Eli Manning: Why The 2011 Season May Have Been a Fluke

Few could top the season New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning had in 2011 with stellar performance after stellar performance chocked full of late-game heroics ultimately culminating in the grand prize—a Super Bowl victory.

To be able to duplicate such a season would be outstanding—Manning led seven fourth-quarter comebacks and finished the season with nearly 5,000 yards passing and 29 touchdowns. However, the spectacle that was the younger Manning’s 2011 season may be tough to repeat for more than the difficulty in accomplishing such a season.

Manning’s breakout campaign could very well have been nothing more than, well, a fluke.

Giants fans just screamed blasphemy reading that. Some are already scrolling to the bottom of this page to tear me a new one, but please hear me out.

Manning’s performance was amazing and going forward, there is no question he is one of the better quarterbacks in the NFL. However, history tells a much different story from the player we saw last season.

Certainly, Manning has progressed each year of his NFL career. He had eclipsed 4,000 yards in each of the two previous seasons leading into 2011, and his presence as a leader on the field had vastly improved since the days of Tiki Barber and other Giants criticizing No. 10 for his inability to be the captain the team needed him to be.

Manning’s first four full seasons as a starter were mediocre at best with below average passing yardage totals and unacceptable accuracy. He hovered near the 20 interception mark for three of those four seasons and struggled to complete more than 60 percent of his passes. Fans in New York were getting tired of his inconsistency and only a Lombardi Trophy in 2007—very much so due to his spectacular play against the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII—may have saved his backside from a much more brutal tenure with the Giants.

Though Manning emerged as a big time passer, eclipsing 4,000 yards for the first time in 2009, his production improved only as the game was evolving into a pass-heavy league. 10 players passed for 4,000 yards or more that season—nearly double the number they were the previous year.

In 2010, Manning passed for over 4,000 yards once again, but the foolish mistakes that had haunted him for much of his career were at the forefront. He threw a career-worst and NFL-leading 25 interceptions with a passer rating of 85.3—good enough for 17th in the NFL. Manning, though his yardage production had certainly improved, was still very much the same inconsistent passer who loved to make some dangerous, boneheaded passes that leave that trademark “what the heck was that?!” look on head coach Tom Coughlin’s face.

In 2011, Manning was much more careful for most of the season, but glimpses of that old Eli flashed through over the course of the season.

Despite that, Manning was near-perfect. Every time the Giants were down, you knew he would have them fighting for the win at the end. The guy had no quit and it all paid off at the end of the season with a victory in Super Bowl XLVI.

This upcoming season, though, the Giants and Eli Manning prepare for the NFL’s toughest schedule with a majority of the NFL’s top defenses on tap. Teams like the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers will capitalize on the silly throws he makes that teams were unable to do so on in 2011.

To this point in his career, Manning ranks as an average passer by the numbers. His 82.1 passer rating is 21st among active quarterbacks; his pathetic 58.4 percent completion percentage ranks far worse. To think that after eight NFL seasons, Manning has finally evolved into a top-flight quarterback is not generally logical.

Most of the league’s top passers blossom in their second or third year, progressing year-by-year, but staying rather consistent throughout their career.

A look at Manning’s numbers tell the story of an erratic, inconsistent quarterback who makes dangerous decisions. When he’s on, he’s on, but when he’s not, the Giants suffer dramatically. Manning was on fire in 2011 and the season’s ending reflected that. But more often than not, Manning is just as his numbers declare him to be—average.

An average performance equals average results (see: two seasons without a playoff appearance and three of five playoff appearances going one-and-done).

Might the Giants quarterback be a bit less elite than he has gotten credit for after a phenomenal campaign last season? With another big season ahead in New York and an onslaught of stiff competition on the schedule, Manning will have his opportunity to prove that last season was not a fluke, but a glimpse of what’s to come from the talented gunslinger.

Louis Musto is a New York Giants Featured Columnist for RantSports.com. You can follow him on Twitter @LouisMusto.


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  • Mike

    Give it a break already. How can one of the top QBs in the game still continue to get questioned each and every week? Writers keep doubting, Eli keeps winning. I am done reading articles with headlines like this and yes I heard you out. Lame!

  • Bobby

    Check how many of those interceptions were tipped passes–off or through the hands of young receivers. Dumbass. Do your homework.

    • Louis Musto

      Plenty were on tipped passes, certainly, but a handful of those “tipped passes” were because Eli placed the ball too high or behind his receivers, too. Should he have had 25? Absolutely not, but Manning was not particularly careful with the football in 2010.

