Stop comparing Eli Manning and start appreciating his accomplishments

New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning signals during his first series of downs against the New England Patriots in the first quarter at Super Bowl XLVI at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 5, 2012 in Indianapolis. The NFC champion New York Giants play the AFC champion New England Patriots. UPI/Kevin Dietsch

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.

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Should the Giants be concerned about Eli?

During the Giants’ five-game winning streak at the start of the season, Eli Manning didn’t have a QB rating lower than 93.5. In the Giants’ current three-game losing streak, Manning hasn’t had a QB rating higher than 61.0, which includes his 55.7 mark in New York’s embarrassing 40-17 loss to the Eagles in Week 8.

To say that Manning hasn’t been good lately would be an understatement. In the loss to Philadelphia, he was 20-of-39 for 222 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. And given how inaccurate he was most of the day, he could have been intercepted at least two more times.

In his last three games, Manning has thrown six interceptions to just three touchdowns. The mistakes he’s made aren’t typical of a veteran quarterback that has a Super Bowl ring – they’re more akin to a first year starter with little to no experience. He looks like a player with zero confidence and he doesn’t appear to trust his own decision-making.

While the Giants have more issues than just Eli (the secondary has also played poorly and the team continues to struggle with injuries), they have to be concerned with his play. New York has needed him to put the team on his shoulders and carry them to victories and he hasn’t. And based on the way he’s played the past three weeks, there’s serious doubt he’ll be able to break the Giants out of their funk without a lot of help from his defense and running game.

That said, it’s only been three games and while he has looked horrible in those three outing, he looked great in the first five games of the season. The problem is that the Cowboys were the only team with a winning record that the Giants have beaten this year. Eli’s impressive numbers have come against teams like the Redskins, Bucs, Chiefs and Raiders, while he has struggled against tough opponents in the Saints, Cardinals and Eagles, respectively.

With David Carr listed on the depth chart behind Manning, the Giants won’t consider a QB change. But the entire team better start picking up their play before the season starts to slip away from them, and it all starts with Eli.

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