Eli Manning or Ben Roethlisberger? Given your choice, which quarterback would you build your franchise around for the next decade?
Their careers are indelibly linked. Eli, the No. 1 pick in 2004 who was traded to our Super Bowl champion Giants. Roethlisberger, whom the Giants could have selected, was taken later by Pittsburgh.
After four years, which guy would you rather have? In truth, this has worked out well for both teams. Both quarterbacks have Super Bowl rings, both have had some rough patches, but both appear headed for long-term stardom.
Yet, the question -- which one would you rather have? I got to thinking about this because of the 8-year, $102 million contract Roethlisberger just agreed to. Oh, and because Mike & Mike were debating this very topic on ESPN Radio Monday morning.
So, let's look at it.
The Case for Roethlisberger
By the numbers, Roethlisberger has been the far superior player. A career quarterback rating of 92.5, while Eli's best has been a 77.0. A completion percentage of 63.2 to Eli's 54.7. Big Ben has 84 touchdown passes and 54 interceptions to Eli's 77 and 64. Roethlisberger also averages 8.1 yards per pass to Eli's 6.3.
So, the statistics clearly show that Roethlisberger has been better than Eli to this point. He is coming off a 32-TD, 11 INT season with a 104.1 rating.
Big Ben is definitely a star who belongs in the conversation when you discuss the top half-dozen quarterbacks in the league. Does all of that mean he will be considered better than Eli if we look back at their careers 15 or 20 years from now?
I don't know.
The Case for Eli
With the numbers stacked against him at this point, the argument for Eli is more circumstantial.
First and foremost, Eli is the reigning Super Bowl MVP who appears to be just now scratching the surface of the greatness former Giants GM Ernie Accorsi predicted for him. The Super Bowl title will only make him a better, more confident quarterback.
During the playoffs, Eli outplayed Jeff Garcia, Tony Romo, Brett Favre and Tom Brady in succession. If that doesn't show he's on the cusp of greatness, I'm not sure anything can. Can you say unequivocally he's in the top half-dozen QBs in the league? Maybe not, but he is headed there.
Yes, Giants' fans are still waiting for that 65% completion, 90+ rating season from Eli. Is it ever going to come? I don't know. I do know that for the rest of his career you have to be confident that Eli can meet the challenge when he is needed.
One thing to remember when you judge these two fine quarterbacks is that Eli has been asked to do more by the Giants -- often more than he was capable of. Roethlisberger has often been a caretaker, using the running game and trying not to mess things up for the Steelers' defense. Eli threw 125 more passes this season and has about 400 more attempts, almost a season's worth, in his career.
Both of these teams are set at quarterback for the foreseeable future, and each should be thrilled with the guy they have.
Without the Giants' incredible Super Bowl run, though, we would not even be having this debate. Roethlisberger would be the clear winner.
While I think it's still to be determined which will have the greater overall career, if you put a gun to my head today and made me choose I would have to take Roethlisberger. I really want to take Eli, but Roethlisberger's body of work is, to this point, more impressive.
Having said that, I would hope like hell the guy with the gun wasn't a big Eli fan.
Eli's Career Stats
Ben's Career Stats