Eli Manning will never be a prototypical gunslinger. He’ll never be Dan Marino, Brett Favre or Warren Moon. He’s not Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees or his brother either.
And that bothers you. But for a moment, let’s stop to appreciate what Eli has been able to accomplish since arriving to the NFL in 2004. Let’s stop trying to compare him to his brother and Brady (who Eli has now beaten twice in the Super Bowl), and every other quarterback who may have better passing numbers, more touchdowns and/or a better personality.
For once, let’s appreciate Eli Manning for the elite quarterback he is.
Kevin Gilbride’s system is one of the more complex offenses in the NFL. The wideouts in this system have to learn how to read coverages and even adjust mid-route, which makes it a rather difficult offense to master for even veteran receivers like Hakeem Nicks, Mario Manningham and Victor Cruz. And just think about how long it took Eli Manning to not only feel comfortable running the offense, but also winning it in.
While the system is often referred to as “quarterback-friendly,” that doesn’t mean that it’s easy to learn. On the contrary: Manning struggled mightily in his first couple of seasons and he barely showed any improvement from year to year because Gilbride’s system can be demanding and frustrating to pick up. That led to even the staunchest Eli supporters wondering if he was the right man to lead the Giants to greatness. But once he mastered the prolific system, he started to thrive in its beauty.
Manning can now come to the line during a given play, read what coverage the defense is in and understand that he has options on where to throw the ball. Look at that unbelievable throw to Manningham in Sunday’s Super Bowl. Manningham wasn’t Eli’s first read on that play. He wasn’t even his second. Manning saw a small window in which to fit the ball in between two defensive backs that were a second to slow in getting to where they were supposed to be. And he dropped that perfectly placed pass into Manningham’s hands as the receiver took care of the rest.
If his receivers adjust, Manning must adjust as well and when the Giants are firing on all cylinders they’re tough to stop. Not every quarterback can run Eli’s offense so why must we compare his play to that of Peyton, Brees or Brady’s? Why can’t we just marvel at the success he’s had to this point?
That success, by the way, translates to two Super Bowl rings. And just because Eli has collected one more Lombardi Trophy than his brother doesn’t mean that he’s on the same level as Peyton, who has four MVP awards over his sparkling career.
When you’re talking about different offenses, different personnel, and different competition, you’re comparing apples to oranges at the end of the day. Everyone wants to lump quarterbacks into one big pile and discuss “who is the best,” but it’s a frivolous debate. Would you compare Jim Brown and Barry Sanders? Hell no – it’s two different running styles. So why are we so determined to compare quarterbacks?
If I don’t hear another Eli vs. Peyton discussion the rest of my life I’d be a saner person. For once, I just want to appreciate what Eli Manning has accomplished and know that not every quarterback is on his level.