QB Eli Manning was a surprising addition to the 2013 Pro Bowl roster.
However, after a somewhat disappointing season, does the Big Apple’s top passer really belong in professional football paradise?
Manning was named the second alternate at NFC quarterback when the results of the Pro Bowl voting were first released in late December. New Orleans’ Drew Brees, the first alternate, was bumped up on Jan. 9 when Washington Redskins rookie Robert Griffin III was declared out with a knee injury.
So when Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rogers announced earlier this week that he would not be participating in the Pro Bowl (injuries to “multiple lower extremities”), Manning was added to the roster.
Manning also made the Pro Bowl following the 2008 and 2011 seasons, but the third trip of his career feels a little different than the previous two. Statistically, New York’s signal-caller suffered an obvious drop-off in 2012.
He fell almost 1,000 yards shy of his yardage total from a season ago of 4,933, which was a career best. And the gap between his touchdown and interception totals was just a bit slimmer in 2012 (26,15) than it was during the Super Bowl season the year before (29,16).
Some may consider the inflated statistics from the 2011 season to be an anomaly, attributing them to a one-dimensional offense that relied almost strictly on Manning's passing. In 2012, the Giants featured a much more balanced offensive attack, rushing for 116.4 yards per game as opposed to the 89.2 clip they managed the season before.
But although Manning was throwing more in 2011, the statistics show that he was also throwing better.
The last time Manning made the Pro Bowl, he was completing passes at a rate of 61.0 percent. He was also averaging 8.38 yards per attempt, which was by far the highest average of his career.
This past season, Manning completed only 59.9 percent of his passes, failing to break 60 percent for the first time since 2007 when he was still a wildly inaccurate quarterback. His yards per attempt average was 7.37, the lowest since 2008 when he averaged only 6.76.
Still, in spite of those statistics, some will argue that Manning’s performance was not to blame for any of the Giants’ seven losses in 2012—and I would agree—however, a great quarterback, one worthy of the Pro Bowl, gets his team to play above expectations.
Both the 2011 and 2012 Giants may have ended the regular season with identical 9-7 records, but one team exceeded expectations while the other failed to meet them.
Once again, the truth is in the numbers.
Does Eli Manning deserve to be in the Pro Bowl?
In 2011, Manning led the Giants on seven fourth-quarter comebacks and engineered eight game-winning drives. His team rode that magic all the way to an unlikely Super Bowl victory, the fourth in franchise history and second under Manning's leadership.
A year later, some of that magic had clearly dissipated, as Manning mustered only three fourth-quarter comebacks and three game-winning drives. As defending Super Bowl champs, Manning’s squad failed to live up to its title.
Not all was bad for Manning in 2012. He was sacked only 19 times, the fewest of any 16-game starter, and in no way is that an indication of the protection he was receiving. Behind a ragtag offensive line and in front of inexperienced backs (except Ahmad Bradshaw), Manning displayed an adept ability to get the ball out just in the nick of time.
In addition, Manning posted a passer rating—a statistic that is nearly as meaningless as a Pro Bowl appearance has become—of 87.2, which is third-best of his career. His Total Quarterback Rating, a statistic developed by ESPN in 2008, was 67.39 in 2012, exactly eight points higher than his 2011 rating.