I don't usually like anointing anybody. However, when it comes judging who the best quarterback from the 2004 draft class is, Eli Manning has again proven why he deserves the recognition as the class of that draft.
In watching the New York Giants' 21-14 victory over Pittsburgh this afternoon, I saw Manning outplay Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who had trouble staying on his feet while trying to rally his team in the final minutes of regulation.
Manning, on the other hand, calmly marched his club down field in turned out to be the game winning drive when he connected with tight end Kevin Boss on a picture-perfect play action pass from inside the five. That touchdown sealed the win for Manning and the Giants.
It's how Manning performs when the game is on the line that continues to define him as a professional football player and separate him from his contemporaries.
Always calm and composed in the game's most crucial moments, Manning always manages to come up with the big play when his team needs it most.
Nobody will ever forget his performance during the playoffs last year. His improbable throw to David Tyree is forever etched into our minds. His fade to Plaxico Burress clinched the most unlikely of upsets over the undefeated Patriots.
Between Manning, Roethlisberger, and Chargers' quarterback Phillip Rivers, Manning and Big Ben have each won Super Bowls, while Rivers has yet to get his team past those same Pats.
More evidence supporting my argument is the supporting talent each quarterback has to work with.
The Chargers are widely regarded as one the most offensively talented teams, with LaDainian Tomlinson lining up behind Rivers and Antonio Gates as one of the his targets.
Roethlisberger has the steady hands on Hines Ward, along with (when healthy) a very effective combination of running backs in Willie Parker and Mewelde More. He also has a very reliable tight end in Heath Miller.
The Giants supporting cast is good, but Manning makes them better. They won the Super Bowl one season after Tiki Barber retired, and a month after they lost tight end Jeremy Shockey with a broken leg.
This season, despite being without Plaxico Burress physically for one game and mentally for who knows how many plays per game, Manning has the Giants at 6-1, while playing some of his best football as a pro.
For all of his shortcomings and inconsistencies over the course of his early career, Manning has been able to show consistency in winning.
Currently in the middle of his fourth full season, having also started the final seven games of the 2004 season, Manning is 36-20 as a starter, as well as 4-2 in the postseason. He is also a proud owner of a Super Bowl MVP award.
I'll also figure into the equation the immeasurable amount of pressure and criticism Manning was forced to endure throughout his career. He plays in New York and shares the same name with his legendary father and brother.
The spotlight has been shining on the younger Manning since his college days, and only got brighter when he was selected No. 1 overall and traded to New York at his own request.
He has been able to silence those critics and turn himself into the heart of a team and its city, while placing himself among the immortals of the game with his Super Bowl victory.
His value goes beyond his stats, which are rarely among the league leaders. However, it's difficult to measure, statically, how good he is in the fourth quarter of games when his team is tied or losing and in need of a score.
Simply put, it's not about stats or how good he looks when going out and doing what he does best. He just goes out and wins.
While Rivers and Roethlisberger have been successful NFL quarterbacks, with Big Ben even winning a championship, neither of them have that unexplainable intangible that separates the greats from everybody else.
Simply put, when it comes to the quarterbacks from 2004 draft class, one man stands above the rest.
And that "Man(ning)" is Eli.