I can’t believe I’m asking this question when people were calling for his head in December of 2007.
But for all the criticism, all the negativity, Eli Manning continues to prevail. And in a season where QB 1-a was knocked out for the season in Week One, and QB 1-b has been startlingly inconsistent through the first month of the season, little brother finds himself being talked about amongst the league elite.
Even before his miraculous turnaround in January, Eli Manning had always been a clutch quarterback. But with Manning’s inconsistency through his first three seasons, that stat was commonly ignored.
The fact is that he was at his best when the game was on the line, but it was never acknowledged. All it took was for him to show the largest cable audience in history as he won the Super Bowl in the most dramatic of fashions.
Since that game—since the first meeting against the Patriots—Manning has been on fire. 17 touchdowns and three interceptions in his last nine games, clutch passes galore, and a nice little “10-table ring” to show for it.
Sunday's game against the Seahawks was Eli at his best. He sensed pressure like he never had before, he was putting touch on his passes when he was going deep, and he was leaving vapor trails on the balls he had to fit in tight coverage.
Since he came to New York, he has been a stand-up guy when it comes to the pressure. Never throwing another player under the bus when times were tough, always answering every question politely to the media when his performance was hovering around the depths of hell.
He has been the consummate professional throughout his time with the Giants, which made it surprising that fans around the league were joyous with every one of his failures. From my perspective, he looks like an easy guy to root for.
Sure, Manning isn’t on top of any statistic list. Touchdowns, passing yards, completion percentage, passer rating, you have to scroll down about eight to 10 slots to find his name in those departments.
But if you talk to Giants fans, even ones that still aren’t sold on Eli, they will be hard pressed to find a guy to take over Eli right now. Romo may be the popular choice, but what has he done in his career?
His performances in big spots are iffy, highlighted by his mood swings during crunch time. In the playoffs last year, there were numerous instances where it looked like he was folding, and he was yelling at his line or at his receivers.
Even on Sunday against Cincinnati, Romo’s expressions inspired little confidence. One thing that can be counted on from the Giants, quarterback was the same facial expression. It has been the butt of many jokes for years, but it’s a reflection of coolness and composure on Manning’s part.
No one would be able to tell what the score was if all they saw was Manning’s face. This attitude permeates through the rest of the teammates, and the performance late in games is a reflection of that.
Put together all the factors, and there isn’t one quarterback in the league that would be playing better with the Giants than Eli. Not one.