Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Head of The Class of 2004

Draft experts say that you have to wait 3 to 4 years to evaluate a draft class. Well, for the class of 2004 QBs its final exam time. Phillip Rivers, Ben Rothlesberger, and Eli Manning came into the league with the potential of being among the great QB classes of all time. Currently, that distinction belongs to the class of 1983, when 6 QBs were taken in the first round, 3 being hall of fame type players (Marino, Kelly, Elway), and the other 3 being servicable, albeit medicore (someday you will get your due Ken O'brien...some day). Still the class of 04 has, if nothing else, produced winners...though whether teams win in spite or because of them is up for debate. I am not for X's and O's, but here's my take on the class of 04.

Top of the Class: Jeff will say that I am being partial and that my judgement is clouded, but despite my emotional dependency on the Pittsburgh Steelers, you would be hard pressed to say Ben Rothlesberger is not at the top of this list right now. Ben's splits speak for themself, but what really stands out are his record as a starter (40-16), and the Super Bowl victory. He does leave wanting for his playoff performances (and he may set the record for most 3 interception home playoff games), though he did have a remarkable post season up until the Super Bowl in 05. He also takes a beating, is still prone to "dear!" decision making, and benefits greatly from the talent around him. However, he keeps his teams in games (see Jax both times, Clev, Denv., and the Jets games this year), and physically, he is as gifted as there comes. He belongs in the top 5-6 QB in the league discussion. On a side note, a friend once told me that while he was at Miami of Ohio, Ben had one of his lineman solicite his girlfriend...I wonder if Alan Faneca does that for him?

If you make me...: I suppose I have to pick between Manning and Rivers, maybe I will base this on the fact that Eli's Fiancee is hot . Sigh...well...I will go with vacant look in Eli's eyes in this position because he led his team to the Super Bowl and despite the numbers I think that he could develop into a solid player. Looking at Eli's splits you wonder how bad things would have been if he couldnt just lob it up to Plaxico Burress every once in a while (Rothlesberger did this too his rookie year), or if he didn't have Tiki Barber now Brandon Jacobs to hand off to in a pinch? I hate it when people say they like his pedigree...what the hell does that even mean? Is he a horse? Well pedigree aside, his performances in this year's playoffs have been solid. He hasn't thrown a pick, and while he hasn't won games, he has made the plays when given the chance (4 TDs). I think Marty Schottenheimer started this trend: you can win most games by not losing them (see Garrard, David and Garcia, Jeff)

By Default: One of my favorite moments from this season was when Champ Bailey was interviewed about his opinion of Phillip Rivers. Champ's response (paraphrasing here), "I don't like that guy...I used to, but now he just talks to much. He isn't good enough to talk that much." Thats how I feel about Phillip Rivers too. His name is Phillip Rivers for god's sake; what is he a dentist? I am sure Jay Cutler was on the sideline of that game saying "a dude named Phillip is taunting me." In fact, for his sake, I am going to start calling him Phil. The splits here are better than Eli's, and he has had success in the NFL, particularly last year (when he made the Pro Bowl), but from watching Phil, I can't help thinking he is a combination of Chad Pennington and Trent Dilfer (OK, now that's fair, but take a look at the first Tenn. game this year). He prefers dinking and dunking the ball up the field, the offense has no real deep ball punch, and you wonder if he has hit his ceiling already? Still he did show some guts in the playoffs, and he had a nice game against Indy until his injury. He also does a nice job of managing the game (at least he did last year), and with LT and that D, maybe its enough. I wonder, though, if San Diego fans honestly feel like the right decision was made between Brees and Rivers. Cleveland is facing a similiar conundrum, but that is for a different blog entry...

So there it is, a couch potato's evaluation of the class of 2004. In sum, I think these guys benefit a lot from the players around them, and I don't think any of them approach that '83 class. However, in an age of game managers, who needs a Marino, Elway, or even Todd Blackledge for that matter?

(editor's note 1: Wilson, I expect an angry post about the exclusion of your boy JP Losman. Seen here with a cougar.)

(editor's note 2: Thomas, are you gonna let him complement Blackledge by implying that he was even marginally serviceable?)

(editor's note 3: Srikant, you and Verley are so gay for Ben.)

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