Tag:Ben Roethlisberger
Posted on: February 4, 2009 11:20 am
Edited on: February 4, 2009 11:30 am

Ben vs. Eli: We have a winner...

Back-to-back, fourth quarter heroics from a pair of gutsy QB's lead to Super Bowl victories. The debates between the faithful rage on, but there's already a clear cut winner .


On trails blazed years ago by the original "Comeback Kid" Joe Montana, and paved by a more recent legend in Tom Brady, two members of the NFL draft class of 2004 have shown that the art of the comeback is alive and well in postseason play. For now, we can bask in the glory of pure, unadulterated determination - and wave goodbye to the perpetual lopsidedness of a game that for all intents and purposes had become more of a footnote than a meaningful event. It's a sad thing when someone loses passion for what was once a favorite holiday like Christmas, or gives up hope on an old friend. Scores like 55-10 and 52-17 can ruin the magic of the Super Bowl for even the most ardent of us. That's why it's a blessing as NFL fans to be able to say that the best game of the season was the last game of the season, because it doesn't happen often enough.

What made these last two championships so special were the aforementioned pair of quarterbacks drafted in the first round on April 24th of '04. Quite possibly shaping up to be the best QB draft class since the Marino/Elway/Kelly threesome of 1983, Ben Roethlisberger, Eli Manning and Phillip Rivers are proving that all three teams that got them would have been in great shape no matter who they ended up with. But while hearty debates amongst fans of these teams involve all three players, anyone who dives into the deep end of the community pool here at CBS Sports knows that there's only one with legs; one that has been raging on for years that has a life all it's own. When you hear somebody say the name "Elvis", you know exactly who they're talking about. And three little words tell you everything you'd need to know about this ongoing deliberation... Ben versus Eli.

Teams have rivalries, and fans have rivalries. It's part of the game, and it rests on multiple levels that range from benign dislike to malignant hatred. There's usually a deep-rooted history between sides when you talk about true rivalry - with tales of historic battles, euphoric moments of victory and crushing blows to the spirit - all which feeds the beast that grows as the years pass. When it comes to "Ben vs. Eli", the beast is fed only by fandom's blind endorsement of it's own. It's safe to say that Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger have little interest in our quest to prove which of them is "better".

We can talk about their stats, which favor Ben. We can talk about their championships, which after this past Sunday also favors Ben. We can talk about  endurance (Eli's strong suit) and toughness (which appears to be Ben's). We can talk about decision making and pocket awareness which at times is a strength and a weakness for both men. If you want to look at the ability to read a defense and change up a play at the line for positive results, Manning's the guy. And when it's all said and done there's no way to rationally resolve any of it, because there's no way to know how Ben would have been as a Giant (which would have been a reality had the Chargers not agreed to trade Eli for Philip Rivers, which is the sole reason the Giants selected him) or how Manning would have performed as a Charger. Different teams and circumstances - don't even attempt to make projections.

There is one undeniable fact; that both Ben and Eli have shown a penchant for cutting their teams loose from the grasp of defeat and finding new and electrifying ways to march them seemingly infinite distances to refuge. The Oasis. In the words of Jonathan Winters in It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World - "The big dubble-yuh I tell ya... it's the big dubble-yuh!!". They can frustrate you and make you stand on your seat in the same possession, let alone the same game. They can go stretches of games that make you wonder where their heads are at, and they can be on fire for weeks - invincible. Neither of them have a Jerry Rice to throw to, or an Emmitt Smith to hand off to. Both have had to deal with questionable play calling from their respective offensive coordinators, and both have had the pleasure of working with solid running games (when healthy) and terrific defenses.     

Without being given a chance in hell and without the greater NFL community's expectations draped over his shoulder, Eli was able to enginner two touchdown drives in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl XLII - the second with a beautiful touch pass on a fade pattern with 35 seconds remaining. As everyone with a microphone or computer keyboard put it, he'd "grown up right before our eyes". He became the mount Everest of poise, maturity and leadership - compared to his brother and other greats in the game's history, not so much for his stats but for his guts. Forever the toast of New York, regardless of what the future holds for him.  

With expectations of completing the Lombardi trophy six-pack and unfairly qualified as facing "a 9-7 team from a weak division", Ben was able to engineer a 78-yard drive and complete six of eight passes in 2 minutes to put his team ahead with only 42 ticks remaining on the game clock. Everyone will talk about Santonio Holmes' amazing catch and his ability to get both feet down, and they should. But Ben put the ball exactly where it had to be - where no one else but Holmes could grab it. Ben has quickly built himself a reputation and statistical resume that rivals the biggest names in the game during their first five years in the league. Forever the toast of Pittsburgh, regardless of what the future holds for him.

What is more impressive? Overcoming the pressure of fighting the school bully - who everyone thinks will kick your ass in the blink of an eye - by landing the blow that coldcocks him and proves you can fight with the best of them? Or nearly losing a fight you should win against a weaker kid, but having the tenacity under pressure to overcome a surprising shot to the gut that would have sent most others running with their tails between their legs?

