At the risk of being a heretic (or worse, completely agreeing with good friend Dutch Wydo), there is a case to be made that Ben Roethlisberger(notes) is a better quarterback than Peyton Manning(notes).
Certainly in the playoffs.
Before you send that email calling me crazy or mocking me only days after I wrote that Manning is the fourth-best quarterback of all time, let’s put this in perspective. It is impossible to truly measure Roethlisberger against Manning or Tom Brady(notes) just yet.
Roethlisberger has played six years. His regular-season stats (only two seasons with more than 18 touchdown passes) pale in comparison to those of Manning, Brady and many other quarterbacks. In short, so much of his career is yet to be played that it’s silly to rank him even among the top 25 quarterbacks of all time.
Bottom line, it would take serious guts to draft Roethlisberger ahead of Manning at this point of their respective careers.
Furthermore, there isn’t a defensive coordinator in the league who won’t tell you that the challenge of facing Manning is much tougher from a game-plan aspect than facing Roethlisberger.
“There’s nothing you can do against Peyton that he hasn’t seen,” said Detroit defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham, who has spent the past 15 years in the NFL in that role with four teams and is one of the most respected defensive minds in the league. “He can figure out anything you’re trying to do and find the perfect play to get you. You constantly have to change what you do and hope that he just makes some mistake along the way.
“With Roethlisberger, he’s a completely different kind of player. He’s unique because he’s so big and so tough that you hit him and he just shakes it off and keeps looking downfield. He’s great, but figuring out how to defend isn’t the hard part. The hard part is executing the plan.”
Roethlisberger has also been backed by one of the great defenses of this decade. But mentioning the Steelers' defense means that you must also credit the Colts for surrounding Manning with great offensive weapons and amazing consistency on the coaching staff.
The bottom line is this: Roethlisberger is currently 8-2 in the playoffs, has two Super Bowl rings – including his great final drive against Arizona – and a quarterback rating of 90.0 in the playoffs. That includes his bad performance in the Super Bowl win against Seattle, a bad first half in a playoff loss to Jacksonville and a typically bad playoff game against New England in the 2004 playoffs when he was a rookie.
For Manning, he is now 9-9 in the playoffs over his 12-year career, has one Super Bowl win, is coming off a bad finish against New Orleans and has a quarterback rating of 87.1 in the playoffs. If you break down the stats further, you’ll note that the Colts have asked Manning to do a lot more (38.4 attempts per game) than the Steelers have of Roethlisberger (28.8 attempts).
But the bottom line is that Roethlisberger has succeeded (he was great in the 2008 playoffs and also in the 2005 playoffs before the Super Bowl against Seattle) and Manning has struggled.
SAINTS VS. THE MEDIA
Here’s one wish for the coming offseason: That the Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints make peace with NewOrleans.com and reporter Brian Allee-Walsh.
One of the stories that got little play going into Super Bowl week was the decision by the Saints to ban NewOrleans.com and Allee-Walsh from covering the team. For background’s sake, NewOrleans.com is a relatively new site that has hired many experienced reporters to cover news, sports and entertainment around the city, taking on the New Orleans Times-Picayune. Allee-Walsh is one of those experienced reporters, having covered the Saints and the NFL for 23 years for the Times-Picayune before taking a buyout from the newspaper and joining New Orleans.com earlier this season.
On two occasions this season, the Saints banned the website and Allee-Walsh from covering the team. That included a few days during the week between when the NFC championship game and when the Saints left for the Super Bowl. Once at the Super Bowl, Allee-Walsh was approved by the NFL to cover the team and the event.
“You have to understand that as the season went on and we got to 8-0 and 9-0, every website out there was trying to get credentialed to cover us,” said Saints spokesman Greg Bensel, who said he planned to re-examine the team’s coverage policy and sit down with the owner of NewOrleans.com this offseason. “It’s our decision to credential who we want and I talked it over with a lot of other media relations people from other teams to see how they were handling it.
“We feel our decision is in line with what other teams have done.”
Well, some yes, some no. The Dallas Cowboys, for instance, credential just about any news organization that applies, including a one-man operation that sends out a newsletter and isn’t even online. Other teams, like the Saints, have wrestled with trying to differentiate between legitimate news-gathering operations (Profootballtalk.com is a prime example of a non-traditional site that has grown over the years) and websites that are little more than somebody sitting in front of a computer spouting off whatever he thinks without bothering to check.
The bottom line is this: NewOrleans.com hired an established reporter to cover the Saints on a full-time basis, both at home and on the road. This is as obvious an attempt to establish a legitimate news operation as any organization could possibly make. This was not hiring a reporter straight out of college saying, “Go get’em, ace.”
Even that circumstance, in this age of media upheaval, is hard to criticize without running into pratfalls. In other words, if someone is willing to spend time covering a team on a full-time basis and dedicate resources to giving it legitimate coverage, it’s hard to say that organization should be banned. Fact is, websites have potentially far greater reach than even local TV or radio shows.
