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Jan. 18, 2006

Posted: Wednesday January 18, 2006 12:55PM; Updated: Wednesday January 18, 2006 12:55PM
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Want to argue about the NFL? Let's go ...

Ranking The Final Four QBs

Nick Laham/Getty Images

The way we think of playoff quarterbacks has changed in recent years. The ability to avoid mistakes has become more crucial than big-play capability -- Tom Brady, Brad Johnson or Trent Dilfer have been the winning QB in the last five Super Bowls.

This year's final four quarterbacks all have loads of talent, but have been molded into caretakers by their coaches. Still, their ability to limit turnovers, make an occasional big play and keep their cool in the clutch will determine the next champion.

The four QBs are all bona fide Pro Bowlers, but I think there is a definite hierarchy. I'll rank 'em, and then I'd love to hear your take.

1. Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers: He reminds me more of Brady than anyone else in the playoffs. Doesn't put up huge numbers, even though you know he could if the coaches opened up the offense. The most impressive thing about Big Ben is his ability to buy time with his feet and stay in control. And how pretty is his long ball?

2. Jake Delhomme, Panthers: Jake is a decent quarterback during the regular season. He's an animal in the playoffs. Delhomme has won five of six postseason games and his numbers blow up when he's on the national stage. My only concern this year is his reliance on receiver Steve Smith. If Seattle comes up with a gameplan to corral Smith - easier said than done - can Delhomme find anyone else?

3. Jake Plummer, Broncos: Of the four QBs, Plummer had the worst performance in the divisional round (15-for-26, 197 yards, one TD, one INT against the Pats). Nevertheless, Plummer did what the Broncos needed him to do to get the win. You have to credit him for his transformation from a gunslinger to a conservative quarterback. That being said, I still don't trust Plummer completely. If the Steelers' blitz can affect Peyton Manning like that, Plummer may also struggle.

4. Matt Hasselbeck, Seahawks: Hasselbeck cemented his reputation as an All-Pro caliber QB this season, tossing 24 touchdowns and just nine INTs. But I think the media over-hyped his performance against Washington last week. The biggest play, his 29-yard TD pass to Darrell Jackson, was not a very good throw. How much did Hasselbeck have to do against a Redskins team that couldn't move the ball two feet? Let's see how he does against the more balanced Panthers.

-- Andrew Perloff (1:00 p.m.)

Big Ben is a media darling but the Steelers don't ask him to do that much with the offense. He is limited to 25 or less throws per game and really manages the game as opposed to winning it. Shanahan has done the same thing with Jake, taking selective shots down the field but not asking him to carry the full load. I think Ben is given way too much credit for a conservative scheme. I understand questioning Jake Plummer based on previous playoff performances but feel he and Ben are not that far off in what they do. Jake Delhomme on the other hand does appear to step up his game substantially in the playoffs and he is asked to do more then either Ben or Plummer. I don't have a good read on Hasselback but he is playing well this season and was a difference-maker this past week.
-- Jason Carney , Boise, Idaho (1:12 p.m.)

Delhomme should be No. 1 if your rankings are based on production rather than potential. The other three QBs have the luxury of a consistent ground game, Delhomme does not.
-- Vu , Rock Hill, S.C. (1:23 p.m.)

I agree with your rankings. Roethlisberger will be a Supper Bowl MVP this year and a Pro Bowler next year.
-- Chad , Kansas City, Mo. (1:25 p.m.)

Wow ... I'm glad that someone in the national media finally acknowledged both the leadership, winning powers (look at that 25-4 lifetime record) and passing prowess of Big Ben (third-ranked NFL passer, best yards per completion in the NFL, etc.). Thank you!
-- Jeff , Boston (1:30 p.m.)

Is Delhomme the Anti-Manning? He is mediocre in the regular season but is sensational in the playoffs? People forget how close he came to beating the Pats in the Super Bowl.
-- John , Boston (1:33 p.m.)

You almost had me convinced until you said Hasselbeck's throw to Jackson wasn't a good throw. Just because a recevier left his feet to make a catch doesn't make it a bad throw. In fact in a case like this one it is what makes the throw good. The defender was right on Jackson's left shoulder and anything any higher or further to the left would have been deflected or intercepted.
-- Casey , Houston (1:35 p.m.)

