Let's take a quick trip down memory lane.
The San Diego Chargers made quarterback Eli Manning from the University of Mississippi the first overall pick in the 2004 NFL draft. Three selections later, the New York Giants opted for quarterback Philip Rivers from North Carolina State.
Moments later, the teams dealt the rights to each player to the other team. Hence Manning became a member of Big Blue and Rivers the new guy in town for the Bolts.
It's safe to say the three signal-callers have made quite an impression.
Manning has won a pair of Super Bowl titles with the Giants and been named the game's MVP in each instance. And since becoming New York's starter in the 10th game of the '04 season, he's yet to miss a game.
Roethlisberger has also helped lead the Steelers to a pair of Lombardi Trophies and took Pittsburgh to a third Super Bowl. While he hasn't had Manning's durability, his unique style has made him one of the game's most resourceful playmakers.
Like Manning, Rivers also hasn't missed a start since becoming the Chargers' regular quarterback at the start of the 2006 season. He led San Diego to what would be the first of four straight AFC West titles and the conference championship game in 2007. But unlike his classmates, Rivers has never appeared in a Super Bowl.
There will and have been debates on whether this is the greatest quarterback class in NFL history. The fabled group of 1983 (Hall of Famers John Elway, Jim Kelly and Dan Marino, to name a few) is the instant comparison.
So why are we reminiscing about the Class of 2004? All three men are entering their 10th NFL season in 2013. By chance, the Giants, Steelers and Chargers all drafted quarterbacks in April. And last season marked the first time that at least one of these quarterbacks and their teams weren't in the playoffs since their arrivals in 2004.
Are we putting these veteran quarterbacks out to pasture? Hardly, but as time goes on, it will be interesting to not only see how they rank as a group, but individually.
Manning, Rivers and Roethlisberger were drafted quarterback-wise 1-2-3 in 2004. But how do they rate after nine NFL seasons? It's an interesting question that doesn't necessarily need an answer now.
Still, it doesn't hurt to ask, does it?
Russell S. Baxter has spent the last 40-plus years watching football. He is the founder of ProFootballGuru.com, writes for numerous websites and publications across the country and is blessed with an encyclopedic memory. Ready to talk NFL? Follow him on Twitter at @BaxFootballGuru.
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- Philip Rivers
- Eli Manning
- Ben Roethlisberger
- Pittsburgh Steelers