The 2004 quarterback draft class has drawn comparisons to the historic 1983 QB class, and with good reason. The former seems poised to overtake the latter as the all-time greatest as they enter their 15th season with little signs of slowing down (I’m being generous here, Eli). While John Elway, Dan Marino, and Jim Kelly have more Super Bowl appearances and Pro Bowl selections; Ben Roethlisberger, Eli Manning, and Philip Rivers have better overall numbers and twice the Super Bowl victories (4 – 2).
But who is the best quarterback of the 2004 class? The answer may surprise you. It’s Philip Rivers, and I have the receipts.
Comparing The Top 3 Quarterbacks
I have ranked the top 3 QBs according to the 7 most important statistics, according to this writer’s humble opinion. QB Rating, TD/INT ratio, Yards/Attempt, Int%, TD/Game, & Completion %. Notable omission here being Super Bowls (RIP my mentions), but as we all know football is a team sport and the last time I checked each player has 52 teammates. It takes a village. If you don’t believe me just ask Brad Johnson and Trent Dilfer.
Full disclosure, this screenshot is the background image on my phone (Sean Green always gets a kick out of this).
My Beef With QB-R
Notice Eli Manning is a distant third across the board, and Roethlisberger only tops one category over Philip Rivers by a slight .1% yards/attempt margin. Also, I reference the proven QB Rating stat over the trendy QBR stat in my analysis because the very concept of QBR is vague and dubious. David Garrard had one of the best single-game QBRs at 83.4 with a talented 2007 Jaguars team wherein he tossed about 20 total passes.
QBR claims to account for the intangible aspects of the quarterback position like fumbling in the pocket, pre-snap penalties, and coming through in the clutch – whatever that means. None of this benefits Philip Rivers who has suffered the worst home field advantage in sports and will most likely finish his career playing in a soccer stadium and then onto the City of Champions Stadium which will have more seats than Charger fans to fill them. The Chargers have had to deal with more injuries in the last 6 years than any other team in a generation.
In 2012 alone, Rivers fumbled 15 times because his offensive line was garbage. The very next year, he fumbled 3 times when the O-line was revamped. In regards to clutch football, what does that even mean in a 16 game season? Every game is clutch. In baseball, the San Francisco Giants had to play 17 playoff games in 2014 to become World Series champions. That’s an entire football season plus a game; were they all clutch? Just the first 8?
Over the last 14 years, the Chargers have had the toughest strength of schedule of the three teams, with an average SoS of 13th. The Giants rank 16th followed by the Steelers at 21st. As far as team defense over that period, the Steelers have given up the fewest total yards (303) as well as fewest points per game (18.7). The Chargers have surrendered 332 yards & 21.3 points, while the Giants average 348 yards & 23 points per game.
Looking ahead to this year, expect Rivers and Roethlisberger to have stellar seasons. The Steelers are hands-down the best team in the North, and the Chargers appear to be the best in the West, presuming Patrick Mahomes suffers the typical rookie growing pains that seem apparent already for Kansas City. As for Eli, if past is prologue he will either finish the season on the bench with 12 losses, or he will be holding the Lombardi trophy in Atlanta, you can never tell with this guy.
2004 QB Class Re-Draft
- Philip Rivers
- Ben Roethlisberger
- Peyton’s Brother