You say you’re ready to throw a brick through the projection screen the next time some diction-challenged ex-jock mumbles something about Ben Roethlisberger’s legacy?
Congratulations. You’re probably a New England Patriots fan, and by extension, a Tom Brady apologist. And the reason you’re angry is that Boorish Ben is one win away from forcing you to reevaluate every word you’ve ever used to defend His Royal Hairness in a barroom or on a social network.
Should the Pittsburgh Steelers defeat the Green Bay Packers at the Jones Mahal this evening, no matter how ugly the statistical back story, history will have spoken.
Roethlisberger’s shifty eyes and Forrest Gump-on-a-30-day-jog beard will be carved into the mythical Mount Rushmore of quarterbacks in the Super Bowl era. Nobody’s saying you have to like it, but in the interest of consistency, you’d darn well better admit and accept it.
Didn’t we all claim that Brady punched his ticket for enshrinement into the Pro Football Hall of Fame when he hoisted his third Lombardi Trophy against zero defeats at age 27?
Weren’t we clamoring for them to build No. 12 his own wing in Canton after 50 touchdowns and 16 uninterrupted regular-season wins in 2007? (Let’s skip the ending, please.)
Haven’t we laughed off our collective gluteus maximi over Peyton Manning’s mounting failures in the postseason; his solo Super Bowl ring and lifetime losing record in the playoffs?
Championships are the bottom line, right? They’re the first, second, third and twenty-eighth criteria to be used in determining a quarterback’s greatness, correct?
That’s what I’ve heard. More importantly, it’s what I have said and written. Now I have to own it, and so do you.
If the NBA’s Tim Duncan is the Big Fundamental, Roethlisberger is the Big Intangible. His statistics in the Steelers’ biggest games are Jay Schroederesque and Joe Fergusonian.
The guy spends three-and-a-half quarters handing off, bailing out too early and missing open receivers. Then, almost without fail, he sidesteps the rush to convert four straight third-and-eights by a chain link apiece before throwing the game-winning TD.
Roethlisberger, who won’t turn 29 until March 2, is on the cusp of his third title. Terry Bradshaw (another guy who wasn’t a model of passing efficiency and had a legendary supporting cast) and Joe Montana each won four. Brady and Troy Aikman both called the signals in three.
And that’s it.
Heck, win two and you’re close enough to the top of the mountain to need an oxygen mask. The other quarterbacks to win multiple championships since 1967: Bart Starr, Bob Griese, Roger Staubach, Jim Plunkett and John Elway.
Plunkett is the only one in that group paying admission to the Hall, largely because he spent a decade directing some horrible Patriots and 49ers teams and being cast as a bust of a No. 1 overall pick.
Most of the voices opposed to a Roethlisberger coronation, aside from revealing their individual biases, will tell you that neither his numbers nor his highlight film pass the naked-eye test.
Granted, the guy is as clumsy and awkward in the pocket as he is in a police interrogation. He’s not going to win any million-dollar, throw-the-ball-through-the-circle contests at halftime of a BCS bowl. He never could have engineered one of Bill Walsh’s offenses that were so reliant on pinpoint accuracy.
But. He. Wins.
Isn’t that what we always said about Brady? In truth, not many quarterbacks have benefited from positive revisionist history more than the Patriots’ poster boy.
Only in one of the Patriots’ Super Bowl wins — XXXVIII, against Carolina — did Brady light it up, and he worked most of that magic in the second half. He managed the game (Lord, I hate that expression) with major assistance from Antowain Smith and Corey Dillon in the other two.
Twice, Brady engineered a mini-drive to put Adam Vinatieri in range for winning field goals that hardly were chip shots. In the other, he left it to the Patriots’ punter and defense to close the deal in the final five minutes against an exhausted Philadelphia Eagles offense.
There was no throw on a dime to the far corner of the end zone in the final minute. There were no come-from-behind theatrics. These weren’t Joe Montana and Steve Young four, five or six-touchdown-to-zero interception masterpieces.
How’s this for game management material? Let the record show that even with a loss tonight, Roethlisberger still would maintain a slight edge over Brady in career playoff winning percentage.
Anti-Roethlisberger sentiment is riddled with talk of the Steelers’ ever-present workhorse back, mighty offensive line and punishing defense.
Brady had all those elements working in his favor, too. Not to mention three skilled, unselfish x-factors named Kevin Faulk, Mike Vrabel and Troy Brown and gifted coordinators who always found a way to get them into the game plan.
Brady’s greatness is indisputable. His place in history and his right to one day wear one of those unsightly, golden blazers and give an awkward speech is secure.
But with a Steelers victory in Super Bowl XLV, all that also will be true of Roethlisberger, with more than half a career likely still ahead of him.
Any wasted words denying that make the speaker more than woefully inconsistent. Try petty, bitter and downright ignorant.
Kalle Oakes is a staff columnist. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.