The Saints should back off this policy as soon as possible.
HALL OF FAME THOUGHTS
My favorite story from this year’s Hall of Fame election coverage was about how newly-elected wide receiver Jerry Rice(notes) for years refused to sign memorabilia for the Hall. While Rice, arguably the greatest player in league history, was a no-brainer for Hall consideration, he explained that he never wanted to take it for granted that he’d make it.
The lesson in that is that too many of us, particularly in the media, throw around the expression “future Hall of Famer.” It’s so presumptuous as to be insulting. The process for making the Hall is brutally difficult. The 44 selectors – all members of the media – spent seven hours last Saturday discussing the candidates in a closed meeting. That came after months of being politicked and approached by the candidates themselves and people representing the hopefuls.
In the past, the process was usually completed after three or four hours. While there is a fair point to be made that the process could be changed to be more like the voting for the Baseball Hall of Fame (there are more than 500 voters, thus diminishing the power of any single person, and it’s done by a mail-in ballot, thus limiting the politicking), the fact is that the 44 selectors do a fine job of sorting through the candidates.
It’s just that the rest of the media does a terrible job of putting those people on the spot. On Saturday, for instance, NFL Network analysts Michael Irvin, Steve Young and Rod Woodson second-guessed the fact that Charles Haley didn’t make it this year. Haley, who will be deserving if he makes it, was a long-time teammate of Irvin and Young, making them somewhat biased. Further, there are plenty of people who will tell you that Richard Dent was as good or better than Haley or that Cortez Kennedy was a better all-around defensive lineman. Bottom line, Haley has a ways to travel before he gets to Canton, Ohio, the home of the Hall.
Moreover, the process is going to get only more difficult. Next year, for instance, Deion Sanders, Marshall Faulk(notes), Curtis Martin(notes) and Jerome Bettis are among players eligible for consideration. Good luck sorting through a list that could include those four and the 10 guys from this year's final 15 who didn’t make it (Haley, Dent, Kennedy, Cris Carter, Tim Brown(notes), Andre Reed, Dermontti Dawson, Roger Craig, Don Coryell and Shannon Sharpe).
At best, five will make it. Good luck to the 44 selectors figuring out precisely who really is a future Hall of Famer.
THIS AND THAT
• Before completely leaving the Hall of Fame discussion, there’s a popular argument that goes something like this: If you can’t write the history of pro football without mentioning such-and-such’s name, they should be in the Hall of Fame. It’s an intriguing point, but flawed. For instance, it would be hard to write the history of the league without mentioning Rae Carruth, Pacman Jones and Michael Vick(notes) and how they embarrassed the game and pushed the groundswell for the personal conduct policy. Carruth is never going in the Hall. The idea of Jones and/or Vick making it seems too absurd to comprehend, although theoretically not impossible. Further, if you take the point to an extreme, it would be impossible to write any book on world history without spending time on Adolf Hitler, but he’s not making any Hall of Fame.
• Hey, Joey Porter(notes), while I admire your honesty regarding the Dolphins, I have to say that you’re not exactly ingratiating yourself to your next employer by ripping a team that never said anything publicly about your selfish play last season. Don’t think word hasn’t gotten around the league about your refusal to come out of games so you could build stats at the expense of team play. Oh yeah, and you turn 33 in March. You’ll be lucky to make $3 million next season and maybe some incentives to go with that. Thus, talking your way out of the $5 million the Dolphins are supposed to pay you isn’t exactly bright.
• Plenty of readers had opinions about my top 10 lists at running back and quarterback from last week. Typically, a lot of the thoughts were negative (welcome to the internet). But one of the most consistent points was about the omission of Gale Sayers from the running backs list. While Sayers was great, the problem for me is that his career basically lasted five years. He had only two 1,000-yard season, topping out with 1,231 yards in 1966. He had only 56 total touchdowns in his career and eight came on kickoff or punt returns. Sayers was a great all-around player, a hybrid of Marshall Faulk and Devin Hester(notes). But his career as a running back was too abbreviated to define him as one of the top 10 at that spot. Same goes for Bo Jackson, who may be the greatest athlete in our country’s history. Jackson was the modern incarnation of Jim Brown and he was an all-star in baseball. But when you play only four years, it’s hard to measure that against people who play the position for eight years or more.
• Oh, and to the reader who compared John Elway to Bubby Brister, all I have to say is that you’re an idiot.
• The decision by New England to not name a defensive or offensive coordinator is interesting, but speaks to a significant political issue within the coaching staff, particularly on defense. Coach Bill Belichick has been grooming Matt Patricia for the defensive coordinator job. However, naming Patricia would lead to problems for Belichick with defensive line coach Pepper Johnson, who is an important member of the staff because of his credibility as a former player. Belichick would be wise to make Johnson an assistant head coach at some point if he really wants to keep him.