Eli, Eli, Yo!
Sports writers, like political writers, shy away from criticizing their subjects for fear they will be shunned when seeking a story with a personal lilt. Consequently, readers will seldom hear anything but accolades tossed in the direction of Eli Manning. To prove this, Eli Manning was mentioned as one of the top five elite quarterbacks in recent sports news stories. Since I have nothing to lose, never seeking or having sought interviews with the Giants’ QB or his coach or GM or, in fact, any member of his team, I feel my evaluation of Manning over the years has been fair and untainted.
Every time Eli Manning is mentioned as an elite quarterback, I recoil. Why not look at what makes an elite quarterback elite: If ‘eliteness’ is measured by a quarterback having won a Super Bowl, the measurement must be reconsidered, for in his questionable career, Eli Manning has done little else.
When an observer looks back at the Super Bowl the Giants won, if they didn’t have the luck of the Irish, it would be difficult to comprehend what they did have. Week after week in their march to the ‘show,’ they experienced miracles on the field. They won all of the games on the road, unusual at best. They almost beat New England in the last game of the regular season which gave fans hope that they could beat New England were they to face them in the post season. The two amazing turn of events in their march to the super bowl were the winning field goal in Green Bay after two failed attempts and the miracle out of the grasp throw and circus catch Manning to David Tyree against New England. Every play seemed to go the Giants’ way when they needed it. No game a runaway, fans were glued to their seats or pacing, praying for victory. Week after week the defense kept the offense in the game and the offense delivered. The fans ate the whole thing up.
With that Super Bowl long out of the picture, let us look at reality. What makes an elite quarterback elite? If a premier quarterback needs five tools to shoot him into the stratosphere of elitism, then let us measure Eli against each tool:
Is he mobile? With his feet glued to the pocket, any defense gets an easy pass when they need not defend a mobile quarterback. It enables them to smother receivers and go with a rush from the line and occasional linebackers. Eli’s astounding lack of mobility is a gift to the opposition’s defense. It is also a detriment to his team advancing toward the goal line on third down plays.
Is he accurate? Just looking at the number of interceptions (25) he threw this year leads one to believe he is either forcing his passes, hurrying them up, or not placing them properly. The fact that some were tipped could be explained by a poor receiving corps or the three reasons listed above. In any event, Manning still has not learned when to get rid of the ball out of bounds or eating it rather than throwing into traffic and hoping for a receiving miracle.
Is he a good reader of defenses? Every time Eli has to change a play at the line of scrimmage he resembles a deer in the headlights or, better still, a chicken without a head. How many times has he been called for delay of game when he was unable to communicate his intentions to his players within the allotted time? How many times has he resumed his quarterback position after a time out only to get called for delay of game? That alone is unforgivable.
Is he poised? The answer to this is a resounding, “no.” He has always looked awkward after his having received the ball from his center. In his seven year career this should have diminished, but it hasn’t. How this lack of poise can build confidence in the offense is beyond comprehension.
Is his peripheral vision what it should be for a quarterback? A fan must always get the impression that Eli has problems monitoring all of his receivers on a pass play. He seems to key in on one; and, throw it to that one even if the pass is a dangerous one and his receiver is double covered. If his prime receiver is double covered, where is the receiver with single coverage? He still has not learned that taking a sack (which he seems to fear) is preferable to throwing an interception. This and Eli’s reaction time scanning the field is disastrous and probably the chief reason for his interceptions.
The ability of the quarterback to show improvement in his game each year he competes is an evaluation consideration. Fans can recall early Manning and how sportswriters bought him time year after year after not having seen marked improvement and gave him a pass on warranted criticism. The excuse train has long left the station.
If the five tools mentioned are good indicators of a successful elite quarterback, then Eli Manning is not one. In fact, he is not even close. He is not his brother. He is not his father. He may be more like his mother. When the Giants traded for Eli probably thinking they were getting Peyton, they passed up Rivers and Roethlisberger. Who among Giants fans wouldn’t want either one of them rather than Eli? But, the most hurtful thing the Giants’ front office did was to extend Eli’s contract seven years last year paying him over a hundred million dollars for disgraceful sub-par performances. Apparently, Giants front office cannot see that although Manning’s stats say yes, yes, yes his w/l says no, no, no.
Continually evaluating Eli Manning by his single successful Super Bowl year will keep the Giants off of the post season roster until his megayear contract expires. It will handcuff those who continue to call plays for the Super Bowl Eli rather than Reality Eli. Granted Giant Manning does have gaudy stats from which an observer might get giddy. However, what good is all the passing yardage and TD passes with 25 interceptions? If Manning’s Super Bowl year was his shining moment, his fifteen minutes of fame (which it appears to have been), then Giants fans are stuck with a one season wonder for six more seasons. Exactly what did the front office see when they handed Manning that seven year extension? The Mets have their Perez and the Giants have their Manning. And, the fans have their Alka Seltzer, their beers, their tears and their luxury boxes.