Peter King returned to writing his Monday Morning Quarterback article today, and among the features was his take on the 20 best players. I’ve already talked about how we shouldn’t take the ordering of the list too seriously, given how the voting process took place. King took aim at the players’ ranking of Ben Roethlisberger at #41:
I’ve tried to make up for the silliness of the players having two-time Super Bowl-winner Ben Roethlisberger 41 and Philip Rivers 26 on their list by putting them seventh and 10th, respectively, on mine.
Ben Roethlisberger’s a divisive figure, and he even draws criticism from his own teammates (and he apparently sponsors his own page at pro-football-reference). He’s not universally loved. Is he better than 41? Yes. If there was a draft today, he would probably go around the top 10. I talked about what a Top 100 would look like if we went by salary, and quarterbacks would be far more represented (and higher) than they were on the player list.
King puts him ahead of Rivers. I would probably reverse that, but it’s a debatable point, and I think they both go in the Top Ten if we did a redraft today where everyone was a free agent. Has Pittsburgh won games because of defense, where Big Ben gets too much credit? Sure. They’ve also won games where he picked up for the defense and played really well. His tendency to hold the ball leads to a wide variety of plays, from sacks to big plays for his offense. He has a career yards per attempt of 8.0, very impressive. When we include all the sacks, that takes a massive hit to 6.7 yards per pass, but it’s still well above average. He’s clearly not just a guy that is game managing a great defense.
He also wouldn’t have a 69-29 regular season record, 3 Super Bowl appearances and 2 Super Bowl rings without the defense and teammates. He would be good enough to be a playoff caliber quarterback on another team without all of them.
I worry about how many sacks he takes, and I know he’s a big guy. The history of good quarterbacks who take a lot of sacks at a young age is filled with guys who broke down or had injuries that derailed their careers for periods, including Bert Jones, Neil Lomax, Ken O’Brien and Randall Cunningham. Big Ben turns 29 years old, an age when many of those guys were breaking down. He’s a mercurial figure, from his legal problems to getting married and publicly portraying a change in the span of 12 months, to his high risk type of play by holding the ball, to his often up and down play within a game where it seems he goes from goat to hero. I have a feeling that his star will burn brightly but not as long as some other top quarterbacks.
If we are talking this year, and ranking the best players now, though, I agree with King. He should have been higher. How long that will be the case, I’m not as sure. Even if he really has settled down, I’m not sure his playing style will settle enough to last into his mid-30’s.
[photo via Getty]