You're an idiot. Hasselbeck's TD pass to Jackson had to be placed on Jackson's back shoulder because there was a defender on the other side. It was a beautiful throw, and catch. Your qb rankings show me how little you actually know about football.
-- Casey , Seattle (1:37 p.m.)

Overall a good assessment, although I'd put Hasselbeck above Plummer. Roethlisberger, though, simply amazes me. Can anyone explain to me how, after handing the ball to Bettis last week, he managed to get that far upfield to stop the fumble return? Mind-boggling.
-- Robert , Los Angeles (1:37 p.m.)

Hasselbeck's touchdown to D-Jack? It was perfect! Did you ask a former QB if he could throw it anywhere else or do you just expect the ball to land perfectly in his hands? He threw it where only D-Jack could catch it. He throws it anywhere else, it could be picked but at the minimum incomplete.
-- Tim Mullins , Eugene, Ore. (1:41 p.m.)

I agree with your rankings 100percent. Ben Roeth's ability to avoid the rush is so key to the Steelers' success and why they struggle when he is out. His decison-making in 2005-'06 is far ahead of last year -- he doesn't make many mistakes AND has the ability to make the big plays when called upon. Plus, he is incredibly good on 3rd-and-5 or shorter and the Steelers running game provides him this frequently.
-- Jeff , Houston (1:42 p.m.)

I agree with Ben No. 1, but Jake Plummer has to be No. 4 -- never done anything in this league until his "safe" play this year.
-- Steve , Jacksonville, Fla. (1:43 p.m.)

I disagree that Big Ben is the best of the four remaining QBs. Clearly Jake Plummer has what it takes to win the Superbowl. He's more experienced, a better scrambler, a better leader and simply has more heart. I'm a Steeler fan but you guys have this one wrong. Stop overexploiting Jake's mistakes and instead focus on the fact that he has his team in the playoffs 3 years in a row and in the AFC title game. All he needed was to escape Arizona.
-- Dennis Thompson , Pittsburgh (1:44 p.m.)

Couldn't agree more about Hasselbeck's performance. He is a good QB, but I think his nerves get the best of him at times. I was astonished at the commentators during that game commenting on the TD pass to Jackson - they were lauding Hasselbeck, when like you said, it was a bad throw. Virtually no credit to Darrell Jackson's amazing adjustment to make the catch. This is a perfect game for Seattle. If they can step up against Carolina (is anyone overlooking them now?), they are absolutely worthy of their earned Super Bowl berth, shaky NFC conference or not.
-- John , Seattle (1:47 p.m.)

What is in the rain up in Seattle? How can you Seahawks fans think Hasselbeck made the perfect throw to Jackson. Like that was designed. It's amazing how being a fan can warp your eyesight.
-- John Bruel , San Mateo, Calif. (1:48 p.m.)

Big Ben's maturity level is amazing considering he is a 2nd year QB. Leaps and bounds better than last year's playoff performance. Good mobility for a big guy. If Plummer doesn't step up his game for Sunday's contest, it will be cold, cold day for Bronco's fans.
-- Christine , Canonsburg, Pa. (1:48 p.m.)

This ranking is all skewed. Matt Hasselbeck single handedly willed his team to victory in the mould of a Favre or Elway. Even without the league MVP. While his skillset and size might not match up with Jake the Snake or Big Ben, he has all the intangibles to lead his team to a Super Bowl.
-- Julian , Mountlake Terrace, Wash. (1:49 p.m.)

The point you are missing is that Denver doesn't depend on it's QB play like the Patriots or the Colts do.
-- Dave , Arvado, Colo. (1:50 p.m.)

Roethlisberger is definitely the best of the bunch and the next 'star' QB to join the likes of Brady, Manning, McNabb etc. In his second season he is now in complete control of the Steelers' offense and is carrying his team. His passing beat the Bengals and the Colts. John Elway's Broncos were a passing team that couldn't win the Super Bowl until the addition of star running back Terrell Davis. Likewise the Steelers are a ball-control team that may now win the Super Bowl because of Roethlisberger.
-- Martin Dodds , London (1:51 p.m.)

