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The Big Four of 2004, Ten Seasons Later

Is any quarterback from this class a Hall of Famer?

by James Leroy Wilson
December 17, 2013

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The Big Four of 2004, Ten Seasons Later

The 1983 NFL draft class goes down as legendary because it was littered with future Hall of Famers, including the quarterbacks John Elway, Jim Kelly, and Dan Marino. They were the 1st, 14th, and 27th pack. Longtime productive starter Ken O'Brien was also a first-round qb, as was Tony Eason, who started in a Super Bowl.

The 2004 NFL draft class seemed to have equal potential for Hall of Fame qbs. Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, and Ben Roethlisberger were drafted 1st, 4th, and 11th. Four years ago or so, all looked like they hear headed to the Hall of Fame. In their own, different ways, they had sensational years early on.  And a fourth from that class, Tony Romo, who was not drafted at all, also looked like he might have that potential.

What's astonishing, based on the 2004 draft class listed at Pro-Football-Reference.com, is that aside from the top three qb's, 14 others were chosen ahead of Romo. Today's commentators say Romo has all kinds of talent, but based on his status as undrafted, he looks like one of the greatest overachievers in NFL history.

What we end up with is a "Big Four From 2004." It's interesting to see what their performances look almost ten years later. Listed by draft order:

Eli Manning - 83-66 as a starter, 81.4 passer rating, 3 Pro Bowls, 5 playoff seasons in 9.5 years a starter, 2 Super Bowl wins (2013 eliminated)

Philip Rivers - 77-49 as a starter, 96.0 passer rating, 4 Pro Bowls, 4 playoff seasons in 8 years as starter (2013 in playoff hunt)

Ben Roethlisberger - 93-47 as a starter, 92.9 passer rating, two Pro Bowls, 6 playoff appearances in 10 years as a starter, 3 Super Bowl appearances, 2 wins (2013 eliminated)

Tony Romo - 62-45 as a starter, 95.8 rating 3 Pro Bowls, 3 playoff seasons in 7.5 years as a starter (2013 in playoff hunt).

Manning and Big Ben, with two rings each, have missed the playoffs each of the past two years. Rivers and Romo aren't yet eliminated, but are on the outside looking in this year, and each have missed the playoffs since 2009.

That's what makes me wonder if any are on a Hall of Fame track anymore. Aside from his two rings (which can't be discounted), Manning's numbers pale in winning percentage and passer rating, and the two are strongly related. Interceptions and innacuracy are revealed in the low rating, and they also cost teams close games, which in turn cost teams playoff spots.

Rivers played for great teams earlier in his career, although they never won a championship. But he was once considered the best of the four, and behind only Peyton Manning and Drew Brees as the best in the league. As his team fell off in talent, so did his own performance, though there's potential for rebirth.

Roethlisberger is similar, only his teams did win two Super Bowls and appeared in another. While early success is attributed to defense and the running game, his efficiency was very strong most years, including the past two years.

Romo, with just one playoff win to his credit, seems to have the weakest resume, even though he's just second behind Rivers among this four in passing efficiency.

There's potentially several good years left from each of them. Here are my reasons why they might and might not make the Hall of Fame.

Reasons they make the Hall of Fame:

Manning: A third Super Bowl win means a lock.Or, a few more playoff and Pro Bowl appearances.

Rivers: More Pro Bowls and playoff appearances. He might not need to get to the Super Bowl if his numbers are great.

Roethlisberger: He could be in there already: which three time conference champion qb ISN'T a Hall of Famer except the not-yet-eligible Kurt Warner?

Romo: One or two Super Bowl wins and large career numbers.

Reasons they might not make the Hall of Fame:

Manning: He just might not be very good, and is incapable of elevating his teammates. I'm not sure I've seen it.

Rivers: Bad management and coaching cost him his prime years, and he may never get them back.

Roethlisberger: Won't ever get enough credit for the success of the team.

Romo: His owner-GM won't give him the talent to win.

In any case, it's been a fun ride with this gang, and hope they all play well for several years to come.

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