The 2004 quarterback draft class has rightfully been regarded as one of the greatest of all time, and with good reason when considering the fact that the top three quarterbacks selected in the first round are still playing. Two of them will be meeting this Sunday when Ben Roethlisberger’s Pittsburgh Steelers host the Los Angeles Chargers and Philip Rivers.
Rivers was the fourth-overall selections of the New York Giants before they traded him (and other picks to the then San Diego Chargers to acquire Eli Manning, whom the latter drafted with the first selection. Roethlisberger somehow slid all the way out of the top 10 to the Steelers at 11.
As we all know by now, of course, Roethlisberger and Manning have gotten their Super Bowl rings, but Rivers has never come particularly close, even if he may be statistically the most accomplished of the three. And he has the Chargers playing about as well as they ever have under him.
In 11 games, Rivers has thrown for 3119 yards, completing very nearly 70 percent of his pass attempts with 26 touchdowns and only six interceptions. All of those numbers aside from the yardage compare favorably to Roethlisberger this season, for example.
On their relationship, Roethlisberger said during his radio appearance yesterday, “we’re cordial, we know each other, we’re not calling and texting each other, we don’t have that kind of relationship, but obviously a lot of respect. We’ve all been doing it for a long time”.
That was also in response to a question about the hypotheticals of if he could have wound up somewhere else, as Rivers and Manning flipped spots on draft day. “I have not had to think about [playing somewhere else] and I don’t want to thing about going somewhere else because I’m blessed and lucky to be here and I’m thankful that I am here”, was his response.
Manning, Roethlisberger, and Rivers all rank sixth, seventh, and eighth, respectively, on the all-time passing yardage list, with Roethlisberger only 41 yards behind Manning. Rivers has the clear edge in touchdowns, however, with 368 at sixth all-time, while the other two are tied for seventh at 353.
The Steelers quarterback admitted that there is “a little bit” of an unspoken rivalry between the three. “Naturally, you’re gonna kind of keep an eye on ‘em. You’re seeing how your fellow guys who were drafted the same year as you are doing. I think it’s just natural competitiveness, you know?”.
It’s remarkable to consider how roughly parallel their careers have gone, where they could all fall in a cluster in the top 10 of major passing categories of all time. Only the 1983 class that produced Dan Marino, John Elway, and Jim Kelly (and Ken O’Brien) can really compare.