New York Giants fans love Eli Manning. He has had two brilliant Super Bowl runs and has been a steady force for the franchise for almost a decade. That being said, he is no longer truly elite.
Many times the term “elite” is confusing, so let’s define it now. Top five.
So then the question is, who is ahead of Manning? There are four players who are inarguable. Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees in no particular order are the best four quarterbacks. Even the biggest Giants fan should admit that Eli is a step behind those all-time (or future all-time) greats.
The last spot becomes tricky, and there can be some argument over it. Matt Ryan, Robert Griffin, and Ben Roethlisberger can all make claims to that spot. For Manning to be a top five quarterback he would have to be clearly better than each of them.
RGIII did have a better year last year than Manning (fewer interceptions, high completion percentage, higher DVOA), but he has only done it for a year. Furthermore, RGIII had the help of Alfred Morris, a great running back, whereas Manning’s running backs were ineffective for most of the year. Still, with RGIII only having played one year there is simply not enough data or evidence to say he is better than Manning. Manning has the better pedigree and they had similar numbers last year, so Manning should win out.
Big Ben and Manning not only had very similar numbers last year, but also have had similar careers. They both were basically carried by a great defense to a first Super Bowl, and then were the key piece for their next one. Last year Roethlisberger had fewer picks and a higher completion percentage, but threw for way fewer yards. All in all, Manning has been better the last two years, and though Big Ben is a great player, Manning has a small step on him.
Unfortunately for Manning, Matt Ryan is simply better. Ryan last year had a significantly higher completion percentage, more yards and touchdowns, fewer interceptions and a higher DVOA, DYAR, and QBR. By any measure he was better. Ryan should improve again this year at his young age and with a running back who is actually good, something Michael Turner was not. Ryan is often described as a player who cannot win the big game, but that is completely unfair. In almost every loss the Falcons have had the defense played poorly and Ryan has not had a good run game since he became a top quarterback. Manning has always been clutch, and that counts, but not more than every other stat.
Not only is Ryan better, but by the end of the year young bucks like Colin Kaepernick, Russell Wilson and RGIII could easily have passed Manning as well. Manning is a very good quarterback and was elite, but it is hard to keep arguing that now. With a good defense and even an average running game Manning will be well equipped to push the Giants deep into the playoffs, but maybe you can spell elite without Eli.
Jay Cullen is a New York Giants writer for RantSports.com.