By Jason Keidel
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No matter the time or topic, it’s a sports talk show host’s job to move your emotional needle, in any direction. And Mike Francesa recently moved mine.
It was during a chat or spat with a WFAN caller, when Mike said that Eli Manning has had a better career than Ben Roethlisberger.
In the words of Lee Corso: not so fast, my friend…
Though I’ve made no secret that my blood type is black & gold, it’s hard to see how any objective analysis ends with Eli Manning being better than Big Ben.
The comparison is perfect. Ben is 31. Eli is 32. They were drafted the same year (2004) by equally iconic franchises, eager to stir the ghosts. The Giants hadn’t won a world title in about 15 years. The Steelers were ringless since 1979, the last year of the Chuck Noll dynasty.
Both were the faces of the revival. Both delivered. But it says here Ben delivered a little more.
We can start with stats.
Big Ben has thrown 218 touchdowns. Eli has 228 TDs.
Big Ben has 120 interceptions. Eli has 170 INT. Eli has led the NFL in INT thrice. Ben once.
Big has completed 63.3 percent of his passes. Eli completed 58.6 percent of his.
Big Ben has thrown for 33,926 yards. Eli has thrown for 35,193 yards.
Big Ben’s career passer rating is 92.8.
Eli’s passer rating is 81.3.
Neither quarterback is particularly pretty. Neither throws the glistening spiral you saw from Troy Aikman. Neither has Tom Brady’s GQ cheekbones. Neither has the radiant mien of a leading man.
But both have ample hardware. And if winning is still the quintessential QB metric, then Ben Roethlisberger is indeed better than Eli Manning.
Eli’s career regular-season record is 84-66. Big Ben is 94-47.
Eli has an 8-3 playoff record. Ben is 10-4.
Big Ben has been to three Super Bowls, winning twice. Eli, of course, won both of his Super Bowls and was the MVP of each game. David Tyree made the first one possible against an undefeated New England team, while a stunning sideline throw to Mario Manningham was all Eli in the second, also against the Patriots.
Ben wasn’t the MVP of either Super Bowl victory; Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes got the free car. People love to point to Ben’s putrid Super Bowl performance against Seattle – perhaps the worst by a winning quarterback – but Ben was sublime in the three preceding playoff games.
You can’t play the better team card, as both QBs had the supporting cast to get them to a championship. And both Manning and Eli have been the benefactors of robust defenses. Eli’s had Michael Strahan and Justin Tuck bull-rushing the opposing passer, while Ben got to watch James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley get the ball back.
Eli had Tom Coughlin. Ben had Bill Cowher and Mike Tomlin. No clear advantage there.
So unless Francesa is aware of some secret criterion, Ben Roethlisberger has to be considered more successful. If you have to win one game, maybe you go with Eli Manning. But the career stats just don’t support him.
Of course, both are home for the playoffs this year. (No, the Steelers won’t make it, despite the microscopic chance they have entering today’s slate of games.) Ben has been far superior to Eli this season, but it doesn’t really matter if neither matters in the postseason.
Ultimately, it’s hard not to imagine either QB ending up in the same pro football retirement home: the Hall of Fame. If both stay healthy, Ben will likely look a little better getting there.
It’s almost a draw. Almost.
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