Philip Rivers Is Better Than Both Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger

Ryan MichaelSenior Writer IIIFebruary 12, 2013

PITTSBURGH, PA - DECEMBER 09:  Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers congratulates Philip Rivers #17 of the San Diego Chargers after the game on December 9, 2012 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. San Diego won the game 34-24.  (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
Joe Sargent/Getty Images

After Eli Manning was drafted No. 1 overall in the 2004 NFL Draft by the San Diego Chargers, history was changed forever.

Much like John Elway in 1983, Manning was overwhelmed by the task of taking over the worst team in professional football. So much so that Elway threatened to play professional baseball if the worst team in football wouldn't trade him—it was an intimidating situation for Elway just as it was for the youngest of the Manning brothers.

Since the merger, 20 quarterbacks have been selected No. 1 overall.

Only three have gone on to win Super Bowls with the team's that drafted them.

The first two—Terry Bradshaw and Troy Aikman, would become part of well-rounded dynasties.

The third—Peyton Manning, is the only such quarterback to ever be selected first overall and win a championship as part of a team falling short of being elite overall.

Just ask Ray Lewis:

"You can put in whatever piece you want with 18, 18 will make it work. All he says is just find your way open; I'll get the ball there. And that's where the Reggie Wayne's, the Dallas Clark's, the Marvin Harrison's—that's how dominant he is. If you take him out of the game, no disrespect to nobody else on the Colts but you make them a very below-average ball club."

See the 2011 Indianapolis Colts for evidence of the aforementioned.

The bottom line: It's virtually impossible to ever have a chance of winning a championship if you play for the team drafting first overall.

Ironic, because Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger winning two Super Bowls a piece is the primary reason Philip Rivers isn't being proclaimed as the best quarterback of the three.

But he is.

Lets take a look inside the numbers to see how much each of the three quarterbacks have contributed to their team's chances of winning.

Philip Rivers (112 starts):

2,268 of 3,564 (63.6) for 27,891 yards (7.8), 189 touchdowns and 93 interceptions.

Passer rating: 94.5

Eli Manning (135 starts):

2,612 of 4,457 (58.6) for 31,527 yards (7.1), 211 touchdowns and 144 interceptions.

Passer rating: 82.7

Ben Roethlisberger (126 starts):

2,374 of 3,762 (63.1) for 29,844 yards (7.9), 191 touchdowns and 108 interceptions.

Passer rating: 92.7

With the exception of having a yards-per-attempt average 0.1 points below Roethlisberger's, Rivers is statistically superior across the board.

Rivers rankings first in pass completion percentage, passing yards, passing touchdowns and passer rating. He also has the lowest interception-rate of all three quarterbacks.

To put the statistics into perspective, I broke the average production down into a per-start rate multiplied by 16 total games.

Philip Rivers (per-start times 16-rounded):

324 of 509 (63.6) for 3,984 yards (7.8), 27 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.

Eli Manning (per-start times 16-rounded):

310 of 528 (58.6) for 3,737 yards (7.1), 25 touchdowns and 17 interceptions.

Ben Roethlisberger (per-start times 16-rounded):

301 of 478 (63.1) for 3,790 yards (7.9), 24 touchdowns and 14 interceptions.

The results were not surprising.


  • Philip Rivers (324)
  • Eli Manning (310)
  • Ben Roethlisberger (301)

Pass completion percentage:

  • Philip Rivers (63.6)
  • Ben Roethlisberger (63.1)
  • Eli Manning (58.6)

Passing yards:

  • Philip Rivers (3,984)
  • Ben Roethisberger (3,790)
  • Eli Manning (3,737)

Passing touchdowns:

  • Philip Rivers (27)
  • Eli Manning (25)
  • Ben Roethlisberger (24)


  • Philip Rivers (13)
  • Ben Roethlisberger (14)
  • Eli Manning (17)

Passer rating:

  • Philip Rivers (94.5)
  • Ben Roethlisberger (92.7)
  • Eli Manning (82.7)

That's a whole lot of Philip Rivers dominating every aspect of quarterback play.

The misinformed will scoff: "Stats don't lie but they don't tell the whole story."

That's true—albeit, in Rivers' favor again.

Roethlisberger inherited the best team of all three quarterbacks; backed by an elite-caliber defense sporting Hall of Fame talent.

Manning has won two Super Bowls, but has the worst winning-percentage of all three.

Both two of Manning's championship seasons came out of Wild Card rounds; striking winning streaks on the right dates of the calendar. 

The Giants were not the best team in the NFL in 2007 or 2011.

What cannot be overlooked is the almost statistical-certainty that quarterbacks playing for teams drafting No. 1 overall simply do not win championships.

Unless a true dynasty with Hall of Fame talent on both sides of the ball backs you up (i.e., the 1970's Pittsburgh Steelers or the 1990's Dallas Cowboys), the only quarterback drafted No. 1 overall to ever pull off winning a Super Bowl under such circumstances is Peyton Manning.

Considering the fact that Rivers has been more accurate, more efficient, more productive and less turnover-prone than both Manning and Roethlisberger—it is fair to conclude that he is the best quarterback of the three.

His individual accolades reflect this as well.

Philip Rivers:

  • Four-time Pro Bowl selection.
  • One-time Pro Bowl reserve (declined).
  • Four 4,000-yard passing seasons.
  • One passing title (2010).
  • One-time leader in touchdown passes.
  • Three-time leader in YPA.

Eli Manning:

  • Two-time Pro Bowl selection.
  • One-time Pro Bowl reserve (accepted).
  • Three 4,000-yard passing seasons.
  • Zero passing titles.
  • Zero-time leader in touchdown passes.
  • Two-time leader in interceptions.
  • Zero-time leader in YPA.

Ben Roethlisberger:

  • Two-time Pro Bowl selection.
  • Two 4,000-yard passing seasons.
  • Zero passing titles.
  • Zero-time leader in touchdown passes.
  • One-time leader in interceptions.
  • One-time leader in YPA.

Conclusion: Rivers has been deprived of his rightful recognition as being the best quarterback drafted in 2004.

He has done more with less in route to contributing more to his team's chances of winning, which is really what it's all about.

Playing a team sport like professional football, what team you're drafted to and the quality of team support provided to you has a monumental impact upon team accolades.

This is why Rivers can contribute more to the San Diego Chargers than Manning and Roethlisberger have for their teams—but still yield fewer team accomplishments. 

Just think of Michael Jordan scoring 63 points in defeat.

The Chargers may rank below the Giants and Steelers overall since 2004 in terms of team accomplishments.

But Rivers ranks ahead of both Manning and Roethlisberger as being the finest quarterback of the 2004 draft-class.

Ryan Michael is a Senior Writer for Bleacher Report. Any questions, comments or professional inquiries can be directed to his email at:

Follow him on Twitter at: @theryanmichael


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