Only a few years ago New York Giants fans were wondering if Eli Manning was the right quarterback to lead the Giants to the
promised land. In 2007, he did just that, quieting many of his critics. Then, in 2010, Eli threw 25 interceptions, which led the NFL, and lost 5 of 7 fumbles. Again, his critics rose up and began to wonder if Eli Manning were a worthy quarterback and it led to the question as to whether or not Eli was elite. Manning’s response that he was elite touched off a small firestorm of controversy but Manning shrugged it off and went out and had the best season of his career. He led the Giants to their second Super Bowl victory in five years and won his second Super Bowl MVP.
While many critics have quieted down since then, there are still some out there wondering if Eli Manning’s 2011 season was an
aberration. Last season he threw for 4,933 yards with 29 TDs and only 16 INTs and completing 61% of his passes. It was his third straight year of throwing for more than 4,000 yards and his fourth straight years of completing at least 60% of his passes. Early in Eli’s career, there was a lot of talk about Eli’s inability to maintain consistency as well as making smart football decisions. Things have changed.
Manning is poised to build upon last season. Yes, that’s right, Eli can get better. Will he ever lead the NFL in passing yards? Probably not but he will certainly be among the top five. Will he toss more than 40 TDs in a season? Doubtful, as he has only cracked 30 TDs once in his career, in 2010 when he had 31. However, he certainly is capable of accomplishing that feat.
Eli Manning is one of those rare quarterbacks who rise above his numbers. He led the NFL in 4th quarter comebacks last season, 8 when playoffs are included, a statistic that was often overlooked until Eli did what he did last year.
So, can Eli Manning really improve upon last season? The answer is yes. He has developed an excellent rapport with Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks. His third wide receiver is still undecided but it looks like it might be Domenik Hixon to start the year, another receiver Eli is comfortable throwing to. Then, there is Rueben Randle, a speedy wide receiver who is very raw but has made some nice catches this preseason. Jerrel Jernigan should also be much improved after he struggled in the complex offense as a rookie, due in large part to not having a lot of prep time before the season began but his speed and ability to catch and run from the slot should give Eli another weapon to utilize. While Martellus Bennett might not be a recognizable upgrade over Jake Ballard right now, one has to remember that Ballard literally came out of nowhere last season and nobody expected him to be an upgrade over Kevin Boss.
What makes Eli Manning stand out is his ability to check down, finding an open receiver regardless of who it is. Eli can cycle through several options in the matter of a second and find his open receiver. Sure, it doesn’t always work out and Eli will still make a mistake from time to time as all quarterbacks do, but Eli has only gotten better as the
years have progressed. He is still in his prime and is playing to win his third Super Bowl. He has the confidence of the coaching staff, his teammates, and now the fans. No longer is every mistake scrutinized in the press and booed by fans.
Yes, Eli Manning can get better.