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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.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @TheScoresReport. You can also follow TSR editor Gerardo Orlando @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom, and you can follow TSR editor Anthony Stalter @AnthonyStalter.

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It’s official: The Giants still own the Patriots.

For the second time in less than five years the Giants defeated the Patriots in the Super Bowl. Here are reactions from the G-Men’s 21-17 victory over the Pats in Super Bowl XLVI.

New York Giants quarterback and Super Bowl XLVI MVP Eli Manning celebrates on the podium at Super Bowl XLVI at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 5, 2012 in Indianapolis. New York beat New England 21-17 to win Super Bowl XLVI UPI/Kevin Dietsch

- In order to fully appreciate how far the Giants came in order to be crowned Super Bowl champions, you really have to go back to the preseason when the franchise was a mess. The fans were upset because the front office didn’t have the cap space to make a splash signing during the offseason, all while the Eagles built what appeared to be a division-winning roster. Players were also dropping like flies because of a rash of injuries and then the team goes out and loses to the Redskins in Week 1. The defense stunk, the running game was non-existent, and it appeared as though Tom Coughlin was back on the hot streak. But Eli Manning put this team on his shoulders, the defense finally got healthy and then the Giants just caught fire down the stretch. I thought it was rather arrogant that the New York media talked about how this Giants team compared to the 2008 squad that upset the Patriots but lo and behold, they were absolutely right. Team of destiny? Maybe. But then again I just think that this was a very good team that knew what it was capable of if it could reach the postseason. And now once again, the Giants are Super Bowl champions after one of the better in-season turnarounds in NFL history.

- There’s really no debate any more: Eli Manning deserves to be called elite. What more do you want him to accomplish? He may not break NFL passing records like Tom Brady, Drew Brees or his brother, but this dude is just clutch. He was excellent tonight and once again proved that you can’t faze him, I don’t care what the situation is. He deserved another moment like this, especially given how good he was during the regular season. As I’ve written several times over the last month, without him the Giants wouldn’t have won nine games this year. Without his pinpoint throw to Mario Manningham in the fourth quarter the Giants probably don’t win tonight. And without him outplaying the likes of Matt Ryan, Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady, the Giants don’t hoist their second Lombardi Trophy in less than five years. Is he kind of aloof? Yeah, but aloof now has two Super Bowl rings and two Super Bowl MVP trophies. New York fans will take aloof all day long and twice on Sunday.

- There’s not much more I can say about Mario Manningham’s catch that Cris Collinsworth didn’t already cover during the broadcast. Given the situation and the stakes, you won’t see a greater catch than that. While David Tyree’s helmet grab in Super Bowl XLII was more unbelievable, Manningham’s catch was still spectacular in its own right. The coverage was tight and yet Manning was able to put the ball in a spot that only Manningham could catch it, which he did – all while getting two feet in bounds and holding onto the pass as he crashed to the ground. What an incredible, incredible pass and catch.

- This win once again reaffirms how good of a coach Tom Coughlin is. He coaches in the toughest media market in the league, where he’s constantly criticized for every mistake he makes and has been on the hot seat too many times to count. But the Giants do things right and that’s in large part because of the work that Coughlin does. This team plays hard, is usually prepared and it never cowers to its competition. After two Super Bowl victories, Coughlin now writes his own ticket in my opinion. He’s bought himself another three or four years where people should just shut up and trust in his coaching ability. After all, the man has gotten the best of Bill Belichick not once, but twice in the Super Bowl.

- As a football fan I couldn’t help but feel a little underwhelmed following the game. It’s hard to complain when a Super Bowl isn’t decided until the final play but it was a lackluster first half and both of these teams essentially dinked and dunked their way up and down the field. (Outside of Manningham’s big catch, that is.) But the more I thought about it, the more impressed I was with the play of both defenses. Brady and Manning had to dink and dunk because the defenses took away the big play. It looked like the Giants were going to run away with the game early on but the Patriots deserve credit for taking away New York’s excellent passing game until late in the fourth quarter. The Giants pass rush was also as good as advertised, especially on the Pats’ first offensive play from scrimmage (when Brady was called for intentional grounding in the end zone) and on New England’s final drive of the game. While the Patriots’ tackling was piss poor throughout, there were plenty of big hits throughout the game as well. Have I seen better games? I think we all have, especially from an excitement standpoint. But you have to tip your hat to both defenses, especially when you consider how explosive both of these offenses were throughout the year.

