Big Ben vs. Eli: Who Has Your Vote?

By Jeremy Hritz

Prior to the 2011 season, there was no doubt of who was the premier quarterback from the 2004 NFL Draft. Ben Roethlisberger, selected 11th overall by the Pittsburgh Steelers, sported a resume jeweled by three Super Bowl appearances, two Super Bowl victories, and an aptitude for last minute victories. The success he had experienced in his short career carried more weight than the other quarterbacks that were drafted in the first round the same year as Roethlisberger.

But after the New York Giants Super Bowl win against New England Patriots, Eli Manning has now knocked a leg or two from underneath of that table.

All offseason long, the debate will continue: is Eli better than Ben?

There is no doubt who the current top three quarterbacks in the league are (in no specific order): Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, and Tom Brady (Peyton Manning stays off this list until he proves that he is healthy enough to play). Also in that elite class are Roethlisberger and Eli Manning. Or is it Manning, then Roethlisberger?

Both quarterbacks are two-time Super Bowl winning champions, yet Roethlisberger has played in three. In both of Manning’s championships, he led his team to fourth quarter comebacks, and ultimately earned the Most Valuable Player Awards in both contests. Roethlisberger has yet to earn an MVP honor, and without it, concedes an advantage to Eli. Additionally, when comparing overall performances in the Super Bowl, outside of the Arizona game, Roethlisberger has not played particularly well, whereas Manning has shined. The advantage even goes to Manning when considering fourth quarter comebacks overall, with Manning at 21 and Roethlisberger at 20.

Let’s take a look at some overall statistics of importance to compare Manning and Roethlisberger:

CAREERQB RatingCompletion PercentageYardsYards Per AttemptTDsINTsOverall W/LsOverall Post-Season W/LsPostseason TDsPostseason INTs
Manning82.158.4%*275797*18512974-53 (.582)8-317*7
Roethlisberger*92.1*63.1%26579*8165*100*90-36 (.714)*10-4*2017

*Indicates best performance in category.

When examining the significant statistical categories above, Roethlisberger leads Manning in seven out of the ten categories. Most significant in this comparison is that Roethlisberger has thrown fewer interceptions in the regular season (29 less) and has won 16 more games overall. Conversely, Manning has thrown for 20 more touchdowns in the regular season and 10 fewer interceptions that Roethlisberger in the postseason. Ultimately, when looking closely at the data, Roethlisberger and Manning are reasonably similar. While Ben and Eli compare well to each other, and despite Manning’s two Super Bowl MVP Awards, the slight edge has to go to Ben as the fourth best quarterback in the National Football League because of his constancy. Ultimately, a quarterback’s primary responsibility is to win games, and Roethlisberger has show consistently, since his first year in the league, that he is more than capable, even more so than Eli, with a .714 winning percentage. Also to be considered is that during Ben’s eight year career, he has posted a 90.1 or higher quarterback rating, while Manning in that same eight year period has only topped that mark twice. Most importantly, when it comes to protecting the football in the regular season, Manning has accounted for 160 total turnovers, nearly five more turnovers per year than Roethlisberger.

However, Ben must take heed and raise his performance to another level in the upcoming season, otherwise he risks being overtaken by Manning, especially if Manning continues to play at the level that he did during in 2011. Hopefully, with a new offensive coordinator in the detonative Todd Haley, Roethlisberger will improve at connecting on more scoring throws in the red zone in 2012. He also needs to show that he still has the magic to save the baby from the burning house, a magic that if cast against Green Bay last year would have obviated the current Eli vs. Ben debate.

The promising reality of the Steelers and of Roethlisberger is that all of the pieces are in place for another run at a ring. Interestingly enough, Roethlisberger will have an opportunity in the run for another championship in 2012 to face off against his first-round, draft-class brethren. The Steelers will travel to the “New” Meadowlands next season for a game being hyped by fans as the possible NFL season opener. And while that is a long ways away, something tells me that it is already on Ben’s mind.

  • Fhsj

    Let Eli play behind the pathetic steeler offensive line, then all the , ” put Eli in the hall of fame ” clowns can have this discussion.

