Eli Manning: Where Giants QB Ranks Among Best 4th Quarter QBs in NFL History

Doug Rush@Doug_RushSenior Analyst IOctober 22, 2012

Eli Manning: Where Giants QB Ranks Among Best 4th Quarter QBs in NFL History

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    On Sunday, Eli Manning etched another chapter into his already historic career.

    The 31-year-old Giants quarterback led the team on another game-winning drive and a fourth quarter comeback by throwing a 77-yard touchdown pass to Victor Cruz—a TD pass that gave the Giants a 27-23 victory over the Washington Redskins.

    Ever since Super Bowl XLII, we've all debated about how clutch Manning is when the game means the most.

    Ever since Manning led the Giants down the field against the Patriots and won his first Super Bowl with the Giants back in February of 2008, he's earned the reputation of being perhaps the most clutch quarterback in the league.

    Some have even gone as far as saying he may be the most clutch quarterback in the league right now.

    Where does the Giants quarterback rank among the other best forth-quarter quarterbacks in NFL history?

    Let's take a look and break down the candidates.

Peyton Manning

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    When you talk about one of the best to ever play in the NFL, you have to include Peyton Manning in the discussion.

    In his 14-year career, Peyton Manning has 37 career fourth-quarter comebacks and is the active leader on this list.

    Two of these comebacks have come during his first year with the Denver Broncos.

    We all saw last week when the Broncos were trailing the Chargers 24-0 at halftime, and then Manning led the comeback and defeated the Chargers 35-24.

    In the playoffs, one of his best performances was leading the Indianapolis Colts back in the fourth quarter in the 2006 AFC Championship Game. The Colts were trailing the Patriots 17-6 at halftime, and Manning led a 17-point comeback to beat the Patriots and earn a trip to Super Bowl XLI against the Chicago Bears.

    That win helped Manning lose the "choke-artist" label, especially after he lead the Colts to the Super Bowl XLI victory over Chicago in February of 2007.

Brett Favre

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    Whether you love him or you hate him, you have to respect what Brett Favre was as a quarterback.

    In his career, Favre had 30 fourth-quarter comebacks with the Packers, Jets and Vikings, most of which came while he was with the Packers.

    Favre had the gunslinger mentality when he played, and sometimes it did cost him with really bad interceptions.

    For instance, against the Eagles in the 2004 NFC Divisional Round, Favre was picked off by Brian Dawkins in overtime—a pick that set up the Eagles winning the game on a field goal.

    But then there are games like the 1993 Wild Card, where Favre threw a touchdown pass to Sterling Sharpe with 55 seconds left in the game, which gave Green Bay a 28-24 victory over the Detroit Lions.

    People knew that as long as Favre had the ball in his hands, his team always had a chance to come back and win the game.

Tom Brady

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    Some people love Tom Brady, others hate him.

    He's still one of the NFL's very best, and he has a history of leading the Patriots in the fourth quarter.

    In his career, Brady has 25 career fourth-quarter comebacks and counting.

    He established a reputation for being a clutch quarterback in the very first Super Bowl he ever played in back in February of 2002.

    In Super Bowl XXXVI against the St. Louis Rams, the Rams had just tied the game on a touchdown pass from Kurt Warner to Ricky Proehl, making it 17-17.

    All Brady did was march the Patriots down the field and get them into field-goal range, setting up the game-winning 48-yard field goal by Adam Vinatieri. The Patriots won 20-17.

    Two years later, in Super Bowl XXXVIII, Brady did it again against the Carolina Panthers.

    The game was tied 29-29, and Brady led another game-winning drive, getting New England down the field into field-goal range for Vinatieri to kick a game-winning 41-yard game winner. The Patriots won 32-29.

    Brady won Super Bowl MVP in both games and cemented his legacy in the NFL early on in his career.

Dan Marino

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    Dan Marino may be the best quarterback to ever play in the NFL who never won a Super Bowl.

    Some have even said that Marino may have been the best ever. He's definitely in the discussion.

    In his career, Marino had 36 career fourth-quarter comebacks.

    One that sticks out in my mind was back on November 27, 1994 at the Meadowlands between the Jets and Dolphins.

    The Dolphins were trailing 24-14 heading into the fourth quarter, but Marino torched the Jets defense by throwing two touchdown passes.

    The first one was a 28-yard touchdown pass to Mark Ingram that made the score 24-21.

    The second one is more famous. Marino was leading Miami down the field again, and time was running out. Instead of spiking the ball to stop the clock, Marino faked spiking the ball and threw an eight-yard touchdown pass to Ingram that put Miami ahead 28-24.