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

      • bizmark

        lots of guys throw alot of ints but are worshipped …ie brees in 2010 I beleieve threw 2 less ints than eli farve was always throwing the ball into the defense hands….but eli has the more important stat 2 superbowls trophies and 2 superbowl mvps. If eli’s last name wasn’t manning everyone would look at him totally different light but because he doesn’t play exactly like his brother he’s hated on.

  • Broseph

    “His 82.1 passer rating is 21st among active quarterbacks; his pathetic 58.4 percent completion percentage ranks far worse. To think that after eight NFL seasons, Manning has finally evolved into a top-flight quarterback is not generally logical”

    I’m not sure how you can use career completion percentage and career passer rating to justify criticism for the type of QB Manning is NOW. He was horrendous his first couple years (including the regular season of his 1st SB) but you know…players develop and get better…why penalize him for that now?

    How about we look at Eli’s stats in during the playoffs of the 2007 season and beyond (it seems like that’s a turning point for him)

    2007 playoffs: 6 TDs, 1 INT
    2008: 3250 yds, 21 TD, 10 INT
    2009: 4020 yds, 28 TD, 14 INT
    2010: 4000 yds, 31 TD, 25 INT
    2011: 4900 yds, 29 TD, 16 INT
    2011 playoffs: 9 TD, 1 INT

    He’s completed over 60% of his passes every year. And since his 2007 season, he’s got 17 (17!) 4th Q comebacks.

    Also, QB rating is an incredibly overrated and flawed stat, but even by those metrics he is above his “career” avg from his most recent years.

    2008: 86.4
    2009. 93.1
    2010: 85.3 (I agree he had a down year)
    2011: 92.9

    What makes 2011 even more impressive is that he had a trash OL, has continously developed new WRs, and we ranked 32nd in the run game. Eli carried the team, and has been carrying the team.

    You also mentioned that Tiki criticized Eli for not being a leader. Why not mention the countless members of the team (Antrel Rolle, Justin Tuck, Amani Toomer, Michael Strahan, Brandon Jacobs, Corey Webster, Victor Cruz, Mario Manningham, Hakeem Nicks, Tom Coughlin, Jake Ballard, Kevin Boss, Chris Snee, David Diehl, etc) that have ALL SAID that he is the unquestioned leader of the team? Or did it just not fit the narrative that Eli is a fluke?

    C’mon man, you can do better.

    • Louis Musto

      Eli Manning has progressed with no question, as I mentioned, but the article was merely meant to stir up some thought in whether LAST season was a fluke. I wouldn’t expect Eli to return to the 3300 passing yard, 21 TD/17 INT guy he was, but it’s also hard to imagine he replicates 2011.

      As for the stuff about Tiki, that was actually a positive comment I was making if you read back. I pointed out how he has come a LONG way from the guy he was back then. Not an insult at all and tons of players, as you mentioned, love the leader he is for the Giants now.

      2011 was a phenomenal year for Eli and I only hope he continues going up. It’s always pleasant to see someone defy his critics and what may be expected of him. At this point in his career, no one would have expected him to blossom into a near-5,000-yard passer, but he pulled it off last season and it will interesting to see if he can be such a dominant player again this season.

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

      • Broseph

        Totally mis-interpreted your Tiki comment. My mistake. It was a well written article, by the way…I realized I came off kind of harsh.

        As far as your main focus…

        “the article was merely meant to stir up some thought in whether LAST season was a fluke”

        It’s a legitimate question, but I stand on what I said before regarding his progression as a quarterback. As I showed, he’s gotten better and better, and his volume stats have gone up. Had an off year with the interceptions in 2010, but also posted a career high in TDs. He was forcing throws and our run game was definitely not efficient. He grew from that in 2011, but again, in 2009 and 2008, he had great efficiency numbers.

        Given what he had to overcome last year, re: his OL hemorrhaging pressure and the LAST ranked rushing offense…not to mention the defense given up a ton of points (bottom 10 scoring defense in the league), it really is difficult to see how what Eli did was a fluke given how much he had to fight through to have the kind of year that he did last year.

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  • Eble

    Guys, this douche is just trying to get hits on his article. Just ignore it. Good for those of you who say they won’t be reading articles with headlines like this anymore. Demand better quality and you’ll get it eventually.

