I don’t talk about the NFL much because it’s not my forte. That being said, I am an NFL fan and I enjoy watching the 16 weeks in the regular season and the entirety of the playoffs, including the Super Bowl. We are just over a week removed from a 2008 Super Bowl rematch between the New England Patriots and New York Giants. As we know, the Giants got the better of the Patriots, again. The couple of days after the Super Bowl, there was a lot of talk about Eli Manning being better than his brother, Peyton, and whether Eli is a “lock” for Canton when he retires. I have something to say about this.
Manning is coming off his best season as a quarterback in the NFL. He threw for 4,933 yards, 29 touchdowns and only 16 interceptions (25 last season). He, along with the Giants defense, led the city of New York to their second Super Bowl in the past five seasons. He played stellar in the playoffs and, once again, the Giants proved that if a team gets hot at the right time, they can win the Super Bowl. But now that he has multiple rings, debates are going to start, when the season begins again, on where he ranks among the greatest quarterbacks of all-time.
Before I tell you what I think, let me tell you this: He will never be the quarterback that his brother is/was. Try to look at the numbers and convince me that Eli is even close to Peyton. If Peyton had played with a defense that is as good as New York’s, then we might be talking about Peyton being the greatest, ever.
But let’s get back to the discussion.
When you talk about greatest quarterbacks of all-time, you think of Tom Brady, Brett Favre, Terry Bradshaw, Dan Marino, Joe Montana, Troy Aikman, Steve Young, and John Elway. I am going to exclude Bradshaw from this conversation because he played in a different time. Football was a more run-focused game. In his 14-year career, Bradshaw threw the ball 3,901 times. To put that into perspective, Eli has played eight seasons and has thrown the ball 3,921 times. All of the names above have at least one Super Bowl ring, except Marino but he still deserves to be mentioned.
But this is about Eli.
If you look at his career numbers, you wouldn’t be impressed. In 2010, he was terrible. He threw a league-leading 25 interceptions. But he erased memories from last season with a stellar season that included eight game-winning drives. Although his team finished 9-7, he managed to win the NFC, beat Atlanta, defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay, and San Francisco, before beating New England in the Super Bowl. He won the Super Bowl in the house that his brother built. He beat football immortality (Bill Belilchick). At the start of this season, he was considered an “elite” quarterback and didn’t rank as one of the Top 100 football players in the NFL. He has been booed and scrutinized for his inconsistent play, at times. But more than that, he has been under-appreciated by the New York fans. He started this year’s Super Bowl 9 for 9 with a touchdown to Victor Cruz, giving the Giants an early lead, 9-0.
If I had to rate the current crop of quarterbacks in the NFL, I would rate Eli at the top. I don’t believe quarterbacks should get all the credit if their team wins or all the blame if their team loses, but they do have a big impact on the outcome of the game. I don’t think the Giants win the Super Bowl if their defense didn’t step up in the playoffs. Their pass-rush was unbelievable and the secondary wasn’t that bad either. But I give Eli the majority of the credit for winning the Super Bowl. He went 30-40 for 296 yards, one touchdown and zero interceptions.
But let’s get back to the current crop of quarterbacks.
Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger, Eli and Peyton Manning, and Brady all have won a Super Bowl and all are still currently active. Brees, Rodgers, and Peyton have one Super Bowl, Roethlisberger and Eli have two Super Bowls and Brady has three Super Bowls. So if winning is all a quarterback needs to do, then why do we put guys like Matt Ryan, Tony Romo, Matthew Stafford, Philip Rivers, Joe Flacco, and Michael Vick ahead of Eli? Those quarterbacks have, what; a combined 10 playoff wins between them? And zero Super Bowls. We are so quick to judge quarterbacks, who play in big markets, and we come to the conclusion that if they have a good year then they are a great quarterback, but if they have a bad year then they need to be traded or scrutinized. I can guarantee you that after last season, Giants fans wanted the organization to look for a new quarterback because Eli led the league in interceptions and the Giants had a down year. But what gives them the right to tell Eli to get out-of-town after he had brought them a championship, albeit David Tyree, just four years earlier. I understand that New York is used to being “king”. One of the biggest cities in the world, big businesses, and great sports teams, the “Concrete Jungle”, all that jazz. I get it. But as soon as Eli won his second championship, everyone loves him again. All the analysts talk about how he was under-appreciated and “not respected”. The analysts were the ones not respecting him and since a lot of people watch ESPN and SportsCenter, analysts tend to sway the public’s opinion, even if the public doesn’t want to admit it.
Are you waiting for me to tell you that Eli Manning is an elite quarterback?
He has beaten Rodgers, Favre, and Brady, either on the road or at neutral sites. Those three quarterbacks have won five Super Bowls and six MVP Awards between them. Manning has beaten Brady to win both of his Super Bowls. Manning out-played Brady in both Super Bowls and led his team on two game-winning drives in those Super Bowls.
IF you need any more proof about why Eli is elite, you should probably stop watching football.