Ben Roethlisberger’s place in history

Coverage of yesterday’s Super Bowl XLIII was very interesting. From his “NFL Man of the Year” honor during the pre-game up through the coverage of the contest, it seemed as if everyone involved with NBC’s broadcast of the contest was ready to finally bestow football legend and savior of humanity status to Kurt Warner, if only he’d do what he was supposed to do and win a second Super Bowl ring with a second team.

Warner’s story is compelling; his wife used to be a Marine, he was stuck as a grocery bagger and toiled in Iowa in the Arena Football League, was cut by the Packers after getting only 16 plays to show his stuff, etc. You can actually read the whole tale at Warner’s Web site. His on-field performance has been impressive during his career; you can’t doubt that. This season, he threw for 4,500 yards and 30 TDs, and had three 1,000-yard receivers; in other words, he basically posted Playstation numbers.

But leading up to the Super Bowl, the media love-fest surrounding Warner became a bit much for me to take — particularly when the discussion turned to the fact that a second Super Bowl ring would cement Kurt Warner’s status as a Hall of Fame quarterback.

Again – Warner has been impressive, a fact neither I nor any other follower of the NFL can deny. A Hall of Famer? Based on two Super Bowl rings? And what else? He has five 3,000-yard seasons, including three seasons of 4,000 or more yards, has completed 65 percent of his passes for his career and sports a 182-114 touchdown-to-interception ratio.

He’s put up ridiculous numbers in his three Super Bowls, as well. In his three Super Bowl appearances Warner established the three highest single-game passing yardage totals in Super Bowl history. He has six touchdown passes against just three interceptions.

But quarterbacks are supposed to be defined by victories, and in those three Super Bowls he’s 1-2.

In the regular season, Warner has missed nearly as many games as he’s played. He’s played 16 game in a season only three times, and has seasons in which he’s played two (2003), six (2006) and seven games (2002).

Of the 23 quarterbacks currently in the NFL Hall of Fame, Warner’s 182 career touchdown passes would put him in the bottom third, as only seven of the current inductees have fewer than Warner. Of those seven, Troy Aikman won three Super Bowls, Roger Staubach won two, and Bart Starr won five NFL titles and two Super Bowls.

There are 12 players with 200 or more career touchdown passes who are not in the Hall of Fame, although two – Brett Favre and Peyton Manning – will be. The other 10 will not. I don’t see 275 touchdown passes getting Vinny Testaverde into the Hall of Fame, nor do I think Dave Kreig’s 261 are going to do the trick.

The only thing in Warner’s favor – all but one quarterback who has played in three or more Super Bowls is in the Hall of Fame. The only exception – Tom Brady, and he’s all but assured a Hall of Fame berth during his first year of eligibility.

So, if Warner doesn’t belong in the Hall of Fame, and if his career truly is over and he retires as has been speculated I believe he does not, where does that leave Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger? After yesterday, he’s now the owner of two Super Bowl rings, and that second ring was supposed to be Warner’s Yellow Brick Road to Canton.

Is it time to keep an eye on Roethlisberger for the Hall of Fame? After all, he’s now only the second quarterback in NFL history – joining Brady – to win two Super Bowls before his 27th birthday. He’s now just the 10th quarterback, total, to wear two Super Bowl rings. Of the previous nine to accomplish this feat, only one – Oakland’s Jim Plunkett – is not also in the Hall of Fame.

Roethlisberger is also now 2-0 in the Super Bowl; it took John Elway five appearances to get his two wins, Roger Staubach four to get his pair of rings.

Big Ben has only been in the NFL for five seasons, and it would be difficult to argue that he has the statistical performance to warrant a Hall of Fame discussion… Save for those two rings.

In fact, there are only six quarterbacks other than Roethlisberger who have played in two Super Bowls and are not in the Hall of Fame – Brady (4), Warner (3), and a group of four players who played in the big game twice – Favre, Plunkett, Joe Theismann and Craig Morton. Brady will be inducted; Favre will be inducted. That leaves four.

Roethlisberger appears to be a player who will be in the NFL for a long time to come. Pittsburgh will be a contender in the AFC again, and should he get a third ring it will be difficult to make a case against him being anything short of a mortal lock for Hall of Fame induction, regardless of his regular-season statistics.

Should he have the longevity to get into the 200-touchdown club (he already has 101), it may be difficult to keep him out of the Hall of Fame even if he never reaches another Super Bowl.

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