Eli, Meet Daunte Culpepper

Jason McGovern@maccgizzleCorrespondent IApril 15, 2009

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - JANUARY 11:  Eli Manning #10 of the New York Giants walks off the field after losing to the Philadelphia Eagles during the NFC Divisional Playoff Game on January 11, 2009 at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.The Eagles won the game by a score of 23-11.  (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

During the past four years, Eli Manning has had one thing in common with most NFL greats who ever played the position—a go-to receiver. The key word there is had.

All the greats had one. Montana to Rice, Young to Rice, Bradshaw to Stallworth/Swann, Aikman to Irvin, Peyton to Marvin/Reggie—I could go on. Very few quarterbacks have endured a lot of success targeting a cast of revolving receivers.

Until recently, Tom Brady would have qualified for that category, as well as Donovan McNabb, who will probably retire having lacked that dominant presence on the outside for all but one of his years in midnight green.

Charles Johnson, Torrence Small, Todd Pinkston, James Thrash, Reggie Brown, and Kevin Curtis have never kept a defensive coordinator up all night scheming.

Much like Daunte Culpepper early in his purple pride career, Eli has made a living throwing it up for grabs to his super-studded go-to wide-out.

Make no mistake, Plaxico is no Randy Moss, but he was every bit the safety net for Manning that Moss was for Culpepper.

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During Culpepper's first five years as a starter, he threw for 129 touchdowns and just 74 interceptions while averaging over 3,700 yards passing per season. Since then, he has played for four different teams, never having tossed more than six touchdowns in a season, nor eclipsing even 1,600 yards passing in any of those unmemorable years.

Two things happened to Daunte between those two distinct periods of his career.

One, he tore his ACL.

Two, he lost his safety net.

I argue that even without the unfortunate knee injury, Culpepper's career path would have still taken the dreadful J-curve. Prior to the shot to his leg that ended his season in 2005, Culpepper had thrown just six touchdowns to 12 interceptions in his first seven games without No. 84.

He looked as confused as Linus without his baby blue blanket.

Ironically, it was also a shot to the leg that now has Eli looking down the same path as Culpepper.

Last season, during Eli's first six games without his 6'5" safety blanket, the Giants lost four times and got bounced from the postseason in their first playoff game after securing home-field advantage with a 12-4 record.

In Plaxico's final four games on the field, the G-men scored 30 or more points every time, and against some not too shabby defenses either, including Baltimore and Philadelphia.

Eli's touchdown to interception ratio with Plaxico was 18:7 in 2008. After Burress' departure, that ratio see-sawed to an unimpressive 3:7 ratio in six games, including their home playoff loss to the Eagles.

In all but one of those six games, Eli failed to even reach the 200-yard plateau. Additionally, in three of those games he was unable to even throw a single touchdown—losing all three. In his final five games, we saw him complete just 54 percent of his attempts, often looking like the rookie he was in 2004, prior to acquiring the towering No. 17.

With Spagnola off to the Gateway City, the triple headed running attack reduced to two, and Eli looking like, well—Eli, it wouldn't shock me if the Giants were this year's version of last year's Cleveland Browns.

An overhyped team with an overrated quarterback in a very tough division. When they finish third in the division, remember, you heard it here first.

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