These criticisms are valid. The freshest memory of Eli on the field is not him guiding the Giants to an improbable Super Bowl championship, but his shoulders slouched in the fourth quarter of a lame playoff game against the Eagles to cap off an even lamer stretch run.
There's no doubt this ended the Super Bowl honeymoon period that Eli earned through the Giants epic playoff performance that is now two years in the past. Now, Giants fans are hungrier then ever when they look at a team that is extremely well-rounded, and could easily be ranked top five on each side of the ball by year's end.
Onus, thy name is Manning.
Before the pressure cooker even heated up, the Giants decided to grant Manning a loaded extension that will allow Manning to receive up to $97.5 million from 2010-2015. This has provoked the question: why is Manning becoming the richest quarterback in the league when his career has been defined by inconsistency?
Because he knows how to win.
Courtesy of fantasy football and advances in resources, analyzing an NFL player has become a statistics-driven art. And when one identifies Eli Manning and his meager 76.1 career passer rating, there is no inclination to label him a top five (or even top 10) quarterback. 55.1 percent career completion percentage? Let's face it, not many would sign up for that.
Except, of course, the Giants.
Despite his inconsistencies, they know there are plenty of other quarterbacks that would deter them from hoisting the Lombardi at the end of the year, which is the only true goal for an NFL franchise.
An argument could be justified that one would be most inclined to take Eli over all of the other quarterbacks. McNabb has been one of the best quarterbacks in the league the last ten seasons and is a borderline Hall-of-Famer. But he also appears to be troubled by pressure situations, and has been plagued by injuries. Due to his ability to stay healthy and poised in all situations, some teams may be prepared to take Manning over McNabb.
Romo is a fantasy football dream, but until he produces in December and January, he's simply a tease.
Phillip Rivers has been terrific the last couple of seasons, but in 2006 he blew his chance with an absolutely loaded Chargers team that went 14-2 in the regular season and lost in the divisional round against New England.
Additionally, since we're comparing him to a guy who plays in New York, his passes that have the hang time of a punt would not cut through the wind of the Meadowlands as they do in the crisp San Diego air. And to put it vaguely, it would be interesting to see how he and the New York media would get along.
Carson Palmer burst onto the scene in 2005, but what have he and the Bengals done since?
Jay Cutler has an arm that makes scouts salivate, but his career record is below .500. What good are his perfectly placed bombs if his team doesn't win?
Matt Ryan is on a remarkably rapid pace to blast his way into class A. But right now, with only 16 regular season games on his resume, it would be tough to take him over a Super Bowl winning quarterback. The same goes for Aaron Rodgers, who had an impressive first season.
Lastly, there's Ben Roethlisberger. Although his performance in his first Super Bowl was dreadful, Roethlisberger vindicated himself by leading an amazing drive to bring home the Steelers sixth Super Bowl championship. The man knows how to win, and that's why a vast majority of the league would love to have him leading their team.
The only real issue with Ben is injuries. He rarely misses time on the field, which further proves his indisputable toughness, but these injuries may hurt him down the road. It's feasible that Manning's career will last four of five more years than Ben, which could yield the Giants at least one extra championship.
What does this prove? That there are reasonable complaints with every quarterback not named Brady, Brees, or Peyton. Eli has a considerable amount of flaws, but his track record proves he knows how to get it done.
He and his brother are the only two quarterbacks in the league to have their team in the playoffs in each of the last four seasons.
If you ask any coach in the league what they would rather have, a trophy-armed quarterback that dwindles when it matters most, or a mild-mannered quarterback whose performance in most games are merely "decent," but manages to step up his game in dire situations, the coach would immediately point to the latter quarterback.
And Eli is the latter.
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