Tough being an NFL quarterback

BILL LANKHOF, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:35 PM ET

TORONTO - Wall Street may be cheering for Ben Roethlisberger but NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and even the Steelers quarterback’s teammates haven’t always been such big fans.

It can be a rough life out there for NFL quarterbacks, from dodging linebackers, court orders and front office machinations.

While Roethlisberger wasn’t feeling the love from his compatriots in black and gold earlier this season, Joe Flacco thinks he’s now getting disrespected in Baltimore. Meanwhile, Indianapolis is awaking to the reality that Peyton Manning is no Superman and Michael Vick is to the Armani-swathed, quarterback fraternity what No Frills is to the green grocers trade.

Being a quarterback in the NFL isn’t always the charmed life it’s cracked up to be.

While there will be much talk this week about Roethlisberger’s rise from the ashes of a four-game suspension for his ungentlemanly conduct in connection with a college student, his was not an isolated incidence of an ego running amok.

Roethlisberger’s teammates declined to say anything supportive of their quarterback when Goodell talked to them while he was deciding how to punish Roethlisberger. “Not one, not a single player, went to his defence,” Goodell told Peter King, of Sports Illustrated. “It wasn’t personal in a sense, but all kinds of stories like, ‘He won’t sign my jersey.’ ”

There were reports Roethlisberger felt he got railroaded on his suspension.

“The one thing I take a little bit of issue with is when guys tell me they’re being screwed,” Goodell said. “(Most often) they’re not recognizing they have a role in it.”

It does seem Roethlisberger, has now recognized he must be responsible for his actions. There has been praise from his teammates and anecdotal evidence that he is more human, likable and worthy of respect as a person as well as an athlete.

Speaking of respect, Flacco isn’t feeling much. “I’m not happy about it, and they know I’m not happy,” Flacco said of the firing of his quarterback coach Jim Zorn. The Ravens won 13 games but Zorn was seen as a renegade within the coaching ranks.

“I felt like I had a pretty good year and you’re firing the quarterback coach? It’s kind of an attack on me,” said Flacco. “I feel that.”

Then there’s Manning, the closest thing to professional infallibility this side of the Vatican. He was getting sideways looks with his lowest passer rating since 2002. He was getting veiled criticism from receiver Reggie Wayne for getting the ball to him only once in the Colts’ playoff exit. “My number wasn’t called the way I wanted ... I was a little upset, basically, because ... we lost.”

Speaking at the Pro Bowl, Wayne told reporters that seeing Manning throw 11 interceptions during a three-game losing streak “was a shock. The main thing we realized, he’s not immortal. He’s real. He’s not a machine. It goes to show you this game is so competitive, even the guys on top can hit a wall somewhere.”

In Philadelphia, Vick not only hit the wall, he spent a couple of years behind them in a prison cell. After a successful comeback, speculation is mounting that Vick will be given the franchise tag. That ties him to the team through 2011 with a salary estimated at about $20 million — the average salary for the five highest-paid quarterbacks in the league.

But two-thirds of that money won’t even be seen by Vick. It will go to taxes and creditors as part of his 2009 bankruptcy agreement.

Vick, on a court-ordered budget, no longer is living the high life when he had five houses, eight or nine cars (even he isn’t sure how many he owned), a couple of pickups, two boats, a horse farm, and investments ranging from a high-end wine shop to a car rental agency.

Instead, he gets $4,250 a month for rent, utilities and miscellaneous living expenses and his car allowance is $472 a month. For once when a player says he’s not doing it for the money, he really isn’t doing it for the money.

His game may be back but not the opulence.

No, when looking for the NFL’s cash cow, the talk has to come back around to Roethlisberger. Nowhere was his victory over the Jets more popular than on Wall Street, which has never had a losing year when the Steelers have been in the championship game.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average has risen an average of 19.5% in the Steelers’ seven Super Bowl years, more than double the Dow’s average annual performance since the game was first played in 1967.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 has delivered similarly stellar results in Steelers’ Super Bowl years, rising an average of 20.9%. So, Ben might not be the people’s quarterback exactly, but he does furnish a whole new definition to the term “money” player.

bill.lankhof@sunmedia.ca


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