The Legacy of Eli

170px-2012_Packers_vs_Giants_-_Eli_Manning_2Year 15. Believe it or not, that’s where we’re at now. That means Eli Manning has now been at the helm of the New York Football Giants for longer than any other quarterback in the franchise’s lengthy history. It isn’t hard to imagine that entering his age 37 season, Eli is far closer to the end than he is the beginning. Some people in the know insist that Manning will hang up his spikes following this, his final year under contract with Big Blue. Others argue that his never-say-die mentality will push him to prolong his inevitable retirement another year or so. Regardless of how much he has left in the tank, I think this is about as fair of a time as any to begin examining the legacy that Eli Manning will be leaving behind…

All-Time Giant

I’d like to begin with a positive, because I’m generally a pretty happy go lucky kind of guy…so deal with it. I mentioned above that Eli will become the longest tenured Giant’s QB in history with his first snap of the 2018 season; usurping the position once held by iconic Giant, Phil Simms.

His legacy extends beyond just the number of years in a Giants jersey, but also the numbers he’s put up while dawning them. Eli is Big Blue’s all-time leader in all of the following statistical categories:

  • Wins
  • Completions
  • Yards
  • Touchdowns
  • …and…

Interceptions

Well you knew this had to get brought up…

Eli Manning for all his magnificent offensive talents is also a notoriously pick-prone passer. Since getting drafted back in 2004, Eli has led the league in Interceptions Thrown on 3 separate occasions. Most notable among those was his 32-pick performance in 2013.

Overall, Manning has thrown 228 interceptions since the dawn of his career. That is easily the worst mark in the NFL in that stretch, as no other Quarterback has eclipsed 200 in that amount of time.

Sure though you can chalk up some of those throwing errors to spotty-play from his receivers which has troubled the Giants in years past. Of course then there’s also a notably anemic history of Offensive Linemen in the Giants organization for the past 2 decades…

But I suppose a great deal of that reckless gun-slinging does have to be blamed on the man himself.

Consistency

There’s a pretty easy punchline here about how consistently inaccurate the man has been when passing the pigskin, but my Giants-fan bias is telling me to take the high road.

The real story here is that Eli is consistently Eli.

In a 15 year career under center, the man has played in 216 games (starting 214 of them). The only games he didn’t start, in the entirety of his pro-career are as follows:

  • The first 9 games of his career as he was forced to wrestle the gig away from now Hall of Famer, Kurt Warner
  • And a game this past season, in which his benching (in an abysmal season for the entire franchise) led to his Head Coach getting the boot from the Big Apple.

Only Drew Brees has started more games at Quarterback than Manning since 2004.

Essentially, there hasn’t been a day since I was 9 years old in which I turned on the Giants game and didn’t know that Eli Manning was starting.

The ‘Other’ Manning

Peyton-Manning-Colts-QBThis is the nickname you get when you’re unarguably not the best Quarterback in your family. Even worse for Eli, the family’s pride and joy wasn’t exactly a ghost from the past, but rather a member of the same generation just 5-years his senior.

Born to an also NFL-Quarterback, Archie Manning, was Peyton Manning. Eli’s big brother proceeded to dominate the NFL in the 2000s with the Indianapolis Colts and continue a solid run through 2015  with the Denver Broncos.

For years, Eli’s sole argument for supremacy at the Manning-family table has been his pair of Super Bowl rings to Peyton’s one. That was of course until a spectacular Broncos Defense in 2015 carried a limp Peyton to his second ring. So now even Eli’s postseason prowess (we’ll get there) isn’t enough to shine a light in his brother’s shadow.

Brady’s Kryptonite

In the past two-decades of the NFL, the greatest argument we’ve seen has been Tom Brady vs Peyton Manning, granted that became a very one-sided debate as the years went on. Tom Brady has quite frankly solidified himself as the GOAT under center. His individual accolades paired with consistent team success has forced even his greatest detractors to swallow their pride and admit defeat in his presence…except of course for Giants fans…

Tom Brady, Eli ManningIn the Eli vs Brady match ups the latter owns the regular season record at 2-1; however, Eli’s Giants have bested the Patriots in the Super Bowl on 2 separate occasions. Yes, I am aware of the fact that at no point do these two ever actually line up on the field opposite one another. But when history looks back at Super Bowls XLII & XLVI, it will recall Eli as the face of the Giants organization that toppled the mighty Patriots.

Tom Brady has been to the Super Bowl an astounding 8 times in his tenure as QB for New England. Not until the Eagles in 2018, had any team aside from the Eli lead New York Giants managed to defeat him there.

Clutch

That’s the one word that every football fan has no choice but to use when describing Eli Manning. We’re talking about a man who has rarely, if ever, walked into a playoff game as a favorite. Yet he boasts a playoff record of 8-4.

The counter to that argument is that the full story is 2 very good postseason runs (4-0 ending with a Super Bowl win) and 4 seasons of getting bounced in the first round.

But barring his first sniff at the playoffs in 2005, in which the second-year QB threw 3 interceptions in an opening round match-up, Eli has never had a bad playoff outing. The man exudes an aura of postseason excellence in a city that holds a particularly high standard for championships.

Future Hall Of Famer

This is where it’s all heading, an argument for the ages on whether or not the younger Manning is worthy of a spot in Canton, OH. There is a case to be made on both sides of the coin.

Opposing Eli is the ‘Phil Simms’ school of thought. The other All-Time Giant was undoubtedly good but never great, and never made his way into the Hall of Fame. And while potentially-devastating turnover numbers didn’t harm the likes of Peyton or Brett Favre, Eli isn’t quite up to their standards on his best day.

Backing Eli, the longstanding love-affair between sports fans and the moments that matter most. His seemingly heightened abilities in the most important games of his career. The ice in his veins that transforms an above-average arm into a gun-slinger extraordinaire when his team and city need a hero.

Regardless of where you stand in the Eli, Hall of Fame campaign in the years to come; the one thing you can’t help but do is respect what he’s achieved. Since forcing his way from San Diego to New York on draft night in ’04, his name has become synonymous with Giants lore in the same vein as Lawrence Taylor & Michael Strahan.  He’s ascended the ranks and over the years morphed into one of the most consistently great quarterbacks of his generation. So when all is said and done, that is the Legacy of Eli.

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