So who wins? The answer's simple.

We do.


Posted on: November 12, 2008 11:32 am
Edited on: November 12, 2008 4:00 pm

The Power of The Pen & The Will of The Spirit

Athletes are not the only ones who take years to finally come around; sometimes fans & columnists need time, too.

The Article below was written by Filip Bondy, who happens to be one of my favorite newspaper columnists. As much as anyone else, I too had doubts about Eli Manning and his ability to lead an NFL team; his stunning 4th quarter comeback performances were sandwiched between less than stellar performances. He could leave you scratching your head at times, and despite seeing the kind of intuition and skills the Giants were so set on trading Philip Rivers to the Chargers for, it became arduous to watch Eli play week after week. But one thing I personally never lost was the hope - the feeling that the flashes of brilliance Eli gave us in small portions would somehow flourish into a 7-course meal of Hall of Fame type consistency.

To wash away my own sins, I have to openly admit that there did come a point where I all but washed my hands of Eli. It was Monday November 26th of last year. I woke up that morning after having watched one of the most dreadful GIants QB showings since Kerry Collins in Super Bowl XXXV. Manning 's line against the Minnesota Vikings didn't begin to tell the whole story, which included three interception returns for touchdowns and  - at the time - dumped a huge roadblock in front if his team in getting to the playoffs. He looked lost. He looked confused. He looked, well... bad. 

We know how it ultimately turned out, but again - at the time... I commented to some of my Big Blue brethren that my support of #10 had officially run out. The tank was empty, and from that moment on it was Manning's job to gain my trust back.

Of course, he has. He's also gained my admiration and eternal thanks for one of the most clutch performances in NFL playoff history. When I look at Eli Manning today, he's pretty much the same guy as he was in November of 2007. He is streaky, he's a bit goofy. He's going to make you scratch your head at times and make your jaw drop in amazement at others. He's not going to be a 'stats' guy and never will be - partially because it's not who he his, and partially because the system he plays under isn't geared toward the passing game like Dallas, New Orleans, Denver or Arizona are. He still forgets there's this thing called a "game clock" located near the end zone that actually shows you how much time you have left to get a play off. He's all of those things. But he's shown he's a leader. He's shown he's durable, and he's shown that with 2 minutes left in a big game, there's no one else in the league at this time you can honestly say (other than Tom Brady) you would rather see under center than Eli Manning.

Even when I personally made the decision to reserve support - no longer defend Eli as of Novemer 26th, 2007 - I never dismissed him. I gave him the opportunity to prove himself to me - not to prove me wrong. There was nothing for me to be wrong about. The sportsline boards are just riddled with threads making absolute assertions about a player's or coaches' worth, integrity or ability. I'm a cultprit as well - we all are. But when things change, and people redeem themselves it's time to recognize how we might have done our part to drive a nail into the coffin before the heart stopped beating.

Anyone who says Ben Roethlisberger is overrated because of a few recent performances is guilty. Anyone who says Mike Singletary will wear out his welcome in San Francisco within a year is guilty. Anyone who says the Jets would have been better off with Pennington over Favre is guilty. By the same token, you can criticize Jerry Jones for bringing Pac-Man Jones into the Cowboys locker room. Why? Because his rap sheet - I mean track record - spoke for itself. The book on Adam Jones had been written and published. It was history, because we all knew what he was made of and what his priorities were. And you can definitely criticize Jerry Jones for not disciplining Pac-Man before the league did: when you offer a man a new beginning - a second chance - and hiring four bodyguards to protect that man from himself isn't good enough to get the job done, you have to hold that man accountable. Who cares about league standards at that point? That was a slap in Jerry's face and an embarrassment to the entire Cowboys organization. But you see, Jerry Jones apparently didn't think it was a big deal. That's the difference.The book was already written on Jerry Jones as well. He wants to win at any cost, even if it means risking your backbone.

We're all sports fans, and I understnd that part of the fun in being a sports fan is the freedom to have an opinion. I certainly won't stop having mine, and I would both expect and hope you'll all keep having yours (because there's a hell of a lot of really smart, talented writers on this site). It probably seems like I'm condemning an entire community (which I am a part of), but it's not my intention. Not even the author of the article below. My only hope is to point out that there are some things you can judge clearly (game plans, schemes, X's and O's) and some you can't. You can judge a person on their current or past performance. Unfortunately, there is no magic crystal ball - teams, businesses, you and I all have to make choices based on what we think will happen - and not knowing for certain if we're making the right choice is one of the stressful elements of day-to-day life. When those decisions involve people - their emotions and their futures - the stakes are even higher. Owners, coaches and players have to make those decisions every day, and they are forced to question the integrity and ability of a person as they will move forward. But as fans, writers, bloggers, columnists - we have to take these things into account when we judge a person's future. Guessing, projecting & predicting are fun and great kindling for debates and "hottest threads"  - something none uf us would ever want to lose. But it's tough to nail someone to the wall for something they haven't done yet unless there's sufficient history to prove the point. Everyone gets their chance. Some chances will be short-lived, others may take years, depending on the situation. If you're a fan of the TV show Lost, didn't chills run up your spine when John Locke said "Don't tell me what I can't do!!"  

