Ben Roethlisberger, Mark Sanchez, Jay Cutler, Aaron Rodgers.
In an era where success in the NFL has never been more tied to quarterback play, those are your last four quarterbacks standing in the 2011 Playoffs.
Most NFL fans see the elimination and subsequent absence of names like Manning, Brady and Brees -- all thirtysomething icons in the league -- and the rise of this season's quarterback crew as a sign that the torch is being passed, that it's time for a new generation to take over for the next ten years.
They point to Big Ben's 9-2 playoff record and two Super Bowl rings, they point to Sanchez's 4-1 playoff record in his first two seasons, and they point to Cutler and Rodgers finally realizing their monster potential.
Oddly enough, these accomplishments are not at the forefront of my thoughts when I think of these four survivors.
In fact, I look at these four quarterbacks and, for all their lofty draft statuses and on-field accomplishment, I defy you to find a set of four starting quarterbacks in conference title game history in the same season that push the "chach/douche" factor any higher than this quartet, a veritable Mount Douchemore of NFL quarterbacks.
And I defy because I've done the research (like this surprises any of you). Before I allow you a glimpse at what I discovered, how about a chach-nopsis of each of this season's quarterbacks:
BEN ROETHLISBERGER, Pittsburgh Steelers Age: 28 Ht/Wt: 6-5 / 241 LBS Playoff Record: 9-2 (Two Super Bowl rings) Douche-nail Sketch: Followed up his first Super Bowl title with a spectacular, helmetless motorcycle crash in the offseason....has as many accusations of sexual assault against him (documented, at least) as he has Super Bowl rings, one in Lake Tahoe in 2008 and the highly publicized case in Milledgeville, Georgia in 2010....suspended for first six games of 2010 season by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell (eventually reduced to four games for good behavior)....automatic choices that come up when you Google his name: "Ben Roethlisberger broken nose", "Ben Roethlisberger suspended", "Ben Roethlisberger drunk". Strong. Google Image Drunken Shenanigans Factor (1 to 10): 9.8 ...Literally hundreds of pictures available with drunken Ben embracing drunken Co-ed (before attempting drunken assault, allegedly) while wearing his "Drink Like A Champion Today" tee shirt.
MARK SANCHEZ, New York Jets Age: 24 Ht/Wt: 6-2 / 225 LBS Playoff Record: 4-1 Douche-nail Sketch: Unfortunately, unlike Roethlisberger, still needs one Super Bowl ring to be able to match the number of sexual assault accusations on his ledger...has been linked to numerous glitzy and semi-glitzy celebrities, including Jamie Lynn Sigler...did a GQ spread (including shirtless photos, which is to Douche Ratings what 3,000 hits are to Hall of Fame balloting) with Hilary Rhoda. Google Image Drunken Shenanigans Factor: 0.2 ...When you put "Mark Sanchez drunk" into Google Image, it literally turns up zero pictures of Sanchez wasted. Honestly, if you didn't know any better you'd think he were Mormon or played during Prohibition. Only thing keeping it from a 0.0 is the fact that there are actually pictures of Ben Roethlisberger that turn up in the feed, which is very funny. It's like Ben on Google is Kanye West invading Mark Sanchez's Taylor Swift moment.
(NOTE: Clearly, Sanchez is on the Mount Douchemore on the strength of the GQ photos, which are borderline uncomfortable to look at.)
JAY CUTLER, Chicago Bears Age: 27 Ht/Wt: 6-3 / 233 LBS Playoff Record: 1-0 Douche-nail Sketch: Validated the league's worst body language by bitching his way out of Denver after the 2008 season, demanding a trade despite having exactly zero playoff appearances at the time...dating a reality television star, Kristin Cavallari of The Hills. (Any interaction with any facet of reality television may as well be like running a 4.3 forty-yard dash at the douche combine.) Google Image Drunken Shenanigans Factor: 8.6 ....His perpetually pissy look in every picture -- drunk or sober -- put the floor of this category at 7.5. Add to this the plethora of pictures with eyes "passed out" closed, and you get a solid 8.6. Negative points for the intrusion of "drunk Kyle Orton" on the Google feed, plus points for Roethlisberger showing up on the feed (again), though.
AARON RODGERS, Green Bay Packers Age: 27 Ht/Wt: 6-2 / 220 LBS Playoff Record: 2-1 Douche-nail Sketch: The flimsiest douche resume of the four quarterbacks, still manages to represent fairly well in the "significant other" category, being linked to multiple celebrities including Jessica Szohr of Gossip Girl, Hillary Scott of Lady Antebellum, and swimsuit model Julie Hanson. Google Image Drunken Shenanigans Factor: 2.2...Weak crop of pictures, highlighted by Rodgers hitting on what appears to be some sort of Vegas whore in a security camera shot. Again, bonus points because Roethlisberger made it a clean sweep, showing up in drunk pics in each of the other guy's Google Image feeds.
So there you go. Go ahead and look back at the last 25 years, and I defy you to come up with a group of four conference title game quarterbacks in one season who have licked more salt off of co-ed bodies before tequila shots, utilized more hair gel, and smashed more quasi-celebrities, all while making people collectively hate them, than this group.
Now, to be fair to this group of guys, the amount of scrutiny and information to which we have access -- pictures, social media, etc. -- has never been greater. How do we process guys like Jim Kelly, John Elway, or Boomer Esiason when we knew about a hundredth about their private lives back then as we now know about Roethlisanchutleredgers.
So before I go, a couple collections of players that were at least in the Douche/Chach team picture:
2007: Tom Brady, Philip Rivers, Eli Manning, Brett Favre. Brady at the height of his "rock star" status in between the Bridget and Gisele relationships, and a kid being born out of wedlock (BONUS!), Rivers at his trash-talking peak, Eli Manning in full on "deal with the devil" mode, and Brett Favre on the cusp of the first of his twelve retirements.
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1995: Neil O'Donnell, Jim Harbaugh, Troy Aikman, Brett Favre. We start to delve into much more nebulous territory with the internet just beginning to get cranked up in 1995, so we have to play some theater of the mind. O'Donnell had just enough "buffoon" in him to assume he'd have been easy to dislike out at a bar, Harbaugh was a spaz who nearly put Indy on his back to a Super Bowl, Troy Aikman was a pretty-boy Cowboy quarterback (enough said), and Brett Favre was a young gunslinger.
There are a few more quartets that were one player away from being in the discussion (such as 2005 with Big Ben, Jake Plummer and Jake Delhomme bailed out by the vanilla Matt Hasselbeck), but for now we must hail the 2010 season's final four quarterbacks!
Jager bombs for everyone!
Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 The Game from noon to 3 p.m. weekdays and follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.