Good List. I'd go Delhomme (Jake 1), Roethlisberger, Hasselbeck, then Plummer (Jake 2). Jake 1 has been in the big games before so he knows what it takes to win and besides, he has Steve Smith. Ben is one of the best second year QB's I've ever seen. Hasselbeck has really showed his stuff. Jake 2 is just to risky for me. Although he has been pretty calm this year I'm always waiting for another Jake Mistake.
-- Charles , Birmingham, Ala. (1:53 p.m.)

Why is the media so big on Ben? The guy choked in last year's AFC Championship, and has played two very mediocre defenses in Cincy and Indy. Jake Plummer has managed his team well, has the best record this year (along with Hasselbeck), and actually MADE the Pro Bowl. Let's see how Big Ben does against a tough Denver defense before crowning him king. I'd rank 'em as follows: 1. Delhomme, 2. Hasselbeck, 3. Plummer, 4. Big Ben
-- Jason Hanson , Colorado Springs, Colo. (1:54 p.m.)

As a die-hard Broncos fan since 1975, I'd say your ranking is about right. However, I'd say that Plummer is much more mobile than Manning, (who is a true pocket passer). Jake still has wheels, and I'd expect him to be using play action much more against Pittsburgh to counter the blitz.
-- Chris , Denver (1:55 p.m.)

What will it take for Seattle to gain respect? Has anyone taken a look at the home record of the Hawks, not only for this year but from the start of play at Qwest Field? I feel that Seattle could win the "big one" and still everyone but the fans of the Seahawks will only consider them the team from "The Great Northwest!"
-- Aaron , Dallas (1:59 p.m.)

Hasselbeck's throw to Jackson wasn't 'pretty'? He threw it the only place that Jackson could get to it and the corner couldn't. That throw couldn't be intercepted, and only Jackson could make a play on it. It's the basic definition of what you want a QB to do.
-- Kal , Seattle (2:01 p.m.)

It's obvious that you're a Steelers fan. Jake has proven himself as the best QB left in the playoffs. He's 5-1 in the postseason. None of the other QBs come close. When the other three and especially Big Ben has that kind of record then maybe. As far as relying on Steve Smith too much that is crazy talk. Did Steve Smith play last year? After losing most of the star plays due to injury and starting 1-7 and then finishing just short of the playoffs last year with out Steve Smith and company should speak volumes of Jake. Yet I keep hearing that Jake relies to much on Smith. Wake up and give credit where credit is due.
-- Dean Gaskins , Charlotte (2:05 p.m.)

I beg to differ with your evaluation of Matt. On his TD pass to Darrell, he threw it where only Darrell could catch it. If you look at the season, he did not have Darrell or Bobby for the full season due to injuries. He was able to get his numbers by helping to bring out the best in Seattle's reserve receivers. Joe Jurevicious was a big factor then and still is now as a third receiver. I would put Matt at number 1. Number 2 would be Ben followed by Jake Delhomme, and Jake Plummer.
-- Don , Seattle (2:07 p.m.)

I would rank them Roethlisberger, Delhomme, Hasselbeck and Plummer. Sooner or later Plummer will revert back to form and start throwing picks; most likely against Pittsburgh this weekend.
-- Jim , Boise, Idaho (2:09 p.m.)

Are you kidding? The MVP goes down and Seattle wins in large part because Matt Hasselbeck took control of the game, including that remarkable audible on a 3rd and long resulting in a 32 yard rush for Mack Strong. All due respect to the others, including Big Ben, Hasselbeck has become an outstanding field general and competitor, and, arguably, the best all around quarterback left in the playoffs. None of the other quarterbacks that remain have or can make such a significant individual impact on a game.
-- Mark , Seattle (2:12 p.m.)

Jake Delhomme is a better QB than Big Ben. All Ben does is hand the ball off and throw out of desperation. He manages the game very well, but when faced with throwing the ball he doesn't always seem to get it done. Smith and Delhomme all the way!
-- George , Cincinnati (2:14 p.m.)

