What is perfection? Is it like beauty — in the eyes of the beholder? It must be, because Big Ben Roethlisberger was given a perfect passer rating for his efforts against the Carolina Panthers on Thursday night. I must admit I’m slightly confused because, forgive me for bringing this up, Ben wasn't perfect during that game. Just look at the stats, he had three incompletions. So how is that perfect? What kind of rating system is that?
This doesn't happen in other professional sports as I recall. If you make ninety nine out of one hundred free throws in basketball, the official statistician doesn't say “close enough” and award you a perfect 100-percent average. Or when a baseball pitcher throws a no-hitter but walks two batters in the process, they don't award him a perfect game. Why is a quarterback’s passer rating the exception to the rule?
Now I understand the passer-rating parameters and guidelines in theory, so please don't feel the need to get out the coloring books and crayons trying to explain them to me. I’ve already read how the ratings are obtained and, truthfully, I struggled to stay awake. Let's just say the rating system was created by individuals far intellectually superior to myself and leave it at that. I honestly find the numerical-evaluation process of sports rather mundane. I love the physicality of sports, in conjunction with the battle of wills on the field and the battle of wits on the sidelines. The percentage of probabilities fails to peak my interest.
Vince Lombardi was rather famous for his way with words. He’s well known for a multitude of quotes, many of which are among my all-time favorites. He once issued a mission statement if you will to his troops when he took over as head coach of the Green Bay Packers that went something like this, "We will strive for perfection, men. We will never obtain it, but we will achieve excellence along the way!" He sometimes worded the quote a little differently, but it always had the same meaning.
I would have no problem giving Ben a perfect rating for the other night if those three incompletions had been the result of dropped passes, but that isn't the case. So if Ben didn't achieve perfection during his impressive display of quarterback prowess the other night, how should we quantify his performance then? I think the word “excellence” fits just fine.
Ben looked like the face of the franchise — a general in total control of his troops. He said all the right things to the media leading up to the game, and he set the tone for his team with his very first pass attempt. That touchdown throw to JuJu was a thing of beauty. Watch the trajectory of that pass coupled with the velocity. Very few QBs can make that throw and even fewer with that accuracy. Ben led JuJu slightly towards the sideline, while hitting him perfectly in stride. This allowed JuJu to remain at full speed and took away the angle of the safety, resulting in the momentum-shifting touchdown.
The look on the faces of the Panthers’ contingent was priceless. Cam Newton and the boys were still in celebration mode when the rug was unceremoniously pulled out from under them. The Steelers’ faithful in attendance were rocking Heinz Field in unison and we all know the defense feeds off the energy of the crowd. The rest is history, and it all started with Ben absorbing Cam's opening jab, and landing a haymaker of his own.
We’ve all witnessed Ben having these incredible performances in the past, but this one felt a little different. It was almost like he’s grown tired of not getting the respect he deserves as an all-time great player. All week, he heard how great Newton had been playing, and he was basically an afterthought — a supporting actor if you will, to Cam's star billing. That might have just made him a bit angry. Didn't work out too well for the Panthers, that's for sure.
I hope the media continues to underestimate and overlook Ben's excellence — make him play second fiddle, don't put his name up in lights on the marquee. That seems to motivate him just fine.
An angry Ben might just be the best Ben.