  • Jay Phillippi

    I’d call it a tie at this point. All the statistics are nice and so are post season awards. In the end only one statistic matters. Wins. And Super Bowl wins count the most. So some of the lesser points go to Eli, some to Ben. Both have flaws in their games that keep them from rising to that next level. At the moment I’m willing to call this one a tie. Eli has climbed into it over the last couple years.

  • Jcoleman

    it as taken manning nine years to get to where Ben was in three. Eli is still a function of a running game and play action. He is no where in the class of his brother or Breese or Rodgers

  • Thom Kay

    Eli does have an amazing O-line and great targets, but better numbers this year. They have different styles and I think are pretty close to equal overall.

    Which one would I rather have? I love Ben’s toughness, and it’s been a blast cheering him on. But it’s hard to compare the two without considering Ben’s two sexual assault charges. I’d prefer to have a QB I could be proud of as a player and a person.

  • Kenneth Wilt

    I hate the MVP part of this discussion. Ben was atrocious in his first Super Bowl appearance, but it isn’t like Eli was great. If you look prior to the 4th QTR he really wasn’t that good. 152 of his 255 yards passing came in the 4th quarter.

    In addition, if Ben’s last name was Manning, he would have gotten the MVP for the Super Bowl that Holmes did. Yes, Holmes had a great drive that led to the go ahead TD, but Ben was no slouch that game.

    Ben 2008 – 21/30/256/1 TD/1 INT
    Eli 2011 – 30/40/296/1 TD/0 INT

    I honestly think they both are very, very good QBs. Ben regressed this year, but I truly believe that in the end, he has at least 1 more SB appearance probably 2 or 3 left in his career.

  • Intropy

    Both are better than Brady. I don’t know what to make of Rivers’ most recent season, but I think he’s been better over his career than either Roethlisberger or Eli Manning.

  • JerryCola

    Picking one or deciding which is one better at this point in their careers is really splitting hairs.

  • Newmann_a

    Eli not half the whiner Ben is. I vote Eli

  • Gmcummings12

    Statistically, there is no way Rivers is better

  • Intropy

    Stats are really good at lying to you when you use them for something they are unsuited to tell you. There’s so much more to offensive passing numbers than how well your QB plays. The stats are a decent rough cut most of the time. But I admit telling the difference in talent between the 2004 triplets is very hard. How about group 1 {Brees, P. Manning, Rodgers}, group 2 {E. Manning, Rivers, Roethlisberger}, and group 3 {Brady, Romo, Schaub}.

  • Joshuah Shields

    If the Steelers and the Giants face off against one another in the possible 2012 NFL season opener, it will be an amazing battle between two teams who are both physical and Super Bowl caliber!!! I think if such a game were to happen, I guarantee that the quarterback who gets the ball with less than two minutes will lead their team to victory! I supported the New York Giants in the Super Bowl not only because I love both the team and Eli Manning, but also because my father is from New York as well. At the same time, I also love the Pittsburgh Steelers and Big Ben, because I am from Pittsburgh, and the quarterback match-up between Eli and Ben would be really close. To tell the truth, I don’t know who I would chose if the game was at stake, because both quarterbacks are two of my favorites in the NFL. I would be excited if the season opener would be between both the Steelers and the Giants not only because of the respect between them, but also it would be quite fitting if these teams met both in the season opener and the Super Bowl. How huge, tremendous, amazing, awesome, spectacular, cool, exciting, and interesting would the two of those games be???

  • I can’t think of any way that Rivers is better than Ben or Manning. He puts up big fantasy numbers, that is about it. He is not clutch. He doesn’t put up a lot of wins. He is too emotional. I can go on, but to me, Rivers is a distant third just about any way you look at it.

  • Interesting debate. I lived in NJ for years so I have seen more of Eli than most. Eli is more of a student of the game and a more accurate pocket passer. Ben is more athletic and more mobile. Both are incredibly clutch. The MVP thing is a non-issue to me, Ben got screwed on one, and Eli got lucky on one. They should both have one. Both have great resumes and both will likely go to the HOF. I give Ben a slight edge because he has put up more wins and slightly better passing numbers, but I look for Eli to overtake him as Eli’s game will likely translate better as they age, and I think he will have a longer career as well.

