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The NFL's Legendary 2004 QB Class is Trash Now

Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, and Ben Roethlisberger have aged before our eyes.

by Dave Lozo
Oct 9 2017, 5:12pm

Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

People still in their 20s or younger (typical VICE readers), please don't laugh too hard while reading this.

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People in their 30s or older...hello.

I have some bad news for you. All the quarterbacks from the 2004 draft that dominated the NFL for more than a decade are shadows of their former selves, serving as a reminder that our time on this planet is fleeting and one day we all turn to dust. On Sunday, Philip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger and Eli Manning all looked better-suited for one of those walk-in bathtubs for the elderly you see during commercials for The Price Is Right than leading a football team from under center.

Where did the time go? Wasn't it just yesterday that Eli was ripping out Tom Brady's still-beating heart in Super Bowls and feeding it to him? Didn't Big Ben just disembowel Kurt Warner a second ago? Didn't Rivers…well, didn't he used to at least win more than one of every five football games he played?

It's depressing, man. The 2004 draft was a lifetime ago and now Carson Wentz is leading the NFC East and Jared Goff is a competent quarterback. Aaron Rodgers is looking all spry in a duel with Dak Prescott while Eli falls down to avoid sacks like he was waiting in line at the bank and robbers stormed the place and demanded everyone get on the ground.

I'm a Giants fan and five weeks into the season I'm googling things like, "Who is Sam Darnold?" and "What team is Josh Rosen on?" This was supposed to be the Giants' last chance to make a run with Eli and instead he spent Sunday murdering all his wide receivers with inaccurate death balls. One got Odell Beckham's leg broken and two others resulted in the ankles of Sterling Shepard and Brandon Marshall needing serious medical attention.

Eli was never going to age well but I didn't think he'd take the Giants' best young players down with him. Roger Lewis must be trembling right now because he knows at least one of Eli's 100 errant passes the rest of the season will lead him into a waiting linebacker, safety, or cement wall in the back of the end zone.

If the Giants had any sort of plan, they could spend the rest of the season moving toward the future, but instead we will get weekly reminders of how Eli is 36 going on 50 with almost no healthy wide receivers. Watchig Eli hook sliding seven yards behind the line of scrimmage six times a game during an 0-16 season will be like watching Harrison Ford pretending to act in that fourth Indiana Jones movie.

Rivers, despite beating the Giants on Sunday, has been even worse than Manning this season. Manning has eight touchdowns, five picks and an 89.1 passer rating; Rivers hasn't completed more than 60 percent of his passes since Week 2 and his 59.8 completion percentage for the season is his lowest since he became a starter in 2006. Rivers has a passer rating of 86.0, the worst of his career since his second year as a starter. These are bad quarterbacks.

The only way you win a football game while completing 47.7 percent of your passes like Rivers did Sunday is if you do it against a fellow old from the 2004 draft like Manning. Giants-Chargers was like one of those Batman/Superman or Alien/Predator mashup movies, only it was like watching the Taken 6 version of Liam Neeson fight the Rocky 9 version of Sylvester Stallone. We need to reboot the franchises immediately.

And then there's big, stupid, Ben, pump-faking his way into old age before our eyes. Did you know before he chucked two pick-sixes in four passes against the freaking Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday it had been 2,262 attempts since he had thrown one pick-six? Roethlisberger aged before our eyes like Matt Damon at the end of Saving Private Ryan only instead of being poignant it was hilarious because fuck Ben Roethlisberger, that's why.

This isn't just me talking—take it from the man himself.

"Maybe I don't have it anymore," he said to the media after the game.

You have to at least admire the honesty. While Eli and Rivers are goobering it up about getting better every week, Roethlisberger can see the writing on the wall and the writing says only he and 2016 Ryan Fitzpatrick have a zero-touchdown, five-interception game under their belts. Honestly, you'd think Eli has three of those since 2015 but somehow he doesn't.

Just like his 2004 compatriots, Roethlisberger is having the crappiest year of his career. He has more interceptions than touchdowns and the only time he's had a worse rating than the 75.8 he has now was when he dropped a 75.4 in 2006 across 15 games.

Time passes us all by but it seems to have passed the 2004 draft class all at once in 2017.

(Not you, Matt Schaub, you beautiful, bald backup.)

Out with the old and in with the new is a tale as old as time in sports. But this is the NFL, where finding 32 capable quarterbacks has proven impossible, which means these three quarterbacks will probably hang around and make us cringe for another 3-4 years. At least Neeson had the good sense to stop doing Taken movies; can you possibly imagine what it will look like when Eli is trying to move in the pocket when he's 38? Or when Rivers is doing that awkward sidearm thing? Or when Ben pump-fakes six times during one dropback and his arm falls off on the seventh pump-fake?

People hate being reminded of their mortality or fading youth while they watch sports, which is why it's so great when quarterbacks like Drew Brees continue to excel at age 38. The flip side of that is watching one of the best quarterback draft classes in NFL history dissolve before our eyes this weekend and knowing that we, too, are moments away from shattering our legs because of a slip-and-fall accident at a suburban White Castle.

It's only going to continue. Dak and Wentz are going to open cans on Eli four times a year until Eli's hip gives out. Ben can't even keep things competitive at home with the Jaguars. The Chargers will have to suffer the indignity of losing twice a year to Alex Smith until he leaves Kansas City.

And whether you loathe or love these quarterbacks, you will keep getting getting older too. Sorry.

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