Just be consistent, baby
Editor’s note: It’s time to get ready for some football. We’re just 10 days away from the annual Thursday Night kickoff to the NFL’s regular season, and we’ll be getting you ready with a bunch of pigskin-themed blogs and podcasts over these next 10 days. We’ll start it off the only way we know how: by laying down a defense of the great Eli Manning
Okay, we’re going to do this. For real this time. I’m going to actually tell you why I think Eli Manning is an underrated quarterback and one of the more valuable players under center in the NFL. Unlike my takeover of Tim Culverhouse’s hot take feature a few weeks ago, I’ll try to keep my emotional attachment to the great mouth breather out of this. I probably won’t, but I’ll try my best
Back to the thesis of this piece though: Eli Manning, both the player he currently is and his back catalogue of successes and failures, is a criminally underrated player, particularly in an era that centers around the quarterback position.
Even as a diehard fanboy, I’ll concede that #10 isn’t without some (very frustrating) flaws. There’s nothing about his game face that inspires confidence, and he’s been a bit too giving when it comes to turnovers in the past.
But Manning is nothing if consistent. He’s been under center for essentially every meaningful snap the New York football Giants have played since his debut in 2004. In the decade-plus he’s been part of Big Blue, the team has played in 194 total contests, including 183 regular season games and 11 playoff games, and Eli has started every single one of them.
As has been mentioned elsewhere, he owns the longest active streak for consecutive games started in the NFL by more than 20 games over Phillip Rivers, who stands at second on the list. He also sits just behind Brett Favre on the all time consecutive starts list for quarterbacks.
We’ve seen seasons by contenders jump completely off the rails when their quarterback goes down, and for good reason, considering how valuable the QB is. The Cowboys have gone nowhere while waiting for Tony Romo’s back to heal. The Patriots, while they put together a strong season, couldn’t find their way into the playoffs after losing Tom Brady.
The Giants haven’t had to worry about any of that over the past 12 years. Eli has been there, healthy enough to start under center, no matter how porous the offensive line has been.
But it isn’t just that he’s appeared in all those games in a row. While this may be hard to believe, the word that comes to mind most quickly when I think of Eli is “consistency” and it’s not just because of his attendance record.
You may scoff and say that the only consistent part of Eli’s game is his ability to turn the ball over. But for all the crap that Eli takes for his laughable Manning face, the results say he’s close to a steel trap under pressure.
Think back to the one man who stands above Eli on the QB Iron Man list, Favre. Sure, Favre’s talent and guts allowed his career highs to perhaps reach higher than Eli’s. But those same traits also made sure his lows were about as low as could be. Remember, Favre is also on the top of the interception list, and his career ended (the first time) on a game-ending interception.
Eli doesn’t seem to feel nerves. For better or worse, the open-mouthed, chaotically calm Eli is essentially the same player whether he’s playing in Albany during training camp, at the Meadowlands in October, and Lambeau Field in January or in Arizona in February.He’s not perfect, that’s for sure, and the way he repeats mistakes can be maddening. But, give the guy credit, even when he’s inconsistent, he does it consistently.
If there’s anything that can be learned from the highs and (mostly) lows of the Jets millennial history, it may be just how valuable Eli is.
We’ve seen more than a half-dozen quarterbacks take snaps for Jersey/B (h/t Bill Barnwell) since 2004, and finding a stable solution at quarterback remains the biggest struggle for a team that has done a pretty nice job of developing their roster at wide receiver and on defense.
Or you could look at the Browns, who have had a depressing array of QB’s walk through their doors over the past decade plus.
It’s not just the teams in the league’s basement or those that provide comic relief that show Manning’s value. Just look at the Denver Broncos, who will be starting a relative rookie picked in the 7th round of last year’s draft just a few months after winning a Super Bowl. Even some of the league’s best and brightest front offices struggle to find consistency at the position.
But, like I said earlier, the Giants don’t have that problem. For 12 years, Giant fans have known what to expect each Sunday under center. He may not have been the best, but that consistency delivered a pair of Lombardi trophies.
Sounds like a pretty good resume to me.