I agree with your rankings for the most part, but I think Hasselbeck is a better quarterback than Jake Plummer. If the Patriots (and officials) don't give that game to the Broncos everyone would be saying what a horrible game Plummer had, while Hasselbeck was the reason the Seahawks won last week. The Broncos passing game stinks and I think the Pats showed that when you shut down their running game, Plummer's not capable of beating you with his arm. They weren't going to score more than 10 points minus the turnovers. And Roethlisberger and Delhomme have shown they can win some big playoff games.
-- Jon , Albuquerque, N.M. (2:18 p.m.)

Anybody can QB the run-oriented Steelers. How hard is it to give Steve Smith the ball every time and let him run? Give the All-Pro Hasselbeck some more credit. He loses his best receiver most of the year, his completion percentage is spectacular (especially in December), and that pass to Jackson last weekend was placed perfectly. Jackson could easily adjust and the DB couldn't reach it. Oh yeah, he didn't have Alexander all game too. He's better than you think.
-- David , Burien, Wash. (2:19 p.m.)

I, too, am an admirer of Big Ben BUT ... of the remaining QB's, he has the mosconsistentlyly effective running game -- particularly in short yardage situations. While Denver's running game is, statistically, very good, the Broncos can't/don't rely on it in 'must-have' situations, requiring Plummer to perform under intense pressure ... Comparing the final four QB's, in my humble opinion, should include looking at who's the most integral to his team's success. Though Plummer's stats seldom jump up and bite you, it's the crucial plays he's pulled off so brilliantly which are most impressive. There was little mention, other than about Jake Dellhomme, about the strength -- or weaknesses of each QB's receiver corps. Again, to whom would you rather throw -- Smith/Lelie/Putzier or Randall El/Ward/Miller?
-- Dino Migliaccio , Dana Point, Calif. (2:19 p.m.)

I think that you are not giving near enough credit to Jake Plummer. He is a role player; the lead role player, in fact. Shanahan's widely touted system takes 3 years to pay dividends, and it certainly has. From a wide-card team to hosting the AFC Championship. 13-3 record, which is the only stat that matters. Just win baby is the motto in the NFL, and that is what Jake and the Broncos have done this year.
-- Chris , Denver (2:24 p.m.)

Although I have to admit that I don't fully trust Plummer either, I think there is one point that has yet to be made: As far as poise under a relentless blitz, none of these QBs stack up to Plummer. Flush him out of the pocket and you're doomed -- plain and simple. Delhomme, Manning, Hasselbeck, and Brady have all shown recently that they can easily be overrun and rattled by a persistent blitz. Only Big Ben and The Snake have shown poise under the pressure. That said, I put Big Ben as No. 1, Plummer No. 2.
-- Chad , Chicago (2:27 p.m.)

First off, Big Ben is the best of those on the list, good lookin' out. But Hasselbeck as No. 4? He's made the Pro Bowl two seasons in a row -- watch the guy play, he's nice. And the throw to D-Jack? He had to put it where only Jackson could get it. Simple concept yet so hard for people to understand the simple things in football. How is he the fourth best? Makes no sense, its just no one apparently watches the Seattle games enough because Matt's a heck of a QB, much better than Jake the Snake Plummer.
-- Daniel , Wheeling, W.V. (2:27 p.m.)

I realize Plummer is having a low-stat year but he's 13-3. How many QBs could measure up to that stat (only two others)? He was tearing up the field last year breaking Elway's yardage record and TD record but look what that got Denver. I think everyone just keeps holding his past against him. One stat sticks out to me. In Arizona (six seasons) he threw 114 INTs -- 90 TDs. In Denver its 34 INTs -- 60 TDs.
-- Vince , Denver (2:29 p.m.)

I'm tired of all this talk about Jake the Mistake Plummer. If he wins the Super Bowl will it be a mistake. Look at his record as a starting QB for the Broncos.
-- Tom , Toronto (2:31 p.m.)

I think that they are all great QBs, but Hasselback had to win without the league MVP and performed well under the pressure, bottom line on that throw and catch with Jackson it was a touchdown. As for Big Ben and the Snake working within a system, well that is a what a QB is supposed to do, conservative or wide open, they are supposed to manage the game according to the game plan. The games will ultimately decide these rankings. It is going to be a great Sunday of football!
-- Devin , Delhi, Ontario (2:33 p.m.)

