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By Robert Klemko
December 21, 2018

Like a lot of uncomfortable truths, the Powers That Be would like to sweep this one under the rug. The Saints would like you to forget about defensive end Cameron Jordan scoffing yesterday at the idea that Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger is a top-five QB of this era and a sure-fire Hall of Famer. That’s why they scrubbed the video from the team website yesterday of Jordan’s incredulous response to a reporter’s assertion in the affirmative of Roethlisberger’s credentials.

But Cameron Jordan has a point. Ben Roethlisberger is, generously, the sixth best quarterback of his generation, and though he probably will get a first ballot Hall of Fame nod, he probably shouldn’t.

Now, I consider the beginning of this generation of quarterbacking greats to have begun right around the time Jets linebacker Mo Lewis smacked Drew Bledsoe into obscurity, making way for Tom Brady in the fall of 2001. That was also Drew Brees’s rookie year, and three years later, Philip Rivers, Eli Manning and Roethlisberger showed up as rookies. Peyton Manning had been doing it for a while, and Aaron Rodgers wouldn’t arrive until 2008, but I don’t think I’ll get much pushback on the idea that this QB era started right around the turn of the century.

Since 2001, Roethlisberger is fourth in yards, fifth in touchdowns and 12th in touchdown percentage. Among the nine guys with more than 40,000 passing yards in that span, he’s got the third-highest interception rate, the seventh-best passer rating, the most sacks absorbed, and the sixth-best completion percentage. He’s pretty damn good at football, but is he Hall of Fame-worthy? Is his statistical résumé better than Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Philip Rivers? Nope.

Take the best QBs from a previous era, easily defined by the class of ’83, which included Dan Marino, John Elway and Jim Kelly. Statistically, there are six obvious studs from this period: Marino, Kelly and Elway, plus Steve Young, Joe Montana and Warren Moon. Then there’s a few guys hovering around the outside of the circle. One stands out for his similarities with Ben. He’s seventh in yards, fifth in touchdown passes, sixth in touchdown percentage. Among the nine guys with more than 34,000 passing yards in that span, he’s got the second-highest interception rate, the fourth-best passer rating, the second-most sacks absorbed and the fourth-best completion percentage.

That man’s name is Dave Krieg. Dave Krieg had a fine career. He’s in the Seahawks ring of honor. He was very good at a lot of things, and the best at nothing. He was his generation’s Ben Roethlisberger.

What Roethlisberger has over Krieg, obviously, is Super Bowl and playoff wins. He did an effective job of managing a stacked Steelers offense to a title in his second NFL season, and in his second Super Bowl season, in 2008, Roethlisberger captained the league’s 20th scoring offense while the No. 1 defense in the NFL not only carried the regular season and playoffs, but did its share in the Super Bowl win over the Cardinals.

So go ahead and crown Ben Roethlisberger if you want to. History will smile favorably on the wins he mustered for a perennial contender. Cameron Jordan and I will be over here worrying about silly little outdated things like the truth.

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