Last season, Eli Manning solidified his argument that, despite the detractors, he was among the elite quarterbacks in the NFL. This season, it appears he’s striving to show everyone he is the league’s best quarterback.
In three games, Manning has been near-flawless. His only struggles came in the New York Giants’ Week 2 battle with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, where he threw three uncharacteristic interceptions in the first half. In typical Manning fashion, however, the Giants gunslinger turned it around in the second half, rally his team together and leading them to a dramatic come-from-behind victory in the fourth quarter.
In Week 3 on Thursday Night Football against the Carolina Panthers, he was purely dominant.
Despite his shoddy first half performance at home against the Bucs, Manning has entered the 2012 NFL season looking better than he ever has before. He appears confident in every facet of the game, whether it is in the pocket or in the huddle; Manning has become the guy he was projected to be coming out of Ole Miss in 2004.
The spectacular thing is Manning’s improvement from week to week. He has an unparalleled ability to make every player on the field better and doesn’t miss a step when a star is sidelined—as he did in Week 3 without Hakeem Nicks.
That’s the sign of a great quarterback and leader: the outstanding ability to transform every around you into a superstar on any given night. There are very few who are able to do it in the NFL today. And unlike some, Manning’s prowess is not the result of some system built to succeed like some can argue with Tom Brady in New England (see: Matt Cassel) or Drew Brees in New Orleans (see: Saints struggles without the offensive mastermind Sean Payton). Manning is what makes the Giants offense successful.
He is the heart of the Giants and that’s why they have this inconceivable ability to come back no matter the deficit they are faced with. Manning gives them hope. They believe in their quarterback. And that’s why, despite every obstacle they were faced with, they capped off the 2011 season as the NFL’s Super Bowl champions.
This season has been more impressive. With his offensive weapons banged up and the offensive line shaky, Manning has gathered his teammates and pushed them to be the best they can be. Against the Panthers, he wouldn’t let the loss of four key members hinder the damage the Giants set out to inflict in Charlotte. The Giants gladly stepped up to the plate, scoring on nearly every offensive drive while backups Andre Brown and Ramses Barden had the games of their lives.
His teammates adore him and why wouldn’t they? Manning has developed into a winner capable of making anyone a star. It’s fair to assume Brown and Barden are hoping to be “anyone” for Manning and the Giants.
He can’t be credited with a phenomenal defense anymore, though the Giants do boast fearsome defensive line that will surely give opposing offenses fits all season long. He can’t be called a “lucky” quarterback. He is a winner, no, a champion, and with every passing week, Manning does more and more to back up his case for being the very best quarterback in the NFL.
The other elite quarterbacks—you know, the ones believed to be better than the younger Manning—have all had their issues this season. Brady and Brees have been underwhelming as their teams have sputtered early, unable to overcome the same obstacles Manning and the Giants have in three games. Aaron Rodgers, meanwhile, has had his leadership called into question and choked under pressure in the Green Bay Packers’ Week 1 loss to the San Francisco 49ers. Not to mention, Manning has shown that he can conquer Rodgers and the Packers when necessary.
No one is questioning Manning’s leadership today; he cemented his status as such a long time ago. And while others may continue to question Manning’s ability as one of the league’s top quarterbacks, No. 10 has his team looking like the team that won the Super Bowl last season, and may just do so again this February in New Orleans.
Maybe then, should the Giants add their third Super Bowl victory in six seasons, a new Manning will be considered the cream of the crop in the NFL.