New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning declared today that he is in the same class as New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, three-time Super Bowl winner, two-time Super Bowl MVP and two-time NFL MVP.
No Eli, just no.
Maybe the Giants quarterback accidentally confused himself with his superstar older brother, Indianapolis Cols quarterback Peyton Manning, but I doubt it.
More likely, it is one of those cases where a good player thinks of himself as a great player.
Listen, Eli is a quality NFL quarterback. He was the MVP of Super Bowl XLII, a game in which the Giants defeated Brady's undefeated Patriots thanks in large part to the greatest (and luckiest) play of Eli's life. He's thrown for over 4,000 yards the past two seasons, and has been one of the better quarterbacks in the NFC over the past half-decade.
But the same class as Tom Brady?
Sorry Eli, you're not even close.
First, let's clarify who exactly is in Tom Brady's class. It's not going to be hard to decide who makes the cut, because there really is only one other player who compares, and that is Peyton Manning.
Manning and Brady have been considered the cut and dry best two players in the NFL since 2007, forget quarterbacks. Of course, Brady had his injury in 2008, and there have been a few guys who have elevated for a short period into their elite group. New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees joined the club briefly in 2009. In 2010, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick both made the jump.
However, taken as a whole, the last four seasons have belonged to Tom and Peyton.
Eli belongs in the third group of quarterbacks, which is by no means an insult to his accomplishments. Placing him with Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (who may even be in the above group), Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan and Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, is actually a compliment.
Consider this: in NFL Network's voting for the Top-100 NFL players, Eli is the only player I've mentioned who didn't make the cut, fans' vote included. Even more embarrassing, quarterbacks Donovan McNabb (Minnesota Vikings), Joe Flacco (Baltimore Ravens) and Josh Freeman (Tampa Bay Buccaneers) were all voted ahead of him.
So no, I am not "underrating" Eli.
He has a Super Bowl ring. True. However, to place himself in the same class as Tom Brady is totally ludicrous.
You want statistical proof as well?
OK, happy to go there.
Since 2007 (keep in mind that Tom missed all of 2008 with a torn ACL):
Tom Brady: 114 passing touchdowns, 25 interceptions, 66.8 completion percentage, QB Rating over 100 twice
Eli Manning: 102 passing touchdowns, 69 interceptions, 60.4 completion percentage, QB Rating over 90 once
So to clear things up, in three seasons (and one quarter), Tom had 12 more touchdowns than Eli. In 2010 alone, Eli had the same amount of interceptions as Tom had in the past four years. Out of three full seasons, Tom surpassed the coveted 100 for QB Rating twice, while Eli only managed to surpass 90 once.
Like I said, not even close.
I would like to finish off with one last point. Eli continued his interview by saying this:
"Tom Brady is a great quarterback, he's a great player and what you've seen with him is he's gotten better every year. He started off winning championships and I think he's a better quarterback now than what he was, in all honesty, when he was winning those championships."
"I think now he's grown up and gotten better every year and that's what I'm trying to do. I kind of hope these next seven years of my quarterback days are my best."
So it isn't like Eli doesn't realize No. 12's greatness. He does. He also realizes the ridiculous amount of hard work Tom put in to get to this point, and remarks that he plans on working that hard and developing like Tom did.
If he does put in the requisite work, and he does continue to get better, there is no denying that Eli Manning could be the next Tom Brady.
It's just that as of right now, it isn't even close.