first seven seasons as starters, the QB with the highest rating in each season went as follows (okay, that may have sounded confusing. I'm comparing Roethlisberger's 1st season as a starter to Brady's and Manning's. Then the 2nd, 3rd, etc.): Big Ben, Big Ben, Manning, Big Ben, Brady, Big Ben, Manning.

So Big Ben's first two seasons were dominated by running and defense. If you want to discount them, that's understandable. Let's look at the TD/INT ratio of season's 3-7, when each QB was unquestionably a large part of the offense (if not the whole thing).

Big Ben: 110/66 = 1.67/1
Manning: 164/100 1.64/1
Brady: 129/66 = 1.95

I did calculated many more stats but I'm not here to bore you with further statistical proof. That's what John Clayton is for. I'm more concerned with why perception will not match reality. If Big Ben picks up #3, we will do what we always do. Throw around a QBs name among the elite (Brady and Manning) but ultimately leave him a notch below. Take Drew Brees, for example. If there were ever a QB locked into a positional ranking, it would be Brees at #3. No matter what any QB does, Manning and Brady will be #1 and #2 until they retire. Aaron Rodgers or Big Ben meanwhile, will attempt to usurp Brees' throne this off-season depending on whoever wins the Super Bowl, but Brees will retain his #3 crown (only in a few years will one surpass Brees).

The built-in theory which bothers me most is that Roethlisberger is widely assumed to lack the potential to ever legitimately and permanently enter the Manning/Brady category. The reason, as mentioned before, will always be the sexual assault allegations. No matter where you stand on his guilt or innocence, the incidents have tainted him as badly as a baseball player suspected of steroid use. He may really be clean. He may have just been at the wrong place at the wrong time (I doubt it, but it's possible.) I just wish more would acknowledge that this is the biggest factor withholding him from our outstretched arms of approval. The beginning of his career mirrors that of Manning and Brady. He's got two of the biggest opinion-swayers already in the bag. Yet we continue to resist the idea almost as much as baseball hates instant replay. I'm not saying that Roethlisberger is as good as Manning or Brady. Nor am I saying that I'm above the widely held perception. No matter how much I try to convince myself, I cannot seem to change my core views. But the evidence cannot deny that that day is potentially closer than we think. They say that winning cures everything, but I doubt it will cure Big Ben's rep.


Martin F. said...

I have to disagree. The reason Ben will always be a notch below is because he has usually played badly in the biggest games the Steelers have had...and they still won. He has the ability to make big plays at the end of games when it's crucial even in games he's played poorly in, which shows he has mental toughness, and everybody loves a QB who has that. Ben though has the problem of "But if he'd played better, they wouldn't have been in that situation".

Also, people don't think Ben has the ability to carry a bad team (or at least a Steeler team with a bad defense) the way a Manning, Brees, or Brady can. His first Super Bowl he was terrible, and the Steelers won. He had a lousy game against the Jets, but made two critical plays that clinched the game. People think of the team carrying him when the chips are down, and not him carrying the team.

I think that Cardinals Super Bowl actually kicked his QB stock up a few notches. I know Ben and I had a lot more respect for him after it. Also, he plays behind a O-Line that has been sieve like the last couple years. While I'm not sure he could thrive on a Colts team with the lack of Weapons that Manning had this year, I'm not sure Manning or Brady could handle being on a Steeler team that lets them get hit 10 times a game. The assault charge was just this year, so previous thoughts on him carry more weight then the charge, in my opinion. Give Ben a couple more years and he will probably be thought of as Elite.

My QB Rankings by tier

1)Manning, Brady, Brees (in no order)
2) Rivers, Big Ben, Rodgers (again, no order)

All bring different things to the table, but I'll tell ya what, not a team in the NFL would turn down any of these guys to QB their team.

Dylan said...


I'm glad you disagree, because the lack of consensus is what is so interesting to me. Big Ben is just one of those guys who polarizes his fan base. You love or hate him, with no in between.

Do not take this as me discounting Brady, but the beginning of his career had him more revered for making plays when it mattered as opposed to playing well in those games (not that he didn't play well, because I cannot deny that he was better than Big Ben). I just think that Roethlisberger deserves more consideration than he receives. Brady did not get the rep of carrying a team offensively until at least his 4th or 5th season. Big Ben is just starting to get that rep now, his 7th season.

I'm not brash enough to put Big Ben in that elite category quite yet, I just think people discount his ability to get there one day. They always just assume he'll be a notch below (which he currently is). If the reason for this was his playing poorly in the Steelers biggest games, the same argument can be made for Peyton Manning. He's 9-10 in the playoffs. We simply discount that because of his regular season prowess. But Big Ben's first seven years compared to Manning's first 7 are eerily similar. I think people get caught up in comparing the QBs right now. But Big Ben is at a different stage in his career then Brady and Manning are.

