Evaluating Eli Manning: Super Bowl or No Show?
From 2004 to 2012
Let me begin this article by saying that Eli Manning is enjoying the prime of an illustrious career. I have nothing against him personally, as I find his attitude on and off the field laudatory. However, his performances on the field are aggravating; they are what I will be discussing.
Eli began his NFL career with the New York Giants in a largely dismissive 2004 campaign; starting seven games, he finished throwing for just over one thousand yards with 6 touchdowns to 9 interceptions. Though his first season was far from polished, it was a rookie season before the arrival of superstar quarterbacks like Cam Newton and Andrew Luck. He wasn't expected to lead anyone to a Super Bowl - just learn the game.
In his next two seasons as a starter, while producing postseason berths, were regarded by many outside of New York as easily dismissible. Manning never threw for 4,000 yards or completed more than 58% of his passes. As he failed to reach a season in which his passer rating surpassed 80.0, fans of opposing teams commonly laughed at him as he failed to reach the imposing heights established by his father Archie and brother, the 2006 Super Bowl MVP Peyton. After the sour note the Giants' 2006 season ended on, Manning's position as a starter was in question. John Branch of the New York Times referred to the inconsistencies of Manning's play, writing, "There is little indication that he will be classified as a bust. There is also little indication that he is headed for greatness."
Then, that lucky catch by David Tyree in February 2008 changed everything. After a monumental postseason run and a Super Bowl MVP award, Giants fans suddenly felt validated by Eli's success. "We always knew he could become a franchise quarterback! He just had to get through his growing pains first," they must have reasoned, when by all accounts Eli could very well have lost his starting job.
After all the success of the 2007 Giants and Manning's miraculous underdog triumph, the team again slumped into a joke to the rest of the NFL. Inconsistent play throughout 2008 and 2009, as well as a league-high 25 interceptions in 2010, again threatened Manning's hold as an established starting quarterback.
Then he went ahead and did it all over again. Finishing the regular season with nearly 5,000 yards and completing a Super Bowl-winning postseason run with a 103.3 passer rating, Eli was again the storied son of New York, a dangerous comeback kid who could win it all in the face of adversity. He was pegged by analysts, fans, and even as himself as a top-tier quarterback, worthy of having his name in the same sentence as Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, and even his older brother.
So how does this "elite" quarterback finish 2012, with all the offensive weapons and blitz-happy defense the New York Giants possess? A 9-7 season, missing the playoffs and the division title to a rookie quarterback with disastrous performances against the Steelers, Cowboys, Bengals, and even a shut-out defeat against a mediocre Falcons defense.
I am not debating that Eli Manning should not be a starting quarterback in the NFL. He has brought playoff berths, Pro Bowl awards, a winning attitude and two Lombardi trophies to the Big Apple. But should it certainly affect his perceived position as a "franchise" quarterback and a first-ballot Hall of Famer? Absolutely. Time will tell us if Eli can again make some positive, more consistent strides in his NFL career. But with all the power players and organizational strengths the New York Giants have, what's to say they shouldn't have hoisted another Lombardi trophy or two over the past few years? Manning's occasionally laughable regular season play can easily spell doom for the 2013 Giants.
Which WR is under the most amount of pressure to produce a great season?
Poll: Wide Receivers Under Most Pressure to Perform
In the world of professional football, there are few players that garner as much attention as a top wide receiver. Because of a combination of route running, speed, and chemistry with their quarterback along with a traditional attitude of bravado or charisma, receivers often make media headlines. Five players commonly associated with eye-popping athletic ability suffered a forgettable 2012 season; which wide receiver is under the most pressure to produce a breakout 2013 season?