Neil O’Donnell vs. Ben Roethlisberger
I was hoping 1992 was one of Bubby Brister’s years of starting, that way I could justify having a whole paragraph saying his name over and over. Bubby Brister, Bubby Brister. Say it loud and there’s music playing, say it soft and it’s almost like praying. The actual quarterback of record in 1992 is Neil O’Donnell, and his name does not lend itself to many humor options, especially with this blog having forsworn ethnic humor.
O’Donnell was average, bordering on decent, a game manager who was risk-averse, with all the good and bad qualities that description entails. He is remembered as worse than he is because his failures our outsized: his three pick Super Bowl against the Cowboys (including two that basically went right to Larry Brown), and his barfing up a fart after getting a huge contract from the 96 Jets. He didn’t win a single one of the six starts he got before bowing out with injury that year. O’Donnell is also notable for his wikipedia entry, which puts such an overwhelmingly positive spin on things that the article has been flagged for review. Speak well of Neil O’Donnell, and you will arouse suspicion.
I happen to be of the opinion that Ben Roethlisberger is overrated. He coasts on his ability to extend the play, and was lucky to play with the most savvy and devious reciever in the league early in his career. His struggles with Todd Haley’s short pass attack are mostly Haley’s fault, but if Tony Romo, a quarterback equally reliant on improvisation, had to deal with a stupid new playbook, would public opinion rest with him or with the coordinator? Ben has the benefit of the doubt that only super bowls can grant, but I would not place him as elite: he is still second-tier, he just has flashier jewelry than the others on his level. He still gets the nod over O’Donnell though, because if I was to put positive things in his wikipedia, that wouldn’t be worthy of close inspection. Advantage: 2012
Stan Humphries vs. Phillip Rivers.
Philip Rivers was great, and verged on elite for several years. He was part of a high-powered offense, showed a willingness to play through injuries, and kept a high level of performance as the recievers he threw to got worse, the running game got worse, and the offensive line got worse. He had a slight drop last year, and then this year the roof caved in on him. His yardage and touchdown totals remain respectable, but Football Outsider’s DYAR metric has him in the bottom half of the league, and ESPN’s QBR, which accounts for situational performance, ranks him 31st among 39 qualifiers. As to what one can observe with one’s own eyes, I’ve never seen so many bounced screen passes in my life. What has happened to Rivers, and can it unhappen? Is there some injury he’s kept mum about? Quarterbacks rarely go from great to terrible without any stop in between, but it does happen, and once they reach that lonely last stop on the line, there is no road back. Rivers will be one to watch next year. Maybe not having Norv Turner around will be constructive, or maybe this is a permanent regression. Sometimes you just fall off the cliff. Ask Donovan McNabb, or Kenny Stabler.
Stan Humphries was almost more of a steward than an active player, but 1992 was an unexpected career year for him, as the unheralded Washington backup in his first gig as a full-time starter helped the Chargers win their division after starting 0-4. Humphries was never called on to do much in Bobby Ross’ ball-control and power running offense, but he could throw a nice play-action bomb, and he was part of the Chargers team that ended up as a sacrificial lamb to the 1994 Niners. He’s remembered fondly, possibly mostly because of what surrounded him, Rylan Leaf on one end, and Billy Joe Tolliver on the other (I misremembered 1992 as a Billy Joe Tolliver year, and once again have a whole bunch of name jokes that have gone totally to waste.) Humphries was solid and consistent; Rivers was special but is going to crash hard into earth, if he hasn’t already. Advantage: 1992
The scorecard now reads 14-11-1 for 2012. Time is running out, but 1992 has a couple aces up its sleeve.