Eli Still Elite And He'll have To Prove It
Let's cut to the chase: Eli Manning, and the New York Football Giants have been perhaps the worst team in football for the last 6 weeks of the 2013 NFL Season. Manning has faced big time issues in his own game while trying to deal with the glaring problems that surround him on this team. Miscommunication has led to interceptions (15 at this point-matches his total in '12 season), and this once dynamic offense has looked like a shell of their former selves. A recent example being the Giant's 27-21 Thursday night loss to the Chicago Bears. A loss in which Eli threw three interceptions (two in the first QTR), and the third being the one to put them away (were in position to win on a final drive).
What we've seen from Eli, & Co. has opened the door to a flood of criticsm which quite frankly is warranted. The team is terrible, their leader has looked terrible, and if you're head coach Tom Coughlin it has to be the worst coaching nightmare to ever come true in his Hall of fame worthy career. One of our writers Harris Yudin (MLB & NFL) tweeted something that stuck with me sometime ago along the lines of: Eli isn't elite, and we were smoke screened by the two sensational Super Bowl runs.
And after Thursday nights loss the tweet crept into my mind...I understood Harris's sentiment, was Eli just lucky enough to win two titles against perhaps the most dominant NFL team (and QB in Tom Brady) in the last decade? Was he just not worthy of an elite spot along with big brother Peyton? Is what we've seen so far the real Eli Manning? I took the night to think it over, and the red flags kept popping up.
The interceptions which he leads the NFL in (including in the 4th QTR w/8), the sloppy play which we've seen before, miscommunications with his receivers (not all his fault), and the overall struggles we see from his team. The questions had me on the ropes, but I finally came to my conclusion.
Eli Manning is still an elite quarterback, one that is going through arguably his worst season. Ex-NFL head coach Herm Edwards said today "Eli hasn't lost his talent...he's lost his confidence". And with that said I agreed whole heartedly. Granted we've seen Eli struggle before (led NFL in interceptions twice), but this is on a whole other level. Part of it his own terrible play, and the other part is his surrounding teammates that have let him down quite a bit as well (Off. line, running backs & receiving core). And as Herm's words started to chip away at Harris's tweet I began to say to myself "I've seen the greats struggle...all that talent can't be gone can it?"
Big brother Peyton has certainly been a victim of poor play, and at times (especially in the post season) has not looked like the confident leader he continues to be. The same goes with Brady, Brees, Rodgers, and even Ben Roethlisberger (who is facing some of the same troubles Eli is). However with all that said it dawned on me that Eli's career isn't viewed as a whole such as his counter parts at the quarterback position. Fair or not people choose to remember the bad Eli, or the 2-time Super Bowl MVP Eli. What about all the moments in between?
Since Eli has become the full time starter in NY (2005), his Giants have never had a losing season (1st in the NFC East three times, 2nd three times & 3rd twice). Have they missed the playoffs? Sure. However they have always kept records at .500, and up. And let's look at the career regular season stats: 33,248 yards, 58.4 Comp%, 220 TDs (Franchise Leader), 159 interceptions, & a passer rating of 81.8. Not bad for a man who doesn't put up the regular season numbers like the Peyton's, Brady's, or Brees's of the NFL world. Now the question that has also come up during Eli's struggles is his chance at securing a spot in the Hall of Fame one day. ESPN's Skip Bayless also said something that was stored in the memory bank: That Eli is not yet, and may never be a lock for the Hall Of Fame.
Now this is an opinion shared by many , but even more so now due to the unfolding events of this season. However if you look at the quarterbacks in the HOF one member sticks out that almost ensures Eli should (and will) get in. Joe Namath the legendary NY Jets quarterback is one of the few men, and quarterbacks who proudly represents the Hall. He led the underdog NY Jets to their first, and only (to this point) championship victory in 1968 in Super Bowl III vs the heavily favored Baltimore Colts (led by HOF QB Johnny Unitas). Namath was, and still is a Jets icon... perhaps still the most celebrated Jet of all time. His legend is still respected, and his accomplishments on the field earned him a spot in the Hall.
However one glance at Namath's regular season stats would make you reconsider his spot: 27,663 yards, 50.1 Comp%, 173 TDs, 220 interceptions, & a passer rating of 65.5. "Broadway Joe's" legend was much bigger than anything he has ever done on the field compared to most HOF QBs. Given the fact that a quarterback who finished his career with more interceptions than touchdowns is in the Hall makes my case even stronger. And in my opinion is the reason Eli Manning is still a HOF lock (maybe not 1st Ballot).
If we compare post season accomplishments Eli wins the debate without question: Joe Namath in his 13 year career: 2-1 in the post season with 1 Super Bowl victory (MVP), 1 playoff comeback, and 1 playoff game winning drive. Eli Manning in his 10 year career: 8-3 in the post season with 2 Super Bowl victories (2 MVPs), 2 Playoff comebacks, & 3 Playoff winning drives. Most of Manning's playoff wins also came on the road. And let's not forget his 4th QTR drives. In years past Eli was the go to guy in the 4th QTR (not a label Namath was given) posting a QBR in the high 70's, this year his QBR in the 4th QTR sits at a dreadful 3.0.
Still bad start, and all Eli's numbers eclipse Namath's in almost every category except for interceptions, something that should be realised by HOF voters when the time comes. And if that's not enough who Manning beat, and in the fashion he beat them in makes it even more historic. The first go around he defeated the 18-0 Tom Brady led Patriots in the closing moments of Super Bowl 42, and then repeated the same act 4 years later as if we were watching the same exact game. He out Brady'd Tom Brady... TWICE...think about that.
However with all that said no one cares. It's fact that Eli's numbers are deserving of more respect, and that we should realize the things he has done outside of the extremely good or bad. He has had multiple 4,000 yard seasons. He has had seasons with low turnover numbers, and high efficiency ratings. Still none of that matters as the Giants are looking at possibly their worst season ever with Eli at the helm. If he wants to repair his rep as a top QB (which is most likely second to winning at this point) he must WIN. The Giants have to claw their way back to .500 or above, and they must make the playoffs. It's not 100% fair, but at this point the grave has been prepared by the team themselves.
Can Eli lead the charge away from what can turn out to be a permanent stain on his career? I don't know. What I do know is that he has the talent, and it's the only way he can heal the wounds he has helped self-inflict on what can still be a Hall Of Famer worthy career. It's on you Eli.