The 2004 class is one of the most storied drafts in NFL history in terms of producing quarterback talent, landing three of the top 10 at the position all-time in most meaningful statistical categories for the position. Yet, 16 years on, it certainly seems as though the sheen is finally wearing off.
To start out with, the New York Giants, who had the first-overall selection in Eli Manning, used their top-10 pick last season to draft Daniel Jones, who would be installed into the starting lineup after only a couple of games. Manning was reserved to the bench, though he was able to come back and record one final win late in the season while Jones was injured.
Manning elected to retire following the 2019 season, though there wasn’t exactly another graceful option for him. I’m not sure if it’s even been stated that the team would have intended to retain him rather than releasing him had he not retired.
Likewise, Philip Rivers is parting with the Los Angeles Chargers, having spent his whole career—after the draft-day trade—with the organization. While the Chargers were strong in 2018 and made the playoffs, they bottomed out last season, with Rivers’ statistics reflecting it, and the two sides have opted to part company.
Then there is Ben Roethlisberger, who had the worst year of all. In fact, he didn’t even throw a touchdown pass. Of course, he was limited to just six quarters, playing against two of the best defenses in the league, before succumbing to a season-ending elbow injury.
Despite being the one with a busted wing, however, it is Roethlisberger who has his team behind him, the team that drafted him so many years ago. Having signed a two-year contract extension last offseason, and with no other viable options, it’s not as though the Pittsburgh Steelers have a choice, but in their public comments, they remain resolute that the big man still has plenty of tread left on the tires.
When asked last week about his future status, and referring to the parallel situations of Manning and Rivers, general manager Kevin Colbert told reporters, “we don’t think Ben is near that yet. We don’t think he’s at the end of the road”.
For his part, Roethlisberger has already gone on record stating that he has every intention of completing his contract, which runs through the 2021 season. Prior to his injury, he had even suggested that he felt as though he could continue playing beyond that, though it’s impossible to say if the injury has changed his perspective in that regard. We may only be able to cross that bridge once we get to it.