“Beautiful as an Eli Manning pass.”
Those are the lyrics from acclaimed rap artist The Game featured in the song “Touchdown”. If ever I were to write a song about the young Manning, it would surely be titled “Misunderstood.”
Unfortunately, both Little Wayne and Bon Jovi beat me to the punch.
Since his arrival in New York, Eli Manning has been one of the most intriguing (if nothing else) figures in all of sports. The younger brother of all-world quarterback Peyton Manning, and son of southern legend Archie Manning, Eli entered the league with much to live up to.
The expectations surrounding Manning were largely due to the stigma that comes from being the first overall pick in the draft.
After leading his team to the playoffs four straight years, winning one Super Bowl, and commanding the NFL’s highest scoring offense for the better part of the 2008 season, the debate as to Eli’s stature as an NFL quarterback rages on.
It is in my belief that a large part of the hostility towards Eli on behalf of Giants fans is a product of Eli’s personality. Each and every press conference, Eli responds to questions by saying “I just need to make better decisions.”
People like closure. People want to hear him acknowledge that his performance against Philadelphia was horrid, but that just isn’t Eli’s personality. This friction that Eli generates with the media and New Yorkers often causes him to be the target of their ire.
Every single football fan in America, not just Giants fans, know Eli’s dumb puppy-dog expression as he walks off the field following an interception.
Three of the four times that The Giants have been to the playoffs with Eli Manning they were bounced without winning a game, and fans say “Eli has been one and done three times.”
People are determined to make Eli the scapegoat so much so, that I have heard that “The Giants won it all In spite of Eli” or “David Carr Could have led the Giants to the record they had last year”.
Such notions are utterly ridiculous and are surely rooted in the fact that people just don’t understand Eli as a person.
Understanding why someone behaves the way they do goes a long way in terms of how you perceive them, and I can’t name one person who understands Eli Manning.
When I hear disparaging comments about Eli, it isn’t exactly like he has all-world stats to formulate an argument around in order to counter what people say about him. Which brings me to my point: when judging Eli Manning as a quarterback, the most important factor is perspective.
For Example (for all you stat people out there):
- Drew Brees’ Quarterback rating on the road (or outdoors where Eli plays every game) is an 80.3, worse than Kyle Orton, John Kitna, and Jason Campbell. Eli’s is an 86.5.
- Eli has lost in the playoffs three times, whereas Peyton has lost six times (at least 4 of which were one and done as well)
- Eli’s career passer rating is a 76.1. Joe Namath’s is a 65.5, Terry Bradshaw’s a 70.9, Troy Aikman’s an 81.6, and John Elway’s a 79.9. The latter group is considered some of the greatest of all time, while Eli draws comparisons to Dave Brown.
- Eli has engineered 18 fourth-quarter comebacks in his career, doubling the rate of the all time leader Brett Favre.
Probably the most important thing to consider when judging Eli is the events which have transpired around him over the course of his career. It all started with a punk tight end who wore No. 80 (who shall remain nameless) who undermined Eli game in and game out, chewing his ear off on the sidelines.
Then, the year of the venerable one: Tiki. The list of things he said about Eli and the team goes on. Most recently, the receiver half of the most dynamic quarterback-receiver tandem in the league (since 2005) shot himself in the leg. Eli has also has seen the firing of one offensive coordinator.
On the other hand, Peyton Manning now has nine first round draft picks at his disposal on his offense. Tom Brady? One of the greatest coaches of all time, as well as one of the greatest receivers (granted he didn’t always have Moss but as Brady achieved all-world status he did).
Eli? The only first round pick on his offense right now is Hakeem Nicks.
Simply put, there is zero stability surrounding Eli.
Turmoil, lack of stability, whatever you want to call it. In the midst of it, Eli has led the Giants to the playoffs 4 straight times.
The the locker room personalities, the New York media, and the stardom, none of it bother Eli Manning. And to think people take issue with “Easy E’s” demeanor. He’s just a regular guy who goes to work, and yet for some reason that isn't okay.
Maybe the key to Tom Brady’s popularity is his affinity for Victoria Secret models, because Eli went toe to toe with him in the Superbowl and “It was all the defense”.
Be careful what you wish for Giant fans. You want colorful personalities?
You can have Chad Johnson, Ryan Leaf, or Brett Favre maybe. Farve’s got some personality alright. Its so great that even he can’t imagine the world of football without it.
In the end, Tom Brady is over 30 with a serious knee issue, Brees is inept outdoors, been hurt, and isn’t clutch at all. Peyton is also on the wrong side of 30.
That said, if I had to start a team right now and I could pick any quarterback, it would probably be Eli. Hes young, healthy, clutch, and he has shown that he can go all the way.
Things have never looked better for Eli. He has finally gotten his No. 1 and one a targets for the rest of his career in Hakeem Nicks and Ramses Barden, and he is entering the prime of his career at the age of 28.
Here's to Eli’s best season as a pro.
As for my fellow Giant fans, if you don’t like this, then don the hat of a different team for all I care.
I'm a fan of The New York Giants, and I'm a fan of Eli Manning.