- Although he got outplayed by Manning, it’s hard to criticize Tom Brady for his performance. He made a bone-headed decision the Pats’ first offensive play from scrimmage and it cost his team two points, but he caught fire in the middle of the game and played well enough for New England to win. Due to Rob Gronkowski being a non-factor, keep in mind that Brady didn’t have a dynamic threat in the passing game. I thought that in order for the Pats to win this game Brady would have to put together one of those Tom Brady-type performances. While he was certainly good, he wasn’t good enough as he once again played second-fiddle to Eli.

- That was definitely a drop by Wes Welker midway through the fourth quarter, but Brady deserves at least partial blame for the pass. Should Welker have caught the ball? No question. But if Brady hits Welker in stride that play may have gone for six and the Patriots probably win. It’s not like Welker was blanketed in coverage: he was wide open. No one play determines the outcome of a game but that was a costly misfire by Brady and a bad drop by Welker, who usually makes that catch nine out of 10 times.

- Some will call the Patriots gutless for allowing Ahmad Bradshaw to waltz into the end zone on what turned out to be the game-winning touchdown. They’ll say that Bill Belichick gave up and will probably spew hypotheticals about how the Giants may have turned the ball over had the Pats played things straight up instead of clearing a path for Bradshaw to score. But I thought it was a smart move on Belichick’s part to preserve as much time as possible for Brady and his offense. Could the Giants have turned the ball over or missed the field goal? Yes, but it was doubtful that the Patriots got lucky like that for the second game in a row. How many times does a team drain the clock down to nothing and kick a game-winning field goal anyway? Granted, the move didn’t work out for the Patriots in the end but at least Belichick gave Brady a shot to put together one more magical fourth-quarter comeback. I liked the move, regardless of the outcome.

- Boy was I wrong about Rob Gronkowski or what? I thought he was healthier than the media led you to believe and that his ankle wasn’t going to be a factor. I even thought he would have a pretty big game. But it was clear that he couldn’t cut and move like he normally does and that made a big difference in New England’s passing game. Brady essentially didn’t have his best playmaker, even though Aaron Hernandez stepped up in Gronk’s “absence.” I’m not suggesting that the Patriots would have won had Gronk been 100-percent but when you think about how big of a weapon he was during the season, there’s no question that his injury factored into the outcome of the game. He basically limped around the field for three and a half hours.

- No matter what team you root for, it’s hard not to feel for Patriots’ owner Robert Kraft. That was a sad scene of him standing by himself watching the final play unfold knowing that his team just lost the Super Bowl. He just stood there in complete shock as the Giants began to celebrate. After losing his wife last year, my heart went out to him in that moment.

- I think Madonna could have used a couple of more minutes of stretching before she went on stage. She looked stiff in her first song and nearly fell off the back of those freaking bleachers in her second set. You’re not 25 anymore Madonna – make sure those hamstrings aren’t tight before you go hopping up and down on metal seats, woman!

- My vote for the best commercial was the NFL safety piece that went through the different years of equipment. That was very well done and the graphics were awesome. Outside of that, the pixy-dust ad was pretty good and Doritos made me laugh a couple of times. Overall the commercials weren’t that funny though and I think I’ve had my fill of babies and dogs being in every other Super Bowl spot…

Fade Material: Super Bowl XLVI Prediction

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (L) talks to head coach Bill Belichick during the NFL AFC Divisional playoff game against the Denver Broncos in Foxborough, Massachusetts, January 14, 2012. REUTERS/Brian Snyder (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

Technically the Giants aren’t favored for Super Bowl XLVI but they might as well be.

New York doesn’t have the most marketable player (that would be Tom Brady) or the most wins between the two teams this season, but the Giants are the hotter squad and have already proven that they won’t cower to New England in any situation. They have the pass rush to once again slay Brady, a vastly underrated passing game and a quarterback in Eli Manning that doesn’t get nearly the respect he deserves for what he does for this New York team.

From a betting standpoint things look awfully good for the Giants as well. They’re 5-1 against the spread in their last six games versus the Patriots, 8-0 ATS in their last eight playoff games as an underdog and 8-1 ATS in their last nine playoff games overall. New England, meanwhile, is 1-7 against the number in its last eight playoff games and 1-6 ATS in its last seven playoff games as a favorite.

Every bone in my body says that the Giants are going to win tonight. But I don’t think they will.