    As much as I am down on Rivers compared to these two, gotta say this draft is easily the best QB class since the 83 Class, and has already met with more SB success.

  • PaHiker

    Please get your facts correct before posting slander. There were zero sexual assualt charges filed against Ben. Zero

  • Munster945

    I Have to go for Big Ben, I don’t believe “ANYONE ELSE” could take the all out assault/ “beating” that Ben has taken, and STILL carry his team to the playoffs. And,…To call Ben a whiner??? Please azzclown, get real..My stars, The mans nose got shattered, He straightened it out and kept playing, His ankle was all but BROKE, He taped it up and kept playing….ANYONE calling him a whiner oughtta be smacked in the mouth, Then, YOU can whine…biches

  • BoiseSteeler

    Never really appreciated these type of discussions. I’ve always felt that once a team finds a ‘franchise’ quarterback, they build pieces around him to make the offense successful.

    Once entrenched, it really becomes an apples and oranges thing, because if my aunt had nuts, she’d be my uncle

    Regardless, I’m happy that we have Ben, as I’m sure the Giants are happy they have Eli.

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  • Drknow77

    With that pathetic offensive line there is no question that Ben is better, at least over the same time period. More consistent QB. Higher winning percentage, fewer int etc. Put Eli behind the same offensive line that Ben won a Superbowl with and it is a non issue.

  • Emiyd

    post season W/L record goes to manning with higher win pct. Don’t argue win pct in regular season and change the rules for post.

  • So, i guess, that means BRady, Brees, Rodgers, Peyton, arent all that good either.. because , they ALL had/have outstanding o-lines.. yer logic is assanine.. you want to minimize Eli Manning because his orginization knows how to put together protection for him and Pittsburghs apparently does not? Youre the clown

  • No Charges were filed against Richard Nixon For Watergate either.. doesnt change fact the douchebag was guilty lol.

  • Tuck should have gotten the MVP for SB42.. Eli MORE than deserved it for this last SB. IT was funny to watch.. but when Welker dropped that ball on 3rd down, i think EVERYONE knew, Manning was going to take the Ginats down the field for the Score.

  • On Football ability, ild take Either One of them.. Without hesitation. But if you add in Charachter issues, with the playing ability…. You haveta Take Eli. And For the record.. lots of people whove commited crimes, and have fame and money, have gotten away with alot of evil things.

  • Bill

    eli by a mile

  • Shanestines

    Eli easily, he’s twice as clutch and twice as likeable.

