Tim Benz: Flawed logic behind Ben Roethlisberger not being a top-10 QB
We know David Carr was wrong. Now let’s take a look at how badly he missed.
As you may have read in our “First Call” post on Tuesday, former Texans-quarterback-turned-NFL-Network-analyst David Carr posted his list of Top 10 NFL quarterbacks.
Ben Roethlisberger was absent from it.
That’s right. A quarterback who won 12 games as a starter last season, was fifth in yards, fifth in touchdowns, fourth in completions and 10th in completion percentage and yards per attempt, couldn’t crack the top 10 in Carr’s estimation.
One explanation is that Carr was in “hot take” mode and was just trying to provoke a large national fan base that backs the Steelers.
If so, mission accomplished. I heard more about Carr’s list than I did about Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell both being in the top five of the players’ top 100 rankings, which were revealed Monday . That shouldn’t surprise, though. It’s the Twitter age. It’s easier to be offended than it is to be happy.
So before we dissect where Carr’s thinking is flawed, let’s look at why he came to the conclusion he did.
“Yes, (Roethlisberger) is a future Hall of Famer, and there’s no doubt he can still help the Steelers,” Carr wrote. “But, he has the most talented skill players in the league on his unit, and that pair — Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell — makes him look great 14 seasons in. I don’t think Big Ben could win a ton of games without them at this stage in his career.”
That’s the “logic.” Let’s see how it holds up.
If Carr is basically suggesting that Roethlisberger’s success in his latter years is primarily correlated to the presence of Brown and Bell, the first thing we need to do is look at how Big Ben has performed in recent seasons when those two were absent.
Last year, Brown missed most of the New England loss in Week 15 and all of the Houston win in Week 16.
In 2016, Bell missed almost all of the AFC title game against the Patriots and three regular-season games with a suspension.
Subtracting Brown’s two catches and 24 yards against the Patriots, Roethlisberger was 141 for 222 (63.5 percent) for 1,613 yards (268.8 per game) in the games without Brown and Bell. He tossed 12 touchdowns and six interceptions. His average passer ratings over those six games was 93.6. His record was 3-3 (four road games, two games against New England).
For his career in the regular season, Roethlisberger’s average passer rating is 94.0. His yards per game is 255.3. His completion percentage is 64.1 percent. He has almost twice as many touchdowns as interceptions (329-174).
In other words, games without Bell and Brown of late are right in line with his career averages. None of that is to mention the 24-for-37, 339-yard performance he had in Denver during the 2015 playoffs when neither Brown nor Bell was available and Roethlisberger was playing injured.
Then there is the equivalency to winning that Carr mentioned — “I don’t think Big Ben could win a ton of games without them at this stage in his career.”
Well if winning matters, then why are Matthew Stafford, Phil Rivers and Jimmy Garoppolo on the list ahead of Roethlisberger when none of them have a history of winning close to Big Ben’s?
If the stats are what matter, why are Cam Newton and Russell Wilson in front of him on the list when Roethlisberger had more completions, more yards, a better percentage and more yards per attempt than both of those men in 2017?
If having a star running back and a wide receiver as support should be considered a major caveat, then why is Matt Ryan in at No. 8 with weapons such as Julio Jones and Devonta Freeman?
If age is a concern, are we assuming Roethlisberger is going to be less effective coming off an injury-free season than Derek Carr (David’s brother) and Aaron Rodgers? They were both in the top four despite suffering major injuries last year.
It appears Roethlisberger’s performance is a lot more consistent than Carr’s methodology.
If Big Ben had been ranked behind Tom Brady, Rodgers and Drew Brees, I wouldn’t have batted an eyelash. If Carr had placed him behind Ryan, Wilson, and maybe even Carson Wentz (if healthy), I would’ve disagreed. But not much.
But out of the top 10? And for the reason that Roethlisberger’s skill targets are carrying him? I guess Carr’s younger brother got most of the quarterbacking talent in the family … and the brains, too.