Has the 2004 vintage turned to vinegar?

Jim is back writing his thoughts for us again…better than watching the 49ers i guess…

17 quarterbacks were taken in the 2004 darft and, like lots of other drafts, many have long since fallen by the roadside of obscurity.  Unlike most drafts though, the top three quarterbacks taken are, 13 years later, still notable starters for their respective teams.  Eli Manning, Phillip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger have gone on to win four Superbowls between them and become their teams undisputed franchise quarterback since they entered the league after that fateful first round.

The top two, Manning and Rivers entered in a blaze of controversy with Manning outwardly hostile to being drafted by and playing for the Chargers who held the first round pick.  After a sulky draft day picture the Giants and Chargers backrooms were in full swing to negotiate a trade that saw Manning move to the Giants and the Giants to give the Chargers their first round pick, Phillip Rivers who they took at number four.  Big Ben didn’t have to wait much longer when the Steelers took him with the 11th pick.

13 years later and the start of the 2017 has been, at best, mixed for the three quarterbacks.  Eli’s Giants are at a well documented 0-5 and seemingly have no receivers left to throw to.   Big Ben is coming off what is possibly the worst game of his career.  As for Phillip Rivers, his one win this season has come against the woeful Giants and has hardly set the league alight with his play.

So does the 2017 season mark the end for the big three from 2004?  Let’s look at each in a bit more depth

Eli Manning

Passing Yards: 49,552

Completion Rate: 59.9%

TDs: 328

INTs: 220

Rating: 83.9

Superbowl wins: 2

Out of the three of them, it feels like Eli has been the most derided of the group.  Despite beating the Patriots twice in the Superbowl (sorry Griff) and winning an MVP in each of them in the process, there’s still doubts about his career.  This is likely due to the appearance of him being the quietest of the three but more importantly it’s probably because he’s thrown the most interceptions out of the them.   Credit to Eli though in that he’s likely the most durable of the three and has the most consecutive starts. From the outside looking in though he doesn’t seem to inspire or drive his team like the other two or other elite QBs (Brady or Rodgers for example) seem to do.

This season has started terribly for Eli.  Five games, five losses, an offensive line that resembles a sieve and now his best weapon in Beckham out for the season.  Out of all of the 0-5 teams currently, the Giants are the team that I would be most concerned about in both short and long term.  There’s been numerous media outlets and commentators that have connected Manning with a trade to the Jaguars and it’s not hard to see.  Coughlin is there who was Manning’s coach for the two superbowl wins.  They’ve got an exciting young running back.  Their O-line is a heck of a lot better than the Giants and they have Bortles at QB who the coaching staff (and fans!) are keen to see not throw the ball!  It makes sense and if the NFL were the NBA it would be more likely to happen, but I don’t see it.

Is this the end of Eli?  Maybe.  If their form continues I could see the Giants clearing house in the off season with a high draft pick in hand and a slew of potential QBs coming in to the draft ready to fill the hole.

Phillip Rivers

Passing Yards: 47,198

Completion Rate: 64.3%

TDs: 323

INTs: 161

Rating: 94.5

Superbowl wins: 0

The one without the superbowl win, or even close to making a superbowl appearance.  It’s a shame as out of the three of them he’s as equally talented if not more so.  For whatever reason, the Chargers have never put the total package around him and they’ve never been able to make the next step in the playoffs to be true contenders.  Before the year started we looked at the Chargers as potential dark horses to do well.  The defence has been solidified with Joey Bosa and newly resigned Melvin Ingram.  The receiver corps was added to with highly thought of Mike Williams taken in the draft to complement Keenan Allen.  Hunter Henry is seen as a solid replacement for the ageless wonder that is Antonio Gates who is still in town long enough to break the TD reception record previously held by Tony Gonzales.

So what’s gone wrong?  Well the 1-4 record is, to be fair, a little deceiving.  The Chargers have been within a last minute FG of winning two of those losses which, if they got them, would make their record that much more attractive.  Injuries continue to deter the team as they have done in the past.  Keenan Allen is back but Mike Williams has yet to take the field for the Chargers.  Forrest Lamp, the highly thought of guard is out and on the injured reserve list.  Jason Verrett’s injury blights the secondary, costing them a valuable playing asset and leader within the squad.

Lastly there’s the relocation.  The Chargers have left San Diego, but Rivers hasn’t.  He’s commuting back and forth to the LA region with a driver taking on the task of the commute.  I have a train driver take me to work and back every day and despite just sitting there, it’s still tiring, and that’s without playing a pretty physical game at work (though there are some clients…….).  Playing in a home stadium that’s dominated by away supporters also can’t be too motivating.

There were rumours around the 2015 draft that San Diego would trade Rivers to Tennessee in exchange for their second draft pick and allow them to take Marcus Mariota.  It wasn’t as far fetched as it may sound now however Rivers was loathed to move his huge family away from the San Diego area.  What’s next for him?  I can see him ploughing on for the Chargers and leading them into their new era with the advent of the new stadium in LA, though with the delays to that being built, the Chargers may need to find a new QB or risk being further over shadowed once they get there by a bright young thing called Jared Goff at the Rams.

Ben Roethlisberger

Passing Yards: 48,803

Completion Rate: 64%

TDs: 307

INTs: 167

Rating: 93.5

Superbowl wins: 2

Ah Big Ben.  One of my favourite players to watch and in the past one of my favourite players to try and draft in fantasy.  Of the three of them he would seem the most successful though he’s won the same amount of Superbowls as Eli and his stats are remarkably similar to that of Rivers.  The game against the Jaguars in Week 5 though was a real low point for him.  Five INTs and two pick sixs in one game would be a low point for any QB.  True, later on in the game he was chasing it and trying to force the issue, but even so.

He’s got arguably the most talent around him out of the three currently and on an ongoing basis over the past 10 years or so.  Antonio Brown is one of the top three receivers in the league and Le’Veon Bell one of the top three running backs and probably the best receiving running back in the NFL.  His O-Line is good and the Steelers defence looks decent on paper though lacks a bit of consistency.

Out of the three of them, there seems absolutely no reason what so ever for Big Ben to be showing signs of decline.  So what the hell is wrong with him?!  Out of all of them, the issue is squarely on Ben himself and his commitment to the game.  Over the past few off seasons he’s openly toyed with the idea of retirement.  Like the other three, he’s getting older and has probably had more injuries than Eli and Rivers so maybe it’s playing more on his mind.  He might think after two superbowl wins and an aging body that there’s nothing left for him to do and the risk to an enjoyable life after football is too great.  After the Week 5 he was very down hearted; ‘maybe I’ve just not got it anymore’ he said.  He’s since come out and declared himself as one of the greatest players in the world at his position so maybe someone (Tomlin?) has had a word.

Should we expect him to retire at the end of the year?  There’ll certainly be talk of it but I feel this is going to be a similar scenario to that of Brett Favre where he talks about it for years and forces the Steelers to plan for the future.  Expect them to draft a QB high next year as what’s on their bench likely won’t cut it.

So is the end of the class of 2004?  I can’t see any of them winning a superbowl now so yeah, maybe it is.  Unless Eli moves, the Giants won’t win.  Unless the Chargers sort out their injuries then Rivers isn’t getting a ring any time soon (though out of them all I would really love to see him do it).  Unless Big Ben has a proper change of mindset then he’s just going to drag a talented team down with him.


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