  • Afeigh1989

    As a new season approaches, it seems that this off season the internet will be flooded with the quarterback debate between Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck, and the billion dollar (million dollars is so 1999) question becomes; which quarterback is the best? But that question is too vague. I believe it’s safe to say that both men are extremely talented and driven, but the greatest QB debate in the NFL is not Andrew Luck and RG3, it is not even between Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, rather the most difficult QB debate to deliberate is the one between two quarterbacks who have won 4 of the past 6 Super Bowls, Ben Roethlisberger and Eli Manning. Yeah I said it Ben Roethlisberger and Eli Manning. Two men that have won the same amount of Super Bowl rings as the two greatest quarterbacks of all time, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. And yes, one may argue that with out tremendous defenses and running games on both sides, that number may have been 1 or 2 total, but yet I don’t think that is completely true. Rather these two quarterbacks have all the hardware, and talent to be in the elite quarterback talk with Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, and Tom Brady. But who is the best? It is safe to say that Ben Roethlisberger had the better start to his NFL career being named 2004 NFL rookie of the year, reaching the AFC champion game in his rookie season, and eventually winning a Super Bowl ring in his sophomore season. The same could not be said for Eli. He struggled with a low completion percentages and never reached a quarterback rating over 80 in his first three seasons. New York Giant fans were ready to run Eli out of town after a dismal first postseason appearance in 2005 and a sub par post season in 2006, but it was in the 2007 season that Eli came alive and won his first Super Bowl ring and the coveted Super Bowl MVP honor, but it could said that the greatest thing to come out of the 2007 Super Bowl win was the resurrection of the Manning name in a city that is rather tough on its sport teams and athletes, and that’s saying it lightly. So who do I think is the better quarterback? Which quarterback will be known as the best of the 2004 draft class? I believe its none other than Big Ben himself. The man of steel, the man who plays through major injuries both off and on the field, and the man who revitalized a legendary franchise that had not seen success since the 1970s. Where does the basis of my argument derive from? Well let us start at the most obvious measurement, statistics. Ben Roethlisberger has a career passer rating of 92.1 and has consistently held over a 60 percent completion percentage in 6 of his 8 seasons, while Eli has only held a rather mediocre 82.1 passer rating, and a 60 percent completion percentage in 4 of his 8 seasons. Yes Eli has more TD passes (185 to Ben’s 165) and more total passing yards (27,579 to Ben’s 26,579), but Ben Roethlisberger has struggled to stay healthy, and I think it would be safe to say if Ben was healthy those games or the Steelers had not solidified a stagnant playoff position that Ben could have easily thrown for 1000 more yards and 20 more touchdowns in seven games (Eli has started in 121 games to Ben’s 114). But I think Ben Roethlisberger’s struggle to stay healthy the past years is not a negative, rather I see it as a positive. I think every NFL fan and commentator will agree that the way Ben Roethlisberger plays the quarterback position is unconventional and just damn reckless, but his ability to move out of the pocket and extend plays is one of his greatest attributes and something the NFL rarely sees at the quarterback position. Though this increases his likely hood of getting hurt, it is this attribute that makes Ben Roethlisberger an elite quarterback. The way Ben plays football cannot be measured in stats or by a truly complex mathematical formula, rather it his heart and that little bit extra drive to win at every play that makes Ben better Eli in every sense of the word. I think most of Eli success is measured through numbers (where even the numbers between the two are ridiculously similar), and it is because of this that Eli is just a notch behind Big Ben. This is not say that Eli has no heart, or the drive to win, but rather it his lack of athleticism and ability to extend plays (with the exception of the play to David Tyree) that makes him a lesser quarterback to Big Ben. This debate also boils down to the ability to take care of the ball and avoiding turnovers, one of the greatest prioties for any offense, a stat that Ben beats Eli in, both in interceptions and fumbles (Ben has a total of 145 total turnovers to Eli’s 186). Yes Eli has far more passing attempts than Roethlisberger, but when Ben is running around in the pocket for what seems like a better part of 5 minutes to every Steelers fan with the ball dangling to his side, its ridiculous that Ben does not have more lost fumbles and errant throws for interceptions than Eli in the regular season. It seems that he should have more turnovers. Right? The one advantage and one stat that Eli Manning has over Ben is his 2 Super Bowl MVPs, but without two miraculous catches by David Tyree and Mario Manningham in the 4th quarter this dispute between who is the best may not even exist, and may not be worth debating. What it all boils down is something that can not be measured, the one thing that has no mathematical basis or some complex formula, it is the ability to play the game of football at its most basic level which I believe the advantage goes to the big man himself, Mr. Benjamin Todd Roethlisberger. But the debate is not over. What the future holds may end the debate and solidify one of these men as one of the greatest ever to play the game, while the other may live under the constant shadow and labeled as the OTHER great quarterback to come out of the 2004 NFL draft class. So as we look towards the 2012 NFL draft and the media frenzy created in large part by such key individuals as Mel Kiper and Todd McShay, Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III may be some of the best draft prospects to come out of the college in the 21st century. Both have put up tremendous college stats and are likely to do the same in the NFL, but again, it is not just the stats that make a quarterback the greatest (that’s just about 50% of it), it all simmers down to just having the born ability to play football. A skill built through countless backyard games and immeasurable tenacity. A trait coded into a humans DNA, a skill measured by countless film study, and just watching rare human ability right before your very eyes. So the billion dollar question now becomes; who exemplifies this very rare trait? Luck or RG3?

  • The Steel City Kid

    Whatever happened to innocent until proven guilty? As far as I’m concerned I still believe in the old saying. FYI President Nixon was pardoned by President Ford BEFORE charges could be filed