He may not be his brother, and he also is no Brady or Rodgers, but Eli Manning’s success as the New York Giants’ franchise quarterback cannot be overlooked. Manning is always subject to scrutiny under the umbrella of the New York media market, arguably the most critical in the country. The unrelenting criticism is quick to surface from his seasonal blunders and questionable in game decisions, but when it comes down to the numbers, he’s actually quite impressive.
In addition to his two Super Bowl MVP awards, Manning’s performance this season is just a reflection of his career as a whole, “Manning threw an NFL-worst 27 interceptions in 2013, but he’s on pace to finish 2015 with just six, which would be a career low. He’s also on pace to finish with 32 touchdown passes, which would be a career high. And that’s why for this first time in his 12-year NFL career, Manning’s season passer rating has cracked the magic century mark (100.2).” Eli Manning also has the longest active streak for a quarterback with 174 consecutive starts.
Since his first start on the field as a rookie in 2004, he has not missed a game. Eli’s consistency, even in the face of injury, has provided the Giants with unprecedented stability. Coach Tom Coughlin has repeatedly expressed the value of his QB stating, “It’s critical to us and out preparation and obviously over al these years that, even when he’s injured, he’s lined up and played. The stability of that and the ability to game plan knowing that he’s in that position, that’s a huge plus for our team and always has been.” Now that may seem irrelevant in the face of other performance statistics, but in the past decade Eli Manning’s #10 jersey has been the beacon of Big Blue. According to a recent article in Newsday, “He has dropped back 5,835 times since being anointed starter, completing 3,460 passes for 41,295 yards, 270 touchdown throws and 189 interceptions. He has been sacked 286 times during the streak and has been hit countless other times.” In light of the high pressure and physical battering that Manning suffers every week, he remains effective as the epicenter of the Giants offense and Coughlin’s unwavering faith in Eli is proof of how important this aspect of his play is to the team.
With all of the good that Eli Manning has done for New York, he still has his flaws. The many faces of Eli’s confusion have become a symbol of his blunders, which leave viewers with very similar expressions. Take for instance the 0-2 start of this season. After signing a 4-year contract extension with the Giants for $84 million, the pressure of performing well increased, especially in the face of the past two unsuccessful seasons. The time management mistakes late in the game against the Cowboys and another crushing fourth quarter loss to the Falcons did not convince anyone of Manning’s merit. As a team in the NFC East, it is only fitting that no team is counted out as it is the most hyped conference in the NFL due to the intense media markets that reign over these teams. This leaves opportunity for any team to take the top spot season to season and in this year’s case even week to week. As Week 8 approaches, the New York Giants have the top spot in the NFC East and hope has been reinvigorated in fans and the franchise alike.
As a Giant’s fan that hardly remembers a time without Eli leading Big Blue, I can say it has been a rollercoaster in terms of trusting Manning. His performances in the two Super Bowl wins this past decade have defined Eli as the “any-given-Sunday” quarterback, but after two seasons of lackluster performance, it’s become hard to defend him. I will concede that some of his blunders in the past years have been due to lack of a supporting cast, as a QB cannot complete passes if his receivers are running incorrect routes or if the offensive line gives him no time actually get a pass off.
Even with the good, bad, and ugly of Eli Manning taken into consideration, his identity as New York’s franchise quarterback has garnered respect both on and off of the field ad has represented New York well. Despite what critics and fans alike will say, at the end of the day Manning is the face of a team that both understands his dedication and appreciates him for his ability to recognize his flaws and put them behind him to make progress. His style of play embodies the NY identity of always being a threat, never to be counted out as New Yorkers are fighters and always seem to make their way to the top. Following suit, Eli Manning has pulled off wins with big, spontaneous plays that supersede any form of consistency as that gives way to the spectacle of the Big Blue game play. So let Peyton Manning take the spot as the better brother and Brady can have his pretty boy spotlight, because Eli Manning keeps his fans on their toes, hearts racing and that makes him the quarterback that New York needs and loves (most of the time).