Is Ben Roethlisberger a Great Quarterback?

John Cole passes on a Cold, Hard Football Facts essay arguing that Ben Roethlisberger is, despite the naysayers, an elite QB.  The essence of the argument is that, hey, he wins a lot of games so he must be good.

Big Ben’s resume now includes a game-winning touchdown drive in the final two minutes of a Super Bowl … and he pulled it off following an ordinary average game to that point, and at a time when it appeared that everything was falling apart around him.
Big Ben also did it behind what might have been the worst offensive line ever to win a Super Bowl. The Steelers ranked a dreadful 28th on our Offensive Hog Index this year, and the weakness showed up like a gushing old wound in the Super Bowl.
We said it long ago and it was obvious tonight: Big Ben is an elite NFL quarterback. Start measuring his goofy 26-year-old face and oversized cranium for a bronze bust.

Big Ben’s performance last Sunday was the best I’ve ever seen him.  He was a combination of the best parts of Tony Romo and Donovan McNabb.

OTOH, simply being the QB1 on a winning team doesn’t necessarily make one a great QB.  Some pretty mediocre QBs (Jim McMahon, Doug Williams, Jeff Hostetler, Mark Rypien, Trent Dilfer, and Brad Johnson come to mind ) have won Super Bowls.

The Steelers are a great organization that has traditionally relied on defense and a running game.  Roethlisberger was awful in his first SB but the team beat a Seahawks team that kept tripping over its feet.   He would have lost his second — despite a terrific performance — if not for a history making 100 yard interception return by James Harrison and some interesting officiating.

He’s certainly among the top ten quarterbacks in the League today; maybe the top five.  But let’s not put him in Canton just yet.

Speaking of Canton, I’m a bit surprised that it has now become conventional wisdom that Kurt Warner is bound for the Hall of Fame.   He’s basically had three terrific years, including outstanding performances in three Super Bowls.   But has there ever been a journeyman quarterback — one who has lost starting jobs on three teams — to get voted into the Hall?

FILED UNDER: Uncategorized, , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. David Harris says:

    But a “journeyman” with either the #1 or #2 completion percentage of all time. And he’s guided three teams to the Super Bowl, and then excelled in that game each time. For better or worse, postseason performance factors greatly in the opinions of voters and talking heads.

  2. Taking two different teams to the SB, with three total appearances plus 1 ring puts him in the discussion. Add in his MVP and SB MVP, the fact that he has three of the top passing games in SB history and some fairly impressive careeer stats (more so than you probably think, if memory serves) and my guess is that he gets in.

  3. Hall of Famer Lenny Dawson was released or traded by Pittsburgh and Cleveland before settling down with the Dallas Texans/KC Chiefs.

  4. tom p says:

    Speaking of Canton, I’m a bit surprised that it has now become conventional wisdom that Kurt Warner is bound for the Hall of Fame.

    Bernie Miklasz of the St Louis Post Disgrace disagrees with you. Money quote:

    Even though he’s played in fewer games, Warner has passed for more career yards than many Hall of Famers, including Staubach, Namath, Van Brocklin, Terry Bradshaw, Bart Starr, Bob Griese, Bobby Layne, Sammy Baugh, George Blanda and Y.A. Tittle. And Warner has more touchdown passes than Hall of Famers Troy Aikman, Namath, Staubach and Van Brocklin.

    Moreover, Warner is a two-time NFL MVP. His regular-season career QB rating of 93.8 ranks No. 3 in NFL history. He has the fourth-highest passing yards per attempt average (8.04) in NFL history and is No. 2 in completion percentage. He has passed for 300 yards or more in 48 of his 101 starts, a preposterous percentage that is easily the highest in NFL history. And Warner’s average of 259.9 yards passing per game is No. 1 in NFL history.

    Bernie is an admitted drum beater for Warner, but the #s don’t lie.

  5. Bithead says:

    David’s thought echo my own.
    And the nature of the league makes it that anyone ends up being a ‘journeyman’. The days of a QB spending his entire career in one location, ala Jim Kelly, is over… and that much was made clear by Favre, for example. Anyone taking bets on the question of his making it to Canton?

  6. David Harris says:

    Also remember that both times he lost his starting jobs, it wasn’t necessarily performance-based but because he had been considered a seat-warmer for a young star (Manning in New York, Bulger in St. Louis). The same thing was tried in Arizona with Leinart as well.

    The gaps in his playing career will certainly make his overall numbers look pretty pedestrian. Even so, he’s one more strong season from being in the top 20-25 of several major passing categories. Plus he’s remained ridiculously accurate over time. He may not be a first-ballot guy, but I think he gets in.