    Many Jet fans still remember that game and only talk about it with horror.

    Marino's final win of his career with the Dolphins was a fourth-quarter comeback—a 20-17 victory in the 1999 AFC Wild Card game over the Seattle Seahawks.

John Elway

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    Before becoming the team's executive, John Elway was one of the NFL's very best and most elite.

    In his 16-year career, Elway engineered 35 fourth-quarter comeback victories.

    Don't bring up "The Drive" if you are ever in the Cleveland area because that one has Elway's fingerprints all over it.

    The Browns were leading the 1986 AFC Championship Game 20-13 over Denver and were looking to get to their first Super Bowl.

    Elway got the ball on the two-yard line and drove the length of the field, going 98 yards in five minutes. He threw a five-yard touchdown pass to Mark Jackson, tying the game at 20-20. The Broncos won the game on an overtime field goal and moved on to play in Super Bowl XXI.

    Leading up to Super Bowl XXXII, Elway was 0-3 in Super Bowls.

    Then, in January of 1997, Elway led another fourth-quarter comeback against the Green Bay Packers, leading Denver down the field and taking the lead when Terrell Davis scored on a one-yard touchdown, which gave the Broncos a 31-24 victory and Elway's first ever championship.

    Elway won one more Super Bowl the next year before retiring.

Joe Montana

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    To me, Joe Montana is the greatest quarterback to ever play in the NFL.

    I know it's debatable, and it's a debate people have had for many years.

    When it came to getting clutch wins, Montana made a career out of it.

    Montana had 31 career fourth-quarter comebacks, and many of them came in the playoffs.

    In the 1981 NFC Championship Game between the 49ers and Cowboys, "The Catch" became a play people talked about for years. Montana threw a six-yard touchdown pass to Dwight Clark in the back of the end zone that put San Francisco ahead 28-27.

    The final of four Super Bowls that Montana won with the 49ers was in January of 1989 in Super Bowl XXIII against the Cincinnati Bengals.

    The 49ers were trailing 16-13 with 3:20 left in the game and had 92 yards to go. Montana drove the length of the field and threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to John Taylor with 34 seconds left to gave the 49ers a 20-16 victory.

    In his prime, Montana was the king of the fourth quarter.

Eli Manning

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    Just mentioning Eli Manning with this group means that he has accomplished a lot so far.

    In his nine-year career, Manning has 22 fourth-quarter comeback victories for the Giants.

    The two that will be remembered by football fans everywhere are the Super Bowl comebacks.

    His first was in Super Bowl XLII against the New England Patriots in February of 2008.

    Down 14-10 against an 18-0 team with less than three minutes remaining, Manning led the Giants down the field and threw the 13-yard game-winning touchdown pass to Plaxico Burress with 39 seconds left, giving the Giants a 17-14 victory.

    His second was four years later in Super Bowl XLVI against the very same Patriots.

    Trailing 17-15 with less than four minutes to go, Manning again drove down the field, and the Giants scored on a six-yard touchdown run by Ahmad Bradshaw that gave the Giants a 21-17 victory.

    In each of the Super Bowls, Manning won the MVP Award.

Where Does Eli Rank Among the Greats?

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    We are talking about a who's who list of great NFL quarterbacks, both past and present, who have done so much for their teams and have won a lot of important games.

    Here's how I rank them:

    1. Joe Montana

    2. John Elway

    3. Dan Marino

    4. Eli Manning

    5. Tom Brady

    6. Peyton Manning

    7. Brett Favre

    Now, before you all decide to bash this list and tear it apart, remember that this is not a list of best quarterbacks ever. This is a list for fourth-quarter comebacks among NFL quarterbacks.

    I decided to put Eli Manning above Tom Brady because he has beaten him twice head-to-head in Super Bowls, and I put him over his brother because of how Eli won his Super Bowl victories over Peyton's one.

    It's not a knock on Brady or Peyton that I put Eli higher than them on the list. But if you look at the way his career is going, Eli may end up with the most fourth-quarter comeback victories in NFL history.

    His brother holds the current title, but I think that when he is done playing, Eli may end up with the most.

    But right now, if I had to choose one quarterback in the NFL to have the ball in his hands with two minutes to go, down four points, looking for a touchdown, I'd want Eli Manning to have the ball.

    And on this past Sunday against the Redskins, Eli showed the world just why he is every bit of the meaning of the word clutch.