Super Bowl XLV: Steelers vs Packers

Super Bowl XLV pits two extremely good quarterbacks against each other, as most Super Bowls do. Both Ben Roethlisberger of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers have finished in the top five in quarterback rating the last two seasons. They were also both first round draft picks.

Again, this is not surprising. Assuming both start this year’s game, it will mean that 48/90 quarterbacks to start the Super Bowl were first round draft picks, according to DraftHistory.com.

Neither was the first QB chosen in his respective draft, however. In the 2004 NFL Draft, Roethlisberger was taken 11th, behind Eli Manning and Philip Rivers. The following year, Rodgers was selected 24th, behind Alex Smith, whom the 49ers chose with the first overall pick.

It’s hard to say the Giants or Chargers regret their decisions. Manning has underperformed at times but leeway is given when you’ve won a Super Bowl, as Manning did in 2008. Rivers has been in the top three in QB rating the last three years. Of course the eight other teams that passed on Big Ben would likely consider a do-over.

Big Ben has already won two Super Bowls. Nice choice, Pittsburgh. (Credit: SteelCityHobbies)

There is no debate between Rodgers and the lone QB chosen before him. Smith has been a complete bust and Rodgers is turning into one of the elite quarterbacks in the game. Most of the other 23 teams that passed on Rodgers would take him if given the chance.

Quarterback is the most important position in sports, and given that it typically takes a few years for one to develop, the drafting of a QB is critical. You’ve heard this before: Choose the right one and you potentially set up your team for years of success. Choose wrong, and it’s a major setback.

The problem that teams often make is they commit to drafting a quarterback even when there are no really good options. Let’s review the most recent drafts and the quarterbacks selected in the first round:

2010: The Rams chose Sam Bradford with the first pick. The only other QB chosen in the first round was Tim Tebow at 24.

2009: The three first-round picks—Matt Stafford, Mark Sanchez, and Josh Freeman—are looking good.

2008: Again, the two first rounders are looking good: Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco.

2007: The first overall pick, JaMarcus Russell, was an enormous bust for the Raiders, but none of the other quarterbacks in the class have done much either. Brady Quinn was the only other in the first round.

2006: Jay Cutler, at 11, has performed better than Vince Young (3) or Matt Leinart (10), but even he didn’t play in his first playoff game until this year, and it was not for the team that drafted him.

2005: The Smith/Rodgers draft. Jason Campbell was also taken in the first round, one slot after Rodgers.

Perhaps Rodgers is giving thanks that he wasn’t drafted by San Fran? (Credit: Chad Davis)

2004: The Manning/Rivers/Roethlisberger draft. There was a considerable drop-off after this trio, with J.P. Losman being the other first round choice.

2003: Carson Palmer was the first pick and is the best of the bunch. Byron Leftwich (7), Kyle Boller (19), and Rex Grossman (22), also went in the first round.

2002: David Carr, the first pick, was a bust, but which quarterback did you want the Texans to draft—Joey Harrington? Patrick Ramsey? Those were the other first round choices. David Garrard, the best QB of this class, was taken in the fourth round.

Again, other than 2005 and to a certain extent 2006, the team to take the first quarterback did not choose the wrong one. Their mistake was choosing a quarterback in the first place. The Raiders went with Russell in 2007 over wide receiver Calvin Johnson (who went second) and running back Adrian Peterson (seventh). Two six-time Pro Bowl defensive ends were drafted after quarterbacks in 2002: Julius Peppers went right after Carr and Dwight Freeney was chosen 11th.

The 2011 draft is another one that simply may not have an elite quarterback. Even if it’s a position of need, a team is better off taking the best player available at another position and waiting until the next year to target a quarterback. The time invested in developing a young QB who never amounts to anything is backbreaking.

2 thoughts on “Super Bowl XLV: Steelers vs Packers”

  1. I agree. QBs are a risky #1 pick, especially if the team is really bad to begin with and the guy is only going to get crushed/injured. I wonder how successful Roethlisberger would have been had he been selected by a horrible team. The Texans learned from their mistake and made up for their Carr pick with Andre Johnson (3rd pick in 2003) and Mario Williams (1st pick in 2006).

  2. Very true. Big Ben had a very strong supporting cast and Rodgers had the luxury of sitting and observing for a few years before his number was called. Although it may seem crazy, we can't say for certain that Alex Smith would not have had Rodgers' success had he been drafted by Green Bay, nor can we say Rodgers would have been great had San Fran chosen him. We know that the 49ers would like to find out, though.

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