Martin F. said...

You're right about the general feeling that he won't be put into the Manning/Brady/Brees elite until those guys retire. Ben could make the big play when young, but was pretty mediocre. I know that for 2 years in a row he lead the NFL in "passes that should have been intercepted but weren't" by Football Prospectus. Can't remember the exact category, but they went on and proved he was actually worse then folks thought his first couple years, but had gotten lucky.

On the flip side, he hasn't got the kind of credit he should the last 3 years. You make a great point in that Brady was a game manager his first couple years. The Pat's defense carried him, much like with Big Ben, but Brady made the good choice to have a good game in the Super Bowl, leading the team to a come from behind victory. So the legend began.

Arjun Chandrasekhar said...

roethlisberger's passer rating, yards per attempt (the best measure of a quarterback's ability to efficiently get the ball down the field), td-int ratio,the regular season record, playoff record, and super bowl wins suggest that big ben is EASILY one of the top 3-4 qb's in the league. I think that he doesn't get this type of recognition because of both the off the field misconduct and because the media likes to fawn over pure passers that put up flashy stats even though ben makes just as many plays. Until this year his surrounding weapons were fairly average, and the running game and offensive line have kept getting worse since he got to pittsburgh (put rivers or rodgers behind that line and let's see if they can pick apart defenses without having all the time in the world). You point out one super bowl in which he played poorly but I can point out playoff games in which he stepped up when it truly mattered - for example they were never even supposed to be in the super bowl against the seahawks until ben played out of his mind to beat indianapolis and denver on the road. The bottom line is he's 10-2 in the playoffs, 2-0 in super bowls and consistently has his team winning games - i find it laughable when anyone leaves him out of the list of top five quarterbacks

Dick said...


I think Ben will be seen as one of the greats of the game if he wins TWO more Super Bowls. he may not play his best in big games but he makes the plays when needed...a sign of greatness.

I disagree with Ben not being able to repair his image. In fact he has done just that according to some Pittsburgh columnists. It's his reputation that will always be questioned...two different issues in my view.

Bengoodfella said...

Martin F, I am not going to disagree that Roethlisberger has the benefit of a great defense. I won't hold that against him, but I personally take that into account. It's nice to be able to scramble around and play like he does when he has a defense that can stop the other team.

I actually would agree with you that I am not sure he could carry a bad team. I would like to see it though. He may be able to do it, but I would not put him in the upper tier of quarterbacks since I have that question. He's really close though. I think if he had a good OL then he wouldn't have to run around as much and it may actually hurt his standing.

I will agree he doesn't get quite the credit he probably should deserve. Of course some of that is his own fault with people focused on his off the field issues. I believe Bruce Arians has done a great job with him as well in calling plays that are his strength.

Arjun, Roethlisberger doesn't sit in the pocket and throw. That does hurt him, I agree, but then he makes plays like he did in the 4th quarter of the Jets game and that is a play I am not sure Manning or Brady could make. He's comfortable with the defense chasing him and moving him around the pocket.

Dick, there is a big difference in reputation and repairing his image. He still has a way to go with some people I have heard talk about him (women).

Dylan said...

It would be interesting if we could actually have the top QBs play on different teams for a few season to see how they would fair.

Another point is that all QBs have their teams somewhat tailored to their styles. Not just in play calling, but personnel as well. The offensive line is a priority in New England and Indianapolis because their QBs are not mobile. In Pittsburgh, the Steelers know that Big Ben can escape pressure, so its more important to fill other areas of need. Same with Aaron Rodgers. Their weakness at offensive line has barely hurt Rodgers' stat line.


The stats definitely back Big Ben. Its just not the flashy stats that everyone cares about. TDs will always hold more weight than YPA.


It will be interesting to see if Ben can repair both his image and reputation. While I do not necessarily agree that he needs 2 more Super Bowls, I will definitely agree that 2 would lock it in.

Bengoodfella said...

Dylan, I think that's an important point. Each team designs their offense and team around the quarterback they have. So while I have been critical (rightly or wrongly) of the Steelers offensive line, Roethlisberger is somewhat more dangerous moving around anyway.

I think Manning wouldn't be as great on the Steelers team and I don't thin Roethlisberger would thrive in Indy as the team is currently set up.

I am not a huge fan of Roethlisberger but he isn't a traditional elite quarterback in my mind. He doesn't sit back in the pocket and sling the ball and I think much of his style lends him to not getting enough credit.