September 18, 2012
The quarterback for the grand old franchise in New York still plays second fiddle to other quarterbacks in the NFL. Why?
Manning is a two-time Super Bowl MVP. He has a lifetime 82.3 QB rating and has never thrown more INTs than TDs in a season, except when he was a rookie. Maybe that’s it…
In 2004, Eli Manning made his NFL debut. He had the last name and the pedigree. But from the very beginning – even from before the draft – he was under pressure.
ESPN radio said, at the time, he might be even better than his older brother Peyton, who had already compiled an 88.1 rating, 24, 885 yards, and 167 touchdowns in his first 6 years in the NFL.
Then came the draft, when Eli (and his father Archie) turned down the San Diego Chargers, who drafted the younger Manning number 1 overall. Instead, the Mannings, Chargers, and Giants worked out a deal that sent Eli to the New York in exchange for the fourth round draft pick, QB Phillip Rivers.
Manning started the 2004 season on the bench. Veteran Kurt Warner started the season at QB for New York. And he got off to a fine start.
Warner threw 6 touchdowns against 4 picks as he lead the Giants to a 5-4 record to begin the season. When he went down with an injury, Manning took over.
Eli had a rough start to his NFL career. He had a dismal QB rating of 55.4, and he threw more interceptions (9) than touchdowns (6). Besides which, New York fans didn’t like his hangdog body language. Every time he would make a mistake, he would slump his shoulders, shake his head, and mope back to the sidelines.
Who would have known back then that Eli Manning would become a two-time Super Bowl MVP?
Manning learned the ropes in the NFL. Carried by his running game, led by Tiki Barber and the Giants’ veteran offensive line, Manning led the team to 3 straight season of a .500 or higher record.
In 2005, the year New York ran up an 11-5 record, they lost 23-0 in the first round of the playoffs to the Carolina Panthers in the Meadowlands. Before the game, many Giants fans shouted toward the Panthers players, “where’s Carolina at?” It was an excellent point, geographically. There is no “Carolina” in the United States. There is a North Carolina and South Carolina, but no Carolina.
However, the Panthers showed the Giants exactly where Carolina “was at.”
The following year, the Giants lost another playoff game, 23-20, to the Philadelphia Eagles. New York put up a much better fight this time, and Manning improved quite a bit. His rating was 85.6 in the game, and he threw 2 touchdown passes against one INT. But David Akers and Eagles came up with the final points in the waning seconds, and the Giants were sent home once again.
In 2007, things were different. Barber had retired, and the Giants vaunted running game was to rely on veteran power back Brandon Jacobs, and rookie slasher Ahmad Bradshaw.
Bradshaw and Jacobs tore it up that season to the tune of 1,611 yards. Manning fired off 23 touchdown passes, but threw a league-leading 20 interceptions. Heading into the playoffs, the strategy remained, “Make Eli beat you.”
In the last game of the season, the Giants lost to the seemingly unbeatable New England Patriots, but they gave them a run. The Pats were expected to mop the Meadowlands floor with the Giants, but instead, just squeaked out a 38-35 victory. Not only was that the moral victory the propelled the Giants through the 2007 playoffs, but it may have changed the team – and Manning – for good.
New York ended up running the gauntlet of the Buccaneers, Cowboys, and Packers, all on the road, to reach the Super Bowl. There, They would re-match with the Pats. As you know by now, the Giants defense shut down Pats’ QB Tom Brady, David Tyree made the catch on his helmet after Eli escaped a sure sack, and Plaxico Burress caught the winning touchdown.
Still, there were those who equated Eli Manning to the blind squirrel who caught a nut.
4 years later, the Giants returned to the Super Bowl. They upended the Patriots once again, by a score of 17-14. And once again, it was the result of late 4th quarter drive orchestrated by Manning.
And yet, they still doubt him.
In Sports Illustrated’s 2012 NFL preview issue, the magazine predicted who would be the first quarterback to reach 6,000 yards passing in a season. After all, 3 QBs had reached the 5,000 mark in 2011. In the day and age of rules and regulations that favor the pass, Drew Brees (NO), Tom Brady (NE), and Matthew Stafford (Det), all threw for more than 5K. Who was fourth in the league in passing yards? Eli Manning with 4,933.
Manning had to lead the Giants offense in 2011, because the running game was slowed by a beaten-up offensive line, a declining Brandon Jacobs, and a hobbled Ahmad Bradshaw.
Yet, Sports Illustrated, when listing the most likely candidates to reach 6,000 yards, ignored Eli.
SI listed Rookie Andrew Luck, Cam Newton (better known for his legs), Matt Barkley (Still in College at USC!), Matt Ryan, and Joe Flacco above Manning in their top-10 list.
So why not Eli Manning, who nearly passed for nearly 5,000 yards in 2011, and has a receiving corps fronted by Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz?
Well, Manning, despite his success, is still humble. He doesn’t have a touchdown “dance,” his endorsement deals are few and far between, and lets face it, he’s boring off the field. But he makes up for it on the field, where he is Mr. Excitement.
In week 2 of the 2012 season, he passed for 510 yards. He threw 3 interceptions, all of which led to points. But he also threw 3 touchdowns, all in the clutch. Once again, Manning thrived in a pressure situation. Once again, Manning played his best football in the 4th quarter with his team trailing. Isn’t that a microcosm for his entire career? Even in his difficult rookie season, he led his team to 21 4th-quarter points in the last game of the year to beat the Cowboys 28-24.
How many times has Manning been down, only to perservere and turn a hopeless situation into success? If you were to ask any football “expert” in 2004 if Eli Manning could be a 2-time Super Bowl MVP, they would have laughed.
But here he is.
And he still doesn’t get the noteriety of otehr NFL QBs. Unfair? Maybe. But ask any Giants player, including Eli himself, and they’ll tell you that’s exaclty how they like it.