  • bruce mckenzie

    Louis–I understand your point, but think it focuses on only one aspect of what makes an elite, not average, QB in the NFL. And, although you give allowance to Eli’s progress as a team leader and stat progress over recent years, I think your question about 2011 being a “fluke” for Eli is predicated far too much upon stats and his early years dragging his stat averages down. What I see in Eli–and why I believe that 2011 overall was not a fluke for Eli–is that he is a “gamer”. By that I mean there is far more to his game than being at the top of the league in stats. He’s at the point now–and has been since his 07 post season run, really–where when the game is on the line, or when the team is struggling during part of the game–most fans (and more importantly his team mates–have utmost confidence in Eli to put the team in a position to win. He has “command”. That is far more critical to a winning QB than breath taking stats. Much is made of today being a “passing league” vs previous NFL eras. That’s true, in that there are more teams that emphasize pass more than run, and that more QBs now come out of college with high pass credentials than in previous eras. But the need for a QB to have the “command” quality as a true leader is still as critical as it was back in the day. Although Aikman had mediocre numbers–even for the time, they were lightweight–he had command of the team and the game. Simms had that in the last half of his career. Montana had it. Bradshaw had it. None of them were gunslinger passing QBs, yet I venture that they would be champ QBs today, even without sky high yards. Eli may or may not achieve near 5000 yards this year. He may not be forced to come from behind in as many 4th qtrs this year (hopefully because the defense doesn’t let Giants fall behind in so many games this year). But the confidence he brings to his mates and coaches will not diminish. His winning abilities will not diminish. If nothing else (and yoy even admit as much), he has shown over the past 8 years that he never stops working to improve his game, every year. His work (career) is not done, and everything about his demeaner and his work ethic reveals that.

  • Michael

    Is this idiot your NYG writer?? He should write for the Chargers. This offense depends on the QB and receivers reading the defense the same way. Even passes that were not off the receivers’ hands could have been the WR’s fault.

    Mediocre? Go to hell. Or back to San Diego. I will not revisit this site. By the way, you can tell a writer is insecure when he feels obligated to answer the posters. You match that description perfectly.

    And you asked the readers to be patient and read the entire article. Why? It only got worse.

    • Louis Musto

      It’s recommended of us to interact with our audience and reply to their comments. If you disagreed with the content that is fine, but I’m not sure going about it in such a way was necessary. Nonetheless, thanks for reading and I’m sorry to see Rant Sports lose a reader because someone disagreed with the information I put out there.

      Over the entire course of his career, Manning has been average or, yes, mediocre. It’s right in the numbers. Has he improved? Without question. Is he one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks? Yes. Do I think it will continue? I certainly hope so. Do I believe last season was a fluke? That’s beside the point here. This wasn’t necessarily an opinion of mine, but something to stir up conversation and see what people think, as it has. The facts are in the article for people to disparage and discuss and I am glad they are, you included. Thank you for commenting, reading and enjoy!

  • Ben

    I have to agree with the posters that are calling out this writer, not only is this a poorly written article but it lacks any type of football knowledge or common sense. Louis, I really think you need to have an understanding of football before writing an article like this, even if it is to only stir up debate. You keep talking about numbers, but only the ones that help your argument (and the QB rating is a horrible way to make a point) you say nothing about dropped passes, the difference between possible int’s and actual int’s, or about misreads by the WR, or about game situations (ever hear of Parcells, situational football), I could keep going. You say nothing about how while throwing those career high 25 int’s that he was also the best passer on 1st down and led the league in TD throws of 20 yards or more. Six of those interceptions were because of the WR (dont believe me, go back and watch the tape) and 2 were from hail mary passes at the end of losing games. You can watch all 25 interceptions on youtube, just look it up. Your comments about him being erratic and making dangerus decisions are totally off, actually if you look at his numbers you can see him improving in almost every area over the years, completion percentage either goes up or is very close to the same and in 5 different years it goes up, samething with his average yards per throw, his total yards changed a bit but that has more to do with how the running game is going any given year. In the end I have to agree with Eble (and you admit it yourself) you are just trying to get hits on your article, especially with the words you choose to use, fluke and pathetic coming to mind without having to reread you writing. You say you are just putting things out there for discussion, then why do you end with a statement – ” But more often than not, Manning is just as his numbers declare him to be—average.” – without really discussing all the numbers. By the way those are your interpretations of the numbers, not the true story. The other thing that kills me is that you blame the Giants missing out on the playoffs because Manning was average those years – “An average performance equals average results (see: two seasons without a playoff appearance and three of five playoff appearances going one-and-done).” So the defense had nothing to do with any of those losses, nor did our awful special teams, or coaching? Football is a team sport and the reality is that you can not define a QB just by adding up numbers, it has a lot more to do than that. Have you ever played football or been involved on the coaching side of football? Well you lost another reader for the site and not because I disagree with your point but because you leave out so very much.

    • Russel

      Wow…that was better than the article!

  • Kevin Elford

    You’re absolutely right . . . at the end of the 2012 season, we’ll all meet back here, and THEN we’ll debate if E. Man is a middle-of-the-pack QB, or a Super Bowl MVP for a THIRD time !!!