Only ring separates Rivers from draft classmates
Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson
Ben Roethlisberger is preparing for his second Super Bowl appearance in his five-season NFL career.
He already owns a Super Bowl ring. He earned the jewelry in his second NFL season. He was the No. 11 pick in the 2004 draft.
Eli Manning will likely be a commercial hero on Super Bowl Sunday. There's no doubt we'll see Eli on the tube hawking something with his older brother, Peyton. Last year, in his fourth NFL season, Eli Manning won the Super Bowl. He was the No. 1 overall pick in 2004.
San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers is still waiting to go to his first Super Bowl. He was the No. 4 pick in the 2004 draft. Rivers and Manning were central figures in a deal between the Giants and the Chargers on draft day.
Is Rivers horribly behind both Roethlisberger and Manning as an effective NFL quarterback?
If you count Super Bowls as measuring sticks, yes. But the truth is, Rivers is every bit as good of a player as Roethlisberger and Manning. But he can't win the tiebreaker in any argument when it comes to quarterbacks. Roethlisberger is working on getting his second ring. Manning's ring is shining brightly. Rivers doesn't have any tiebreaker juice.
But, yes, after thinking about this and discussing with NFL insiders that is the only thing that is the difference between the three players. Yes, it's a big difference, but give Rivers time.
The way he is playing he will likely earn his ring. In fact, some scouts believe he would have earned a ring had he been on the 2005 Steelers or the 2007 Giants.
Not that Roethlisberger and Manning didn't earn their rings, they did. Manning was brilliant in the playoffs last season. But many scouts believe Rivers is just as strong of a leader and some believe he is a better overall quarterback than his 2004 draft brethren.
If you look at statistics, Rivers stacks up well with both Roethlisberger and Manning. Rivers' numbers in 2008 were much better than both Roethlisberger and Manning.
Plus, he is also a proven big-game winner. Rivers' career record in December in his three seasons as a starter is 14-0. He competed in an AFC Championship Game on a torn ACL last season. Earlier this month, he outplayed Peyton Manning when it counted in the waning minutes of a playoff game.
So while the cold, hard facts say Rivers is behind the two other top quarterback picks from his draft class, he is on equal ground with both in many areas. But you can't argue with rings.
Until Rivers earns his, he'll always be remembered as the other guy in the 2004 draft class. Fair? Probably not, but Super Bowl rings are always the tiebreaker.