The following article by Filip Bondy was written well before the big surge last year. The motivation for posting it here is to show that sportwriters - for all their "expertise" and "understanding" of the game - are no different than you and me (many of you would probably argue that Pete Prisco doesn't even qualify for that sentiment  ). It goes to show that everyone, from time to time, is capable of dismissing a player for the future by how they judge him in the present. We all want to be experts - we all want the feeling of being able to say "See, I told you so!". Everyone wants to be right. There's a way to go about getting your point across without looking back at decisions with contempt. Bondy's article was more that critical of Manning - it was critical of the Giants organization for making a 'big mistake'. I read this and learned something; I learned that you need a short memory to survive as a journalist. I also learned that what you say now can stick to a player's back for a career, whether it's fair or not - and the critique a performance today isn't evidence for the size of a heart in the future.


Friday, November 17th 2006, 7:04AM

Tom Coughlin was talking yesterday about using the overwhelmed Bob Whitfield at left tackle again on Monday night in Jacksonville, a desperate move. He was complaining about his passing game in Sunday night's game and he was still trying to figure out what to do about all the injuries and his paper-thin roster.

And every one of those problems might have been eliminated if Ernie Accorsi hadn't made the Eli Manning trade back in April 2004 that now appears to be a terrible deal for the Giants. It is looking like a long-term back-breaker, in what is supposed to be the Giants' breakthrough season, Accorsi's farewell tour. It was the biggest trade in Accorsi's career, and quite possibly his worst.

Sometimes it takes more than a few seasons to figure out these things, and maybe the final judgment call doesn't come for another five years. But right now, midway through Season 3 of the Manning era at the Meadowlands, this was not just a bad idea by Accorsi. It appears to be fatal.

Eli Manning is not a bad quarterback. He is good enough, perhaps, to win a title with the right cast. But he is not Ben Roethlisberger, already a champ, and now it turns out he may not be Philip Rivers, either. The complex trade has transformed the Chargers into an elite team and left the Giants a cut or two below.

Again, the Giants are solid enough. They have won five of their last six games and they probably will win their division when all is said and done. Accorsi deserves credit for that, too. But they could have been much better than this, much deeper, if the general manager hadn't followed his gut and worried so much that he was missing out on the next John Elway.

You have to remember that back in the spring of 2004, Accorsi was one of the few executives who believed Eli Manning was significantly better than both Roethlisberger and Rivers. Roethlisberger was big and tough. He was the guy Accorsi would have taken if the Giants didn't get Manning. Rivers had impressed everyone but Accorsi in private workouts and interviews. Most GMs and scouts grouped the trio of passers at around the same talent level.

Not Accorsi, who was utterly sold on Manning. He fell in love with the name, with the pedigree, and Accorsi gave up the deed to Xanadu to get him.

The Chargers ended up with Rivers. They also received the Giants' third-round pick in 2004, plus their first- and fifth-round picks in 2005.

Now you look at how those picks turned out, or how they might have gone, and it is clear the Giants gave up a tremendous amount of front-end talent for Manning, and that it hasn't been worth it yet.

The Chargers got three starters for Manning - Rivers, a real star this season, who has a 66.4% completion rate and a 100.4 quarterback rating (Manning's numbers are 59.4% and an 81 rating); Shawne Merriman, an outside linebacker with 8.5 sacks this season; and Nick Hardwick, a sturdy center.

San Diego didn't keep the fifth-round pick. St. Louis ended up with that choice, and took a bust, tight end Jerome Collins. But if the Giants had retained that pick, they might have selected Trent Cole, a starting defensive end in Philadelphia, who went two spots later.

And there you have the kind of depth and talent that might have compensated for injuries all over the field, on the offensive and defensive lines and at linebacker. You also have Rivers, who is a year younger than Manning and now looking like the player with the more accurate arm. Or you have Roethlisberger, also a year younger, who already has won a Super Bowl in Pittsburgh.

Instead, the Giants have a bunch of wrecked tendons, emergency filler material and a quarterback who is still trying to find his way on many weekends, who had three turnovers against the Bears.

"You've got to find ways to hit the open guy, be smart with the ball," Manning was saying again yesterday.

Here we are in Week 11, and you still have your choice around the Giants. You can jump on the bandwagon or board the second-guess express. It is Accorsi's last season, he says, and he will win or go down with that one famous quarterback trade.

Right now, the deal looks all wrong. Not because of Manning, but because of what the Giants might have been.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com