  7. So much misinformation about Warner out there…

    As noted above, Kurt didn’t really lose a job that was never his except in a caretaker role in NY. He effectively lost his job in St. Louis because Mad Mike Martz was getting him killed and his thuimb injuries which were never heavily publicized made it difficult for him to grip the ball effectively, hence all the fumbles. And yes, he was the starting QB when he went to Arizona until he got injured and then McCown took over. After a merry go round approach to QB for a couple of years, Warner kept rescuing Leinert’s weak efforts until he finally took the job from him even though Leinert was announced as the starter in training camp this year.

    You undersell just how “from a spaceship” his three years in St. Louis were. It isn’t just that he took two teams to three Super Bowls, but which two teams he took, the hapless Rams and probably the worst run franchise in NFL history — the Cardinals. Without listing them all here, Kurt Warner owns a lot of records in the NFL, inclduing the three best passing performances in Super Bowl history. Numbers One. Two. And. Three.

    Is it Kurt Warner’s fault that he didn’t get a chance to play in the NFL until he was in his late 20’s? For those that say his time at the top was too brief, ever heard of Gale Sayers or Dick Butkus? Take a look at how brief their careers were, and how little success their teams had, and yet they are still mentioned in lists of the greatest players ever.

    There was an article in SI (IIRC) that noted that Kurt makes people uncomfortable because of his lifestyle and as such he doesn’t get the good press that he otherwise might for his achievements.

  8. PD Shaw says:

    Not just ridicuosly accurate, the second most accurate Quarterback in NFL history.

    Most of the quirks in his history are because the NFL didn’t give him a chance. I don’t see the voters holding that against him. Indeed, I think they’ll empathize with him.

  9. James Joyner says:

    I agree that his stats are terrific, although they’re somewhat skewed by his playing in a pass-happy era. He’s a great QB and almost certainly among the best of his era. But the fact remains that he lost his starting gig in St. Louis to Marc Bulger, lost his starting gig in NY to Eli Manning, and lost his starting gig in Arizona to Matt Leinart before regaining it. That’s just unheard of for a Hall of Famer.

    The closest I can think of is Joe Montana, who lost out to future HOFer Steve Young after an injury. But that wasn’t in his peak years but after the 49ers judged he was going downhill.

  10. Raoul says:

    Thanks for bringing up “interesting officiating”- I’m still confused about many of the calls- both ways but more against the Cards. HOF Warner? Who the hell knows-ever since it took Art Monk, the all time leading receiver at the time of his retirement, something like 12 years to get in, I have no idea what it takes to get in. I will say this, if he gets in, it will take a while. I think if he has another playoff year he would probably deserve it.

  11. PD Shaw says:

    James, it seems like you’re giving a little too much of a vote to the teams that cut Warner. The teams simply wanted Quarterbacks that were 6-12 years younger than Warner — it was age discrimination. And I suspect it’s more about an age of parity, than a pass-happy era.

  12. James Joyner says:

    James, it seems like you’re giving a little too much of a vote to the teams that cut Warner. The teams simply wanted Quarterbacks that were 6-12 years younger than Warner — it was age discrimination.

    A fair point.

    And I suspect it’s more about an age of parity, than a pass-happy era.

    Could be. After all, Tony Romo has shattered most of the single season records held by Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman, both of whom were clearly better QBs.

  13. Kurt Warner was injured which is why he lost his job in St. Louis. It took him several years to recover. Bulger had some really good years statistically, but the Rams abysmal drafting and the aging of the O-line has really taken it’s toll. How well as Bulger held up playing behind Mike Martz lines and their aftermath compared to Warner?

    The job was never really Kurt’s in NY to begin with except as a caretaker. He could just keep the seat warm until Manning was ready. In fact, Kurt’s NY stats were better than Manning’s that year, but who was getting paid more determined who the starter would be.

  14. Oh, and since you say he lost his starting job with three teams, is it really fair to count the Cardinals against him? He did lose his starting job once he got hurt after arriving in Phoenix and had to deal with another bonus baby for a while, but since he’s been the starter there all year, should you really count this as the third time he’s lost his job?

  15. James Joyner says:

    should you really count this as the third time he’s lost his job?

    The Broncos drafted a QB with a 1st round pick late in John Elway’s career and the Packers did the same for Brett Favre. They both kept their jobs until they retired although, granted, they wouldn’t let Favre unretire.

  16. I perhaps a backhanded way, the fact that a QB “loses” his starting job three times but still manages to lead an historically decrepit franchise to within a couple minutes of a Super Bowl victory does kind of say something about his perseverence and grit doesn’t it? How many guys have not just the ability but the will to go through that?

    It’s kind of like noting that it is harder to lose 20 games in a MLB season than it is to win 20. You really gotta have something going for you for them to keep throwing you out there in loss after loss.

  17. Eneils Bailey says:

    It was a great game; perhaps one of the best Super Bowl’s I have ever watched.

    I just could not get to the point where I had a dog in that fight.

    Was it the play of Pittsburgh’s defense, the screw-ups on part of Arizona’s defense or Pittsburgh’s QB.

    It is too tough to break out individual performance when each team has eleven players on the field for every play.

    My tribute is to each team for a good game.