Prior to the 2011 season, Eli Manning made what was at the time a controversial comment about him being an elite quarterback. Manning helped lead the New York Giants to their second Super Bowl victory since 2007 that year and quieted critics. However, Manning is once again coming under fire as he has struggled, along with the rest of the Giants, this season.
Manning is currently leading the NFL in interceptions with 20 and is on pace to finish the season with more interceptions than touchdowns for the first time since his rookie campaign in 2004. Right now, he only has 16 touchdowns. He is also on pace to post his lowest completion percentage since 2007, currently completing passes at a 58.6 percent clip.
Is Eli Manning truly an elite quarterback? To look at him this season it is hard to see him being listed as a top 15 quarterback in the league right now let alone in the top five. Elite quarterbacks make players around them better. They elevate their game and elevate the games of those around them. Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning. Those are elite quarterbacks. You could make a case that youngsters like Russell Wilson are entering that realm with strong play this season.
Eli has never been a fiery leader. He has been the quiet assassin, seemingly sneaking up on people and winning two Super Bowls while breaking Giants’ records. Under all of that, however, are under-thrown passes, interceptions at key moments and missing the playoffs for the fourth time in five years.
Obviously, the Giants’ struggles are not all of Eli’s fault. He has not received stellar protection this season and has already been sacked 33 times after being sacked only 19 times all of last season. He has not had a running game behind him to take the pressure off. He has also been victimized by his receivers dropping passes or having balls picked off after hitting his receivers in his hands. However, he has also made some terrible throws and there has been a problem with the timing with his receivers all season long.
Maybe the chemistry with his receivers isn’t Eli’s fault. It is partly his fault though. Something isn’t working and an elite quarterback works to overcome that. I’m not calling Manning undedicated or anything like that but Giants’ fans deserve to see some improvement over the course of the season and there hasn’t been any from the start of preseason. The same problems that have plagued the Giants from the preseason still plague them in Week 14 and that is inexcusable. Week in and week out we hear that receivers must be running the wrong routes but we can’t possibly know who is at fault. Only Eli, the receivers and the coaching staff truly knows the answer.
One thing is certain, Manning is once again facing an uphill battle. As the face of the franchise he must be held accountable and so far he has escaped much of the blame. Don’t get me wrong, the Giants have had enough problems everywhere to assign blame with every player. However, with only one player on the roster making over $100 million Eli must hold much of the blame.
Manning is good enough and intelligent enough to once again silence the doubters. However, he is not an elite quarterback right now. He is not elevating the games of any players around him. He is not controlling the football game like Phillip Rivers did last night against the Giants’ defense.
As the Giants get ready to retool for the 2014 season, the Giants and Eli Manning will have to elevate their games if they hope to make the playoffs next season. Just as the laurels rest on the shoulders of the quarterback so too should much of the burden for failure. It is time for Manning to finally prove he is elite with consistent play.