Eli Manning: It's Time to End the Debate; Eli Is Elite

Benjamin C. Klein@@BenjaminCKleinCorrespondent IAugust 10, 2010

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 27:  Eli Manning #10 of the New York Giants stands on the field  against the Carolina Panthers at Giants Stadium on December 27, 2009 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Nick Laham/Getty Images

Entering his seventh season with the New York Giants it is time to declare that yes, Eli Manning is one of the NFL’s elite quarterbacks. Perhaps no other quarterback in the NFL has inspired such a plethora of diversified opinions over the last seven years.

While some fans and analysts have believed him to be an excellent player in his own right, others maintain that he is average at best. Those contradicting opinions have not changed over the years as many people seem to cling to their original impressions. Well, I am here to say that it is time to put that argument to rest; Eli Manning is an elite quarterback.

Now, my definition of an elite quarterback might differ from that of some people; I don’t care about fantasy football. To me, an elite NFL quarterback is tough, clutch, accurate, with good arm strength, a good leader, and a good teammate who doesn’t turn the ball over. Notice touchdown total and QB rating weren't on the list.

The following are five reasons why I believe Eli Manning to be an elite quarterback along with four counterpoints to arguments that I have heard claiming the opposite. 

Five Reasons Why Eli Is Elite

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1. Eli Manning Is a True Ironman

One of the best compliments you can give an NFL quarterback is that you can depend on him every Sunday—and you know that with Eli Manning.

Entering his seventh season, Eli has the third longest consecutive games played streak of any active NFL quarterback. He is behind only Brett Favre and Peyton Manning with 71 strait consecutive starts, which is already a New York Giants team record.

The reason for those consecutive starts isn’t simply the good luck of not getting injured; it was earned through sheer grit and toughness.

-In a 2005 preseason game against the Carolina Panthers Julius Peppers strip sacked Eli, causing a painful throwing elbow injury.

-In the opening regular season game in 2007, Eli was hit by Anthony Spencer of the Dallas Cowboys and suffered a separated shoulder in his throwing arm. Chris Mortenson of ESPN reported that Eli would miss at least a month, but Eli wouldn't miss a single game at all.

-In a 2008 game against the Cleveland Browns, Eli Manning got body slammed by the gargantuan Shaun Rogers and suffered a chest injury. Eli never even complained.

-And last year, Eli achieved his best statistical season of his career playing through planter fascilitis in his right foot; a condition so painful he couldn’t practice during large chunks of the season and risky enough that he could have suffered a much more serious foot injury playing through it.

2. Eli Manning Has Ice Water In His Veins

I firmly believe that if Eli Manning were told that the world would end if he couldn’t put a football through a tire 50 yards away his response would be a lazy, “Sure, no problem."

Simply put, the man doesn't panic; no moment, player or situation will ever get to Eli. He is unshakable, unflappable, and at times, unstoppable.

And having ice water veins isn’t just about being clutch, its about being able to shake off a bad throw or play. There was a moment in the fourth quarter in the Super Bowl game versus the Patriots that Eli missed a wide open Plaxico Burress on a third down—a play that would have erased any need for dramatic helmet catches.

Most NFL quarterbacks would not be able to put that play in the back of their heads. Not Eli, he probably forgot it all together.

And not only does Eli Manning seem not to mind pressure situations, he actually seems to enjoy them. This first became clear to Eli observers when the Giants played the Chargers in his first year as a starter. Eli put on a show for the same fans and team he had so publicly scorned on draft day.

And to top it all, Eli Manning is in an elite club of active NFL quarterbacks, the 2-minute Super Bowl drive crew. Aside from Eli, Big Ben and Tom Brady are the only other members.

3. Eli Manning Is A Winner

As a full time starter in the NFL, Eli Manning has never had a losing season. That alone would be impressive but the fact that Eli has achieved that in the NFC East makes it even more so.

And I feel safe to say that last season’s lack of a playoff appearance sits squarely on the shoulders of an atrocious Bill Sheridan-coached defense. Entering his seventh season, the Giants have never had a losing season with Eli as the full season starter. And oh yeah, he won the Super Bowl in 2007.

And the fact that he has never missed a game in that stretch and plays the most important position would seem to indicate that Eli has had a lot to do with the Giants' success.

At the end of the day the only stat that matters when evaluating a quarterback is wins and losses, team successes and team failures.

4. Eli Manning Turned A Green Receiving Core Into One Of The League’s Best

This time last season the hype on the Giants team was that the receivers, without Plaxico Burress and Amani Toomer, would be the team’s weak point while the team’s defense, led by the return of Osi Umenyiora and signing of Chris Canty, would be the team’s strength.