I think the Giants have managed to become overconfident the past few weeks and an overconfident Giants team is a losing Giants team. I think Rob Gronkowski is healthier than people think and he’ll have a big game. I think Bill Belichick will once again take away what an opponent does best and in this case, that’s the Giants’ passing game. I think Tom Brady will have one of those Tom Brady-esq games where he throws for 375 yards and three touchdowns all while being unstoppable in the fourth quarter. I think the Patriots will win.

I’m siding with my gut over my head: Patriots 23, Giants 20.

Outside of Gronkowski, injuries shouldn’t be a factor heading into Super Bowl XLVI

New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski (87) talks with reporters on Media Day during Super Bowl week on January 31, 2012 in Indianapolis. The Patriots will face the New York Giants on February 5 in Super Bowl XLVI. UPI/Brian Kersey

For all intents and purposes, the Giants and Patriots will both be healthy when Super Bowl XLVI kicks off on Sunday.

Rob Gronkowki’s ankle remains the biggest injury concern for the Patriots, as the team has officially listed him as questionable. But the Pats also list nine other players as questionable and none are in danger of missing the game.

Safety Patrick Chung, offensive tackles Marcus Cannon and Sebastian Vollmer, linebackers Dane Fletcher, Rob Ninkovich, Tracy White and Brandon Spikes, receiver Wes Welker, defensive lineman Kyle Love, and guard Logan Mankins were all limited in practice this week but are expected to play. Outside of Gronkowski, all of those players were also listed as questionable for the AFC championship game and they all played.

As for the Patriots’ counterparts, the Giants are relatively healthy as well. Running back Ahmad Bradshaw, receiver Hakeem Nicks, defensive end Osi Umenyiora, cornerback Corey Webster, and linebacker Jacquian Williams were all limited in practice this week but are expected to play. Bradshaw is perhaps the team’s biggest concern as he skipped the Giants’ final practice because of soreness in his right foot, but again, he’ll play.

Getting back to Gronkowski, at this point there’s no doubt that he’ll play. How effective he’ll be is another question, especially after halftime when he’s been off the ankle for 15-plus minutes.

Super Bowl XLVI By the Numbers

Helmets of the New England Patriots and New York Giants rest on both sides of the Vince Lombardi Trophy before a press conference at the media center 2 days before the Giants and Patriots meet in Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis, IN on February 2, 2012. UPI /John Angelillo

1 – Number of Super Bowls that Eli Manning has won. Ironically, it’s also the same number of Super Bowls that Tom Brady has lost.

3 – The opening point spread at most sports books of this year’s Super Bowl. (Patriots –3, that is.)

3.5 – Number of sacks that Osi Umenyiora has compiled this postseason, which ties him for the most along with Houston’s J.J. Watt and Brooks Reed.

4 – Number of defensive ends that the Giants can lineup at the same time. (Jason Pierre-Paul, Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora and Dave Tollefson.)

9 – Combined number of Pro Bowls that Manning and Brady have appeared in.

12.5 – The number that the Patriots were favored by the last time they played the Giants in the Super Bowl.

16 – Number of top-seeded teams from the AFC that have made the Super Bowl since 1977. (Only four were crowned champions, although the Patriots were one of those four in 2003.)

18 – Number of touchdowns Rob Gronkowski compiled during the regular season, second only to Philadelphia’s LeSean McCoy (20).

20 – Teams that fail to score 20 points in the Super Bowl are 1-22 since 1977. The only team since 1977 to score less than 20 points and still win? The 2008 Giants, who beat the Patriots, 17-14.

46 – Well, this one is pretty obvious…it’s the number of passes Brady attempted in the Patriots’ Week 16 win over the Dolphins.

55.5 – The total that most sports books opened at for this year’s Super Bowl.

75.4 – Brady’s passer rating against the Giants in the Patriots’ 24-20 loss in Week 9 of the regular season.

199 – The pick that the Patriots used to select Brady in 2000.

335 – Number of receiving yards Hakeem Nicks has compiled this postseason (best in the NFL).

3,982 – Average price, in dollars, of one Super Bowl ticket.

13,000 – Hotel rooms in Indianapolis. All are booked for the weekend and some at a 1,700% higher price than the conventional fee.

68,000 – Capacity at Lucas Oil Stadium after it was expanded from 63,000 for the big game.

3,500,000 – The cost of a 30-second commercial for this year’s Super Bowl.

50,000,000 – Estimated cases of beer consumed by fans on Super Bowl Sunday.

1.25 Billion – Apparently this is the number of chicken wings that will be consumed on Sunday. God we’re fat…

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