As I have explained in previous articles, I am a die-hard fan of the New York Giants. As a fan, I admittedly wear my blinders frequently for Big Blue despite my best efforts to remain objective, but, it drives me absolutely bonkers when I have to listen to pundits put down or disrespect Eli Manning, especially when they use misleading statistics to prove their points. It has gotten so bad that I have not even watched the NFL Network’s Top 100 Players of 2013 countdown this year because I knew that Manning would drop in the rankings (which he did) for committing the sin of not being able to duplicate his 2011 season in 2012.
In order to examine why there is such blatant disrespect for Manning, we need to go back to the beginning. First, many thought that the only reason why he was rated so highly coming out of college was because of his last name. Never did it cross any of these analysts’ minds that, like many things in life, having a famous father and brother might be a “double-edged sword.” It carries with it a burden that not many of us can understand. Second, by announcing before the draft that he would not play for the San Diego Chargers who held the #1 pick that year, many felt that he was acting like a brat for essentially choosing where he wanted to play.
Just because I am a Giants fan does not mean that I cannot be objective however. Eli Manning’s first four years in the NFL were very rocky to say the least, but something seemed to click for him in the 2007 season finale against the 15-0 New England Patriots when Manning was 22-32 for 251 yards with 4 touchdown passes and 1 interception. Yes, the Giants lost that game 38-35, but Manning played brilliantly that day and it carried over into the 2007 postseason all the way to Super Bowl XLII and a rematch with the 18-0 Patriots. I won’t go into too much detail about that game because we all know how it ended, but further disrespect of Manning was spewed by several people regarding how lucky he was on that final drive, specifically about the pass to David Tyree. I had to hear about how Manning just “heaved” the ball downfield and how Tyree made a lucky catch. First of all, Manning showed tremendous athleticism by being able to avoid what looked like a certain sack. Second, if you actually watch the play, Manning throws the ball to a wide receiver who is one-on-one with a safety, which most offensive coordinators would deem to be a good decision. It only looked like Tyree was quadruple-teamed after he fell to the ground with the ball. Lastly, and most importantly, what gets easily forgotten is the fact that the Giants were playing a team that was 18-0! Pulling out a win over a team as impressive as the Patriots were that season was not going to be easy.
To be fair, not everyone was disrespecting Manning after the huge upset win in Super Bowl XLII and in 2008, it was widely acknowledged that Manning was a top-notch quarterback. Even after the Giants loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in the 2008 playoffs, Manning was getting these accolades as it was generally understood that Plaxico Burress’ stupidity cost the Giants a chance at a repeat. In 2009, the Giants went 8-8 and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2004, but Manning might have had his best year when he finished with a quarterback rating of 93.1 which remains his best in a single season. But then 2010 came.
The most glaring example of the blatant disrespect that Manning has received over the years is when Manning’s 2010 season was being dissected during the NFL Network’s first ever top 100 countdown in 2011. Manning did not make it on this list and the biggest reason for the omission appeared to have been because he had thrown 25 interceptions in 2010. The fact that he completed 62.9% of his passes for 4,002 yards (5th in the league) and 31 touchdowns (4th in the league) seemed to have gone overlooked.
My main issue with the omission though is that anyone who watched Eli play that year knew that at least 7 of those interceptions were flat out drops by his receivers. Was Eli supposed to play receiver too? And to further my utter disdain for this harsh treatment, Drew Brees threw 22 interceptions in 2010 and he ends up being ranked 9th in the top 100 countdown. Many of my friends explained to me that Brees had 22 interceptions because he had to throw the ball a lot. Fine, I get that but then you can’t have it both ways. You can’t praise him for throwing for lots of yards and touchdowns and then excuse him for the interceptions. And I’m sorry, but Brees plays in a dome and that matters when you look at how much better his statistics are at home versus on the road.
In 2011, Eli Manning did what he does best- bounce back, and with a vengeance. Eli threw for 4,933 yards and had 15 4th quarter touchdown passes which is an NFL record. Not to mention, he repeatedly bailed out a team that ranked dead last in rushing offense and 27th in total defense. But to many, Manning was only able to win a second Super Bowl title because the defense stepped up. To those, I have several responses. 1) Is Manning the only quarterback to have won a Super Bowl with a good defense? 2) Did you watch the Giants in 2011 at all? 3) Did you miss the fact that Manning completed 65% of his passes with 9 TD’s, 1 Interception and had a rating of 103.3 that postseason? Apparently, my replies mean nothing to these people and they prefer to think that Manning got lucky. Again. But if you would prefer stats, take a look at where he has ranked in the following categories:
2005: 5th in passing yards (3,762), 4th in TD passes (24)
2006: 4th in TD passes (24)
2009: 10th in passing yards (4,021), 8th in TD passes (27)
2010: 5th in passing yards (4,002), 4th in TD passes (31)
2011: 4th in passing yards (4,933), 6th in TD passes (29)
2012: 9th in TD passes (26)
Although the above statistics are certainly respectable, one cannot truly appreciate the play of Eli Manning by merely looking at numbers. The sad truth for Manning is that in order to be considered as Tom Brady’s equal, he will have to win league MVP at some point in his career, or win more Super Bowls. But, the fact of the matter is, Manning is at his best during the most pressure-filled situations which I thought was the true measure of any great player regardless of the sport. Twice he has lead his team down the field in the final two minutes for touchdowns with his team trailing in the Super Bowl. Not week 7, the Super Bowl! I know I am bias, but who would you rather have with the ball in his hands trailing by 4 with 2 minutes left?