Big Ben Vs. Eli Revisited

The Arizona Cardinals were not the only loser in the wake of Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers late-game Super Bowl heroics. No, the reputation of the man they call Eli will also take a hit as his fellow 2004 draft classmate Ben further distinguishes himself as one of the premiere quarterbacks in the NFL. 

It will be interesting to see if this Super Bowl victory for Roethlisberger has an impact on the imminent contract negotiations for Eli. As recently as last week there were rumors of New York's Manning soon joining the exclusive $100 million dollar man club. A group that includes only a handful of high-profile quarterbacks, among them Ben Roethlisberger who received a $108 million dollar last March.

Reports had Manning's contract possibly clocking in around the $120 million dollar mark, but it may be a little tougher now to negotiate a contract that pays Eli more than Ben. After the studly championship effort, the Steelers QB is now the second youngest to win two Super Bowls, and has also posted the winningest record for a quarterback in his first five seasons.  Ben is now writing himself into NFL history books, while Eli, championship notwithstanding, is still trying to right himself as a consistent NFL quarterback.

But it's not just potential money lost; there's also cachet, or what the kids call "swagger".  Back in 2004 there were three guys touted as franchise quarterbacks: Eli Manning, Phillip Rivers, and Ben Roethlisberger.  After Big Ben won Rookie of the Year honors, and followed that up with a Super Bowl victory, many talked about how maybe the Giants made a mistake in the draft. They were paying Eli more money -- in addition to the draft picks they expended to get him, one of which became Shawne Merriman -- and Manning appeared to be light-years away from putting up anything close to a Roethlisbergerian performance in a big game.

Turned out light-years would actually amount to two years before Manning and the Giants would win a Super Bowl; validating Eli as a championship caliber signal caller, and putting the draft classmates back on even terrain. But after a particularly uneven playoff game, one reminiscent of the old Eli days, it's safe to say the debate is back on. Even Manning's iconic miracle escape-and-toss to David Tyree looks a little less impressive; Roethlisberger seemed to manage the same escape tactics multiple times versus the Cardinals, and looked a lot smoother in the process.

There are plenty more games to be played for both these sub-thirty-somethings, and Ben certainly benefited from his top receiver not shooting himself in the thigh. But there's also little question right now that Roethlisberger is the man putting up a resume more worthy of a No. 1 draft pick. For Eli that means it's not just his famous brother Peyton with whom he will always be compared with, but he now has more to prove before stepping out of Big Ben's shadow as well.

Patrice Evans wonders how he compares to other quarterbacks at his blog The Assimilated Negro.

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