Ben Roethlisgeber and his classmates should be proud.
A decade after their draft class was initiated into the NFL, Roethlisberger, Eli Manning and Phillip Rivers have evolved into three of the better quarterbacks of the last 10 years. Some have even compared their quarterback class to the hallowed class of 1983 that featured John Elway, Dan Marino and Jim Kelly.
The class of 2004 has won four super bowls, played in two others and each have at least their teams to a conference championship game. Roethlisberger went 13-0 as a starter his rookie year while playing in the AFC championship game. He helped lead Pittsburgh to a title the next year and threw the game-winning touchdown in the final minute of the Steelers' win in Super Bowl XLIII.
Manning took home the MVP award in each Super Bowl he played in that included an upset of the then undefeated Patriots. While he has yet to lead the Chargers to a Super Bowl berth, he has led San Diego to a 79-49 regular season record to go with four postseason appearances. He's also been named to four out of the last five Pro Bowls.
John Elway is the only member of the class of '83 to win a Super Bowl, winning back-to-back titles with the Broncos the last two seasons of his career. He also led Denver to three AFC titles in four years to close out the 1980s. A Hall-of-Famer, Elway was a nine-time Pro Bowler in his 16 seasons.
Marino is regarded as the greatest quarterback in NFL history not to win a Super Bowl. He did climax his record-setting 1984 season with a trip to Super Bowl XIX. Miami lost the game to the superior 49ers, 38-16. Marino threw for a then-record 48 touchdowns and 5,084 yards passing and retired as the all-time leader in career passing yards and touchdowns.He also made the Hall-of-Fame in his first year of eligibility.
Kelly, along with Marino, is another quarterback that enjoyed a stellar career that didn't include a Super Bowl title. A Hall-of-Famer himself as quarterback of the Bills, Kelly does hold the dubious distinction of being the only quarterback to lead his team to four straight Super Bowl appearances. Kelly was a five-time Pro Bowler and an All-Pro in 1991.
Seldom forgotten in the class of '83 was Tony Eason, who started 10 games during the regular season and won three playoff games with the Patriots en route to an appearance in Super Bowl XX.
The class of 1983 took the NFL by storm for over a decade; their indelible mark was leading 11 teams to the Super Bowl in a 15-year span. No other draft class in NFL history can say that.
So, which class gets the nod? While I believe that the overall talent of the '83 class exceeds the '04 group, the trio of Big Ben, Manning and Rivers has produced twice as many Super Bowl victories. In the era of legacies and "all-time" lists, the 'bling is the thing.