Eli took a receiving core where not one of his top three receivers was older than 25 and made them into one of the most productive in the NFL. Steve Smith busted out with 1220 yards and seven touchdowns, Mario Manningham went from nowhere to 822 yards and five touchdowns, and rookie Hakeem Nicks wowed the world with 790 yards and six touchdowns.

Going into last season, people thought Eli would struggle without Plax, to say nothing of the opinions of the wide receiver core itself. This season, many pundits believe the Giants wide receiver core to be one of the deepest and most talented in the NFL.

Meanwhile, the defense obviously tanked, and heading into this season they are the unit with something to prove.


5. Eli Manning Has Unique Responsibilities In Today’s NFL

Eli Manning not only has the ability to call an audible at the line of scrimmage, but also the ability to manipulate both the run and pass protections and call his own hot routes. In terms of responsibilities in an offense, only his brother Peyton has more in today’s NFL.

Eli has the rare responsibility in the NFL of having multiple audible options every single play. Most NFL offenses only give their quarterback one audible to which they can change the play called at the huddle. If it’s a run, they can call to pass or the other way around.

And many head coaches don’t believe in audibles. Gary Kubiak of the Houston Texans is notorious for not believing in them, instead believing in running the play called at the huddle regardless of defensive formation. And protection calls are almost universally made by the center.

Eli doesn’t have the responsibility of calling his own plays like his brother does. However he does have an almost endless ability to manipulate a called play along with a greater number of audibles that is currently given to other NFL quarterbacks.

Four Counterpoints To Common Anti-Eli Arguments

A. Eli Is An Inconsistent Turnover Machine.

Now this was true of Eli the first few years of his career. One week he would have four touchdowns and the next week he would throw so many ducks you felt like you were playing old school Nintendo.

But those are problems of the past because starting with Eli’s incredible Super Bowl run, he has thrown only thrown 27 picks since the beginning of the 2007 postseason and has become much more consistent as a quarterback.

For comparisons sake, in that same period of time Phillips Rivers has thrown 28 picks and Ben Roethlisberger has thrown 31 interceptions. And in fairness to Rivers, two of his picks came in last season’s postseason; a postseason that did not include Big Ben or Eli.


B. Eli Was Only Great Because Of Plaxico Burress.

This can now be put to rest because Eli has had his best statistical season of his professional life without Plaxico. Now while I was a big fan of Plaxico’s talent it was no shock to me that Manning’s interception numbers went down without Plax.

Plax’s effort ran very hot and cold, and a lot of balls that became interceptions were because Plax ran the wrong route or gave up on a pass. But don't just take my word for it, ask Pac-Man Jones or Champ Bailey.

Anyone who has watched Giants’ games or ran analysis of Giants’ game film saw that towards the end of last season Eli trusted a bunch of receivers under the age of 25 more than he ever trusted Plax.

Now, I have to say that Plax was a great player who was integral to the Giants Super Bowl. But while a great player Plax was flat out unreliable on and off the field. The self-infliced gunshot to the thigh proved that.


C. Eli Manning Is Not, And Will Never Be An Elite Statistical Quarterback.

This is true, but only because of the style of offense the Giants play and because they play in the NFC East. And remember, this is the NFL— not the Fantasy Football League; the only stat that defines a quarterback is wins and losses.

Also, unlike Aaron Rodgers or Phillip Rivers who play in pass happy offenses against weak divisional defenses, Eli plays in a run first offense against the defenses of the NFC East. If Eli got to play against the Raiders, Lions, Chiefs or Bears twice a year his stats would be a little bit more inflated too.

That is not to say Rivers and Rodgers aren’t great players, but Eli plays tough divisional teams in a restrictive offensive style, which is something that Rivers or Rodgers do not have to worry much about.

So yes, Eli Manning is not a great quarterback when you look through the prism of fantasy football, but remember that it is exactly that—a fantasy.

D. Eli Was Only Drafted First Overall Because His Last Name Is Manning.

Eli Manning took the Ole Miss Rebels to a BCS Bowl game with no legitimate NFL talent surrounding him in while playing in the SEC.

Meanwhile “wunderkind” Jay Cutler with similar surrounding talent at Vanderbilt never even posted a winning season during his time in the SEC. Eli deserved to be the number 1 pick in the 2004 NFL whether his last name was Manning or Smith.

People need to realize that Eli, being Peyton’s brother, does not make the media or people like myself easier on him; if anything it makes us all harder on him.

The Conclusion 

Eli Manning has never had a losing season as a starting quarterback, has excellent arm strength, has never missed a game, has been to the Pro Bowl, has a Super Bowl MVP trophy and ring, and is considered one of the best clutch quarterbacks in the game.

He also turned what people thought was one of the rawest wide receiver cores in the league into what people now think is one of the best WR cores in the league, and has more responsibilities at the line of scrimmage than any NFL quarterback aside from his brother. He is elite.

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