As recent as 2007, some Giants' fans argued that the trade the Giants made for Eli Manning was foolish. After all, the Chargers got Phillip Rivers and three draft picks, one of which ended up being Shawne Merriman, while New York got a quarterback who looked shaky and error-prone.
Now, just one year later, and Manning has a Super Bowl ring while the Chargers do not. San Diego’s argument that they play in the tougher conference is negated by the fact that the Giants beat the team that the Chargers could not.
Yet concerns remain about Eli. Has he truly turned the corner? Many NFL fans say that his postseason was a fluke, but the stats don’t lie. Eli has quietly turned into a great quarterback, and he became a Super Bowl Champion and MVP in the process.
Here are the six most common myths about Eli. His 2008 season will dispel these myths, and show that he is indeed a legitimately talented NFL quarterback.
Myth: Eli benefited from a great receiving corps.
Fact: That great receiving corps led the NFL in drops last year, with 42. Plaxico Burress, largely believed to be the Giants’ best receiver, was held to two catches for 27 yards in the Super Bowl against the Patriots, and he only had one catch for five yards against the Cowboys in the NFC Divisional Playoffs.
His No. 2 receiver, Amani Toomer, turns 34 this year, while his No. 3 receiver, rookie Steve Smith, was injured for a significant portion of the regular season. Eli also played the entire postseason with a rookie tight end in Kevin Boss after Jeremy Shockey went down.
Despite these deficiencies at wide receiver, Manning found ways of attacking the defense and spreading the ball around without forcing throws. His single postseason interception was largely the fault of receiver Steve Smith, and with the exception of the Green Bay game, in which Burress caught 11 passes, no receiver went for more than seven receptions a game in the postseason.
Myth: The Giants’ postseason victories were all defense.
Fact: There’s no doubt that the Giants’ defense played great throughout the postseason, but every time the Giants’ desperately needed a scoring drive, Eli responded.
He drove down the field not once, but twice against Green Bay in the waning minutes to set up two missed field goals. Of course, there’s also the now legendary last drive of the Super Bowl in which Eli completed five passes for 77 yards and a touchdown.
He also played smart football, turning the ball over only once in the playoffs. He will certainly have to do a better job in the regular season, but Eli made plays and protected the ball when it mattered most.
Myth: Eli benefits from playing on a great team.
Fact: I’ve only actually heard this argument once or twice, but the fact that it’s even out there is puzzling. The Giants had exactly one Pro Bowler in defensive end Osi Umenyiora, and even he was just a reserve.
The secondary was much-maligned and decimated by injuries heading into the playoffs, and at one point, it seemed that the Giants had traded their best available running back in Ryan Grant. With the exceptions of Plaxico Burress and Eli himself, the Giants have no superstars on offense. Michael Strahan is arguably the only superstar on defense.
Myth: Eli is not a great leader.
Fact: Again, I point to Eli’s game-winning drives in the clutch as evidence to the contrary. The Giants also won 11-straight road games, and the team has consistently responded to Eli in the most important situations. By the end of the regular season, Manning had started to show a consistency that he had lacked in previous seasons.
Remember also that Eli managed to win a Super Bowl in only his fourth year in the NFL, beating his older brother by five seasons. In Peyton’s fourth year, the Colts were 6-10, and coach Jim Mora was telling the press not to talk about the playoffs. Eli led his team to victory in the clutch. The truest sign of a good leader.
Myth: Eli throws a wobbly spiral.
Fact: Okay, this one is actually sort of true. Do you know who else throws a wobbly spiral? His brother Peyton, Johnny Unitas, and Joe Montana. So a tight spiral is not everything, otherwise we’d all be singing the praises of Anthony Morelli.
Myth: Eli is the most mediocre Super-Bowl winning QB ever.
Fact: One name, three syllables: Trent Dilfer.