What The Hell is Happening to the 2004 Quarterback Class?
For over a decade, fans of the NFL have grown accustomed to the Pittsburgh Steelers, Los Angeles Chargers and New York Giants each having a bonafide, high quality quarterback on their rosters. Big Ben Roethlisberger , Eli Manning and Phillip Rivers. Their names are all very well known to even the most casual of NFL fans. Well maybe not Rivers because, in all honesty, do the Chargers even have a fan base at this point? Regardless of his popularity, Rivers has still played at a consistently high level for the past decade, along with Manning and Roethlisberger.
All three of these players will be connected to each other for as long as they are remembered, especially Manning and Rivers seeing that they were traded for each other, because they were all quarterbacks that were selected in the first round of the 2004 NFL Draft. Between the three of them, they have been selected to 15 pro bowls, thrown 958 touchdowns and 144,833 passing yards, played 581 total games and won four super bowls. It is safe to say that they have all had very successful careers. They came into the league together, and have shared success ever since, which makes it very fitting that they all seem to have become terrible at the same time.
There is no way to sugar coat the current situation these players are in: they kind of just suck. The first five weeks of the season concluded with Eli’s team at a staggering 0-5, Rivers at 1-4 and Roethlisberger with the least impressive 3-2 performance anyone has ever seen. This asks the questions, what is to blame for this sudden drop off, and how on earth can it be fixed?
Phillip Rivers’ situation is a strange one. He seems to have lost all ability to read a defense, along with a deteriorating arm. Rivers has been throwing a high volume of interceptions for the last few years, but that was mostly because his supporting cast was awful. But now its like the man has lost his mind. He makes the stupidest decisions I have ever seen a veteran quarterback make. It is as if he decided who he is going to throw to before the play even starts, a trait seen in bad rookie quarterbacks.
It also seems as if Rivers is completely shell shocked from playing with a poor offensive line for years. This season Rivers has been feeling pressure that isn’t really there, making him throw the ball away or try to force things as he feels he has no time. You can see an example of this here. This is a problem that is likely impossible to fix.
Big Ben’s regression isn’t nearly as much of a surprise as Rivers’. Before the season started it came out that Roethlisberger was considering retirement. It is often said in sports that once you start to think about retiring, you’re already retired. This seems to be the case for Big Ben as he looks as if he’s ready to hang it up. He simply can’t make the throws he once made anymore. Here you can see Roethlisberger make an awful throw, that resulted in the luckiest touchdown ever, since the corner who’s face he threw directly at isn’t very good at what he does. Ben has consistently made poor throws and decisions such as this one all season.
It also doesn’t help that the Steelers locker room distractions have dominated the headlines, such as Leveon Bell’s holdout, Roethlisberger’s own critiques of Antonio Brown and the division among the players opinions on how to handle the national anthem protest. I don’t think anyone will be surprised if Big Ben decides to retire at the end of this season.
There isn’t much to say about Eli Manning. He’s kind of just been the garbage Eli manning we’ve become accustomed to the past couple of seasons, but this year his defense and offensive weapons haven’t been able to bail him out. The main reason for this is because the Giants’ offensive line play has been absolutely awful. Former first round pick, Erick Flowers, is probably the worst starting tackle I have ever seen. It also doesn’t help that Giants’ head coach Ben McAdoo is the most mediocre coach alive, and refuses to call anything innovative to help his aging quarterback. He seems to have an addiction to five yard slants.
Mixing a mediocre quarterback, with an awful offensive line, poor head coach and a defense that is under-performing, is sure to lead to a failure of a season. On top of all of this, week five of the season gave Eli Manning exactly what he needed most, for all three of his starting wide receivers to get long term injuries, with the best two out for the season. There isn’t much hope in the Meadowlands these days.
Week six of the season may have provided us with an answer to how the Chargers, Giants and Steelers may be able to find success in spite of their QB’s play. Run the hell out of the ball. All three teams came out with wins against good teams this past week, while each saw their offenses ignited with a strong running game. This game-plan makes complete sense: keep the ball out of your struggling quarterback’s hands and in the hands of your talented running backs. All three of these quarterbacks are still capable of making plays in the air, if there is an established run game to make it easier on them. The life of a quarterback is always much easier when the opposing defense is forced to stack the box to stop your potent run game. If their coaches are at all competent, and realize they should continue focusing on the ground game, then just maybe these teams can find success in the remainder of the season.
The sad truth is, all these teams need to draft a quarterback next year, and the Chargers and Giants should probably just tank. The Steelers should keep trying though. I need to see one more classic Big Ben loss at the hand of Brady, this time in the playoffs, before he retires.