I don't know what more Matt Hasselbeck and company have do to get a little respect from the media. The league MVP goes down early in the first quarter and the game falls squarely on Matt's shoulders. He had a great game with big time throws and runs. I don't know how you could possibly over hype his performance. After Alexander went down the Skins keyed on Hasselbeck and he still delivered. YOU and all the other so-called experts will see soon enough. SEAHAWKS 24-PANTHERS 14
-- Brandon Gallagher , Sacramento, Calif. (2:34 p.m.)

I think that a lot of people still wanna say that Ben is a media darling after his 15-1 rookie season. These people need to watch game tape of the Steelers this year. This is a quarterback that would be putting up numbers in the category of Manning and Brady if his coaches allowed him to pass in the second half. Like the game against the Colts last Sunday, Ben often throws it 15-20 times in the first half for 150-200 yards, and the Steelers have a lead so they don't throw the rest of the game. He is the real deal that has his numbers skewed by the Pittsburgh coaching staff's conservative second-half approach.
-- Ryan , Murrysville, Pa (2:36 p.m.)

Good list. However, I think that Plummer should be ranked number 2. Delhomme and Hasselbeck both play in the minor league(NFC) and without Steve Smith, Delhomme would not look as impressive.
-- Josh Logan , Pittsburgh (2:38 p.m.)

For those Ben doubters, check out his record 25-4 and 3-1 in the postseason ... in two years in the league. If winning is what matters, those numbers should be enough. If they are not, check out his QB rating. For those that are wondering about taffairve afair with Ben, that's why ...
-- Mike , Hoboken, N.J. (2:38 p.m.)

OK, I'm extremely biased, but Jake seems to thrive under pressure, especially when considered the underdog. He won all playoff games be answering when called upon in the prior march to the Superbowl, and he has consistently done so this season in the playoffs. This is the pressure he performs best under.
-- Nye Allen , Charlotte (2:45 p.m.)

Seems to me everyone is waiting to say "I told you so" about the Snake, yet it hasn't happened ALL SEASON. Face it people, after dispatching the heralded Patriots TWICE this season, give credit where it and respect have been duly earned!
-- Mike J. , Key West, Fla. (2:45 p.m.)

Why should the Seahawks even show up for the game against the Panthers? As the national media dialogue the last few days has seemed to suggest, the Seahawks have absolutely no shot at beating their opponent. I have finally decided journalists east of Denver cannot, and will not, ever give credit to west coast teams (outside of USC), no matter what they accomplish.
-- Mark , Spokane, Wash. (2:54 p.m.)

Ben and Delhomme are a close call for 1-2. Ben is better by far at avoiding pressure and making a play, and has shown, when given the chance that he can light it up in the pocket. Look at his numbers in the first half of games when the Steelers throw the ball. And, save the Cincy game in Pittsburgh, he has never failed to drive his team to a tying or game-winning score when it was needed. And he only didn't do it that game because of three penalties. Can't argue with Delhomme's record, heart, and leadership though. Hasselbeck relatively close third, and Plummer distant fourth.
-- Dave , Pittsburgh (3:01 p.m.)

George -- Still bitter after the Cincy loss? I like Delhomme, but what can he do that Ben can't? Did you not see the Indy game? That was certainly not desperation passing. As Andrew wrote, put him in an open office and he will have Palmer numbers. Remember to sned a note of congratulations when we win back the division title.
-- Jason , Pittsburgh (3:05 p.m.)

Let's just all admit to the fact that no one will ever trust Jake Plummer. He could win back to back Super Bowls, never throw a pick again in his career, and take over multiple games, and people would still be, "Man, I'm just waiting for him to turn into 'Old Jake.'" How long did it take for everyone to get over Steve Young's horrible years in Tampa? Much respect to Big Ben and the other Jake, but you media types have to get over yourself. This recycling of the same storyline about Jake is getting exhausting. Find a new angle, please.
-- Jason , Denver (3:10 p.m.)