Read Part I, Part II & Part III of the Debate
Which quarterback is truly elite? I'll tell you who's not...or at least not yet.
Two days ago, on this blog, Matt said plenty in response to Andrew’s December 12th column—namely:
1) Donovan McNabb is one of the league’s top quarterbacks
2) Jake Plummer is not
But one of Andrew’s points requires specific condemnation—that point being that Ben Roethlisberger is a better quarterback than Donovan McNabb. When I first read it, I brushed it off, figuring that Andrew was on some mood-altering drug since realizing that T.O. would never again wear an Eagles uniform, and that the drug was impairing his judgment. But then Ahamed Iqbal, a loyal BSJ reader, showed support for the notion, writing on this blog, “Brady, Manning, Palmer and maybe Big Ben are definetely above him.” Now, I know Andrew can go off the deep end sometimes, but Ahamed? Ahamed, I count on you to be the voice of reason around here! Well, it looks like this time around that voice of reason will have to be mine.
Let’s begin with the obvious: Including the postseason, the kid has 26 games under his belt. He simply doesn’t have the record to be considered a premier QB. But that doesn’t matter to Andrew or Ahamed, so let’s look at the numbers.
Clearly, we have to concentrate on last year. Big Ben’s most impressive stat was his 66.4% completion percentage. But Donovan was right behind him at 64%. How about yardage? With only one less start, Ben had—count ‘em—more than 1200 less passing yards. TDs in the air? Ben: 17. Donovan: 31. TDs on the ground? Donovan had 3 to Ben’s 1. And my favorite QB stat—Donovan: 8 interceptions in 469 attempts; Ben: 11 picks in only 295 tosses.
This is getting embarassing. Oh wait—Andrew credits Donovan’s success to the West Coast offense. Yes, it’s a pass-friendly offense. But you know what else is pass-friendly? A good running game. Last year, Jerome Bettis racked up 941 yards and ex-Eagle Duce Staley put together 830. Much as I like him, Brian Westbrook’s 812 rushing yards don’t stack up. Everybody knew Donovan was passing on almost every play.
As for receiver support, Terrell Owens is the most talented receiver in football. But Hines Ward is excellent in is own right. Take 2002: 112 catches, 1329 receiving yards, 12 touchdowns. So with the Great Roethlisberger, he must have blown those numbers away, right? No. 80 catches—and only 4 touchdowns.
How about defensive support? I have no complaints with last year’s Eagles defensive squad, but how did those Steelers rank? In yards: #1. In points: #1. Not bad.
But one of Andrew’s biggest problems with McNabb is his performance in big games. Should I even go here? Is it even fair? No, but oh well. Roethlisberger’s sudden fall from grace in last year’s postseason was sad. The wunderkind got whupped two weeks in a row. Against the New York Jets he threw 2 interceptions that almost cost the Steelers the game. Against the Patriots, he was picked 3 times, fatally wounding an already struggling Steel City defense.
Also, Ben’s a graduate of the Brett Favre school: he’s exciting but reckless and often hurts his team by pulling out playground moves more suited to athletic quarterbacks lke Daunte Culpepper, Michael Vick, or (yep) Donovan McNabb.
Don't get me wrong: Big Ben's time will come.
I like Ben Roethlisberger. He seems like a good, hard-working player, as well as a nice guy. He has a real future in football. But to compare him with McNabb is silly. In fact, it doesn’t hold up under even the slightest scrutiny.