It’s easy to put the “you suck” label on professional athletes, especially those we as fans love to hate. Our well-crafted arguments based on bias and team preference thoroughly solve any issue within sports.
Eli Manning fits the bill here. I am a Patriots fan and have been since 1992 when I moved to Connecticut from Alabama. I promptly watched them as a coy 7-year-old march to a 2-14 record. Naturally, it was not the Patriots who “sucked” to me. It was everyone who beat them. That was the way it was. I would get mad and if my team was beaten, the victor was the team who sucked. Looking back, the Patriots most assuredly sucked that season.
So when Eli Manning marched his Giants to the Super Bowl by winning three games on the road, he sucked to me, even at the age of 22.
I hated Eli before he ever thought about entering the NFL. Coming from Alabama, I was raised a huge Alabama Crimson Tide fan. Manning went to Ole Miss and his older brother Peyton Manning went to Tennessee. I have a long history of hating Mannings. Eli was no different. Eli was great, phenomenal and magnificent in the SEC, the hardest conference to excel on offense. In three years as a starter Manning threw 81 touchdown passes and only 31 interceptions. He did not suck.
In the NFL, he started shaky as all young quarterbacks do and in the 2007 season he threw 23 touchdowns and 20 interceptions. Yes, 20 interceptions suck. However, being the Manning that he is, he entered the playoffs and decided to dominate. His first playoff game at Tampa Bay he threw two touchdowns and 185 yards. His second at hated rival Dallas he threw for 163 yards and again two touchdowns in a 21-17 victory. In the NFC Championship at Green Bay, one of the hardest places to win in the playoffs, Manning did not throw a touchdown, but threw for 251 yards. So in three playoff games on the road Eli Manning threw four touchdowns with no interceptions and over 500 yards. That doesn’t suck. In fact, when you throw NO interceptions in the playoffs, that’s not luck. That’s absolute talent and focus. Then came the Super Bowl.
I was SURE the Patriots would crush the Giants. Manning wouldn’t do a thing against a Patriots defense ranked fourth in the NFL. Manning’s Giants were ranked 17th in points allowed and seventh in yards allowed. They had no chance.
Yes, after watching the game, the Giants defense was brilliant to allow only 14 New England points. But statistically all year, the Patriots’ defense was light years better than New York’s was. So what happened? Eli Manning happened. Manning threw for 255 yards, two touchdowns and one interception on his way to a rightly deserved Super Bowl MVP award and eluded sack after sack to give his receivers a chance to get open, something David Tyree did to set up the winning touchdown. Manning was the epitome of a leader during the playoffs and the Super Bowl.
Since the 2007 season, Eli Manning has drastically cut down on his interceptions. He threw only 10 in 2008 (while tossing 21 TD’s) and threw 27 TD’s and 14 picks in 2009. It is more than safe to say Giants fans saw the beginning of a franchise QB during the Tampa Bay playoffs game after the 2007 season.
Looking back and looking at him now, Eli Manning does not suck. In fact, he is far from sucking. I do not consider him elite, but he is a top-15 quarterback to be sure.
Some would make the argument that Manning is the worst QB in the NFC East. McNabb statistically is better, but has been around much longer. Tony Romo has had very good regular seasons, but in four career playoff games he holds a record of 1-3 with four touchdowns, two interceptions and let’s not forget the fumbled snap against the Seahawks in 2006. In seven playoff games Manning has eight touchdowns to seven interceptions but holds a 4-3 record and has a ring. Great? No. Good, yes. Especially considering he has a ring and has performed in the playoffs in New York, an extremely tough market in which to perform.
Romo has not gotten the job done and as the most important player on offense, it ultimately falls on him as the quarterback to lead. Remember Emmitt Smith called out Romo for not being a leader. Giants’ alumni everywhere have said Manning is a leader. That matters. Leaders find ways to win. Romo has not done so. Manning has.
Some would say Manning just got hot therefore he is not good. News flash. When you get hot, that mean’s you’re good at that point in time. And ever since game 1 of the playoffs of the 2007 season, Manning has been very, very good.
So does Eli Manning suck? No. Far from it. And unfortunately for me and other Patriot fans, we will have to watch Manning be good for a few more years to come.