Back in 2008, I wrote an article called “Top 10 reasons why “Big Ben” is better than Eli Manning“. On Sunday, the two quarterbacks meet again for only the third time in their careers. Each has won once. So in some ways, this will be a rubber match between the two.
With that in mind, I decided that it was time to once again evaluate which of the two quarterbacks is better at this point in their career.
The first article that I wrote on this topic was meant to be a partially humorous piece. But this one will be a serious analysis of how the two quarterbacks have played up to this point in their careers.
I’m sure that everyone remembers that both quarterbacks were drafted in the first round of the 2004 NFL Draft. Eli Manning was the first player picked, San Diego Chargers QB Philip Rivers was drafted 4th, and Ben Roethlisberger was drafted 11th. The class was further strengthened by the fact that Houston Texans QB Matt Schaub, who has also had an excellent career, was drafted in the 3rd round by the Atlanta Falcons.
There is no doubt that Big Ben’s career got off to a much better start. He led his team to 13 straight wins as a rookie. He lost to the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship that year, but he went on to lead his team to a Super Bowl victory the following year.
Meanwhile, Eli Manning struggled early on. He didn’t become a starter until the 10th game of his rookie season. He ran up 6 straight losses before finally winning the final game of the season. Even the New York media and fans began calling Eli a “bust”.
As their careers have gone on, both players have established themselves as solid NFL quarterbacks. There are no longer any questions about whether either of them deserved their first round draft selection. Big Ben has led his team to three Super Bowls, winning two of them and losing once to the Green Bay Packers. Eli Manning has appeared in two Super Bowls, and won each time. Combined, the two quarterbacks have appeared in 5 of the 9 Super Bowls that have taken place since they entered the league. That’s an incredible record for two incredible quarterbacks.
But the question still remains, which quarterback is better?
So let’s take a look at their career statistics. Eli has run an offense that passed more often than Ben’s. Eli has attempted almost 700 more passes than Ben. But despite that, Eli has only thrown for 1,314 more yards. He’s averaged 7.1 yards per completion, compared to 8.0 yards per completion for Ben. So Eli has thrown more times for more yards than Ben, but Ben has thrown longer passes on average. More importantly, he has a higher completion percentage despite throwing more long passes.
Another key measure of quarterbacks is how often they throw interceptions. Eli Manning has thrown more interceptions than Big Ben, but that’s not a fair comparison since he’s also thrown more passes. But if we look at each quarterbacks interceptions as a percentage of their total pass attempts, Big Ben definitely comes out on top. Eli Manning has thrown interceptions on 5% of his pass attempts, while Ben has thrown interceptions on only 3% of his passes.
In the statistic that is supposed to measure the quality of a quarterback, QB rating, Big Ben wins by a large margin. Roethlisberger’s career QB rating of 92.8 is a full 10 points higher than Manning’s 82.6 career QB rating. This year, Roethlisberger has a 101.4 QB rating, compared to 89.1 for Manning. In fact, Roethlisberger has had a better QB rating than Manning in 6 of the 9 seasons that they’ve been in the league.
Another advantage that Ben has over Eli is his ability to run the ball. Ben has made a career out of extending the play. He has a level of mobility that Eli just doesn’t have. While neither quarterback has been Michael Vick, Ben has run for far more yards than Eli. Eli has only 372 rushing yards in his career, while Ben has rushed for 989 yards.
In fact, the only statistic in which Eli Manning is clearly superior to Ben Roethlisberger is in his ability to avoid sacks. Big Ben’s tendency to try to extend the play has led him to take an inordinate number of sacks. He’s taken over 40 sacks in 5 of his 9 NFL seasons. Meanwhile, Eli Manning has never taken 40 sacks in a season. In fact, he’s only taken 30 sacks in one season during his career. In total, Ben has taken 327 sacks compared to only 200 sacks for Eli Manning.
If winning championships is the true measure of a quarterback, then Ben Roethlisberger and Eli Manning are two of the best of their time. Both men have won two Super Bowls. So in that regard, they’re equals. But by just about every other measure, Ben Roethlisberger is the better quarterback.
These two quarterbacks are in the prime of their careers. They both still have plenty of time to lead their teams to more Super Bowls. So this argument will continue until they’ve both retired and we can look back at their careers in their entirety.
But at this point in their careers, I think the data is pretty clear. Both are good quarterbacks, but Big Ben is better. Ben is bigger, stronger, faster, and he’s accumulated better statistics throughout his career. Some will disagree with me, but I find it hard to make a case for Eli Manning. In my opinion, Ben is definitely the better of the two. In fact, it’s not even close.