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The Value of Eli Manning

On January 2nd, 2005 Eli Manning gave the 78,000 Giants fans in attendance that night a sneak peak of his intangibles and football acumen that would define his career so far. With the Giants trailing 24-20 late in the 4th quarter in a meaningless home game against the Cowboys, Eli, like he has done throughout his career as the Giants starting quarterback, lead the Giants on a game-winning drive. With the Giants at Dallas's three yard line with precious seconds left on the clock, Eli cool and calmly studied the defense, and audibled to a draw for Tiki. Barber ran into the end zone, and Eli got his first career win as a Giants starter.

on the last Monday of last October, Eli showed again how his intangibles and football acumen allows him to be in total control of the offense. On the Giants first touchdown, after recognizing the blitz from Dallas, and seeing his blossoming young receiver Hakeem Nicks one-on-one against Cowboy safety Gerald Sensabaugh, Eli changed the play and the protection and threw a strike to Nicks for the Giants first touchdown of the night.

Throughout his career, Eli has shown that he is in full control of his offense. Tom Rock of Newsday gave fans a peak into the preparation Eli does for each opponent he faces:

You may remember against the Texans when Eli threw a TD pass to Hakeem Nicks and they spoke about how they had seen a safety tendency during independent film study that allowed them to adjust a play on the fly and exploit it. Well, Sullivan said that every week Eli Manning not only holds a meeting with the running backs (on Thursdays) and the receivers (on Fridays), he also does all of the prep work himself.

“This is something that Eli puts together, something that he orchestrates to go over some of the key issues and things that schematically will be very important,” Sullivan said. “It’s something that he’s established. He plans, prepares and executes it. He’s in charge of that.”

To the point where Manning actually cuts up his own film to show the other players in these meetings. There are enough staffers in the building to do just about anything any of the players wants done, so the fact that Manning sits there and doesn't just study but pieces together frames of game film for upcoming meetings is pretty remarkable.

People look at the quarterback position, and they become enamored with the touchdown passes and yards thrown. They see Ben Roethlisberger escape three tackles and fire a deep touch down pass to Hines Ward, or they watch Carson Palmer throw one deep down the sideline to Ochocinco, and they think these quarterbacks "elite". Fans are blinded by seeing the big plays and by studying who has thrown the most touchdown passes or yards. They look at these statistics, and think they understand the value of their quarterback. But football is not that simple. It's not as black and white as looking at yards and touch downs and understanding how quarterbacks stack up against each other each season.

Since Eli became a full time starter in 2005, there have been only seven quarterbacks who are still starting consistently in 2010, nine if you include Romo and Rivers, who started in 2006. I ranked these quarterbacks offenses since the the start of the 2005 season, to better understand which quarterbacks commanded over the most potent offenses, looking at yards per game. I omitted the 2008 season for Brady and Palmer because of injuries, while also excluding the 2010 season for the Steelers to account for Roethlisberger's suspension. Here is the average offense rank for each QB's offense since 2005:

1. Drew Brees: 3.83
2. Tony Romo: 6
3. Tom Brady: 6
4. Peyton Manning: 6.5
5. Eli Manning: 9
6. Philip Rivers: 9.2
7. Donovan McNabb: 10.83
8. Brett Farve: 12.16
9. Carson Palmer: 13.6
10. Ben Roethlisberger: 13.6

Now, I'm not saying Eli Manning is a top five quarterback. Like I stated earlier, no one stat defines a quarterback. There are a multitude of factors that are involved in determining the value of a quarterback, but one that never seems to be accounted for is the offense the quarterback is in charge of. Let's take into account that since 2006, Eli has lost Tiki Barber, Jeremy Shockey, Amani Toomer and Plaxico Burress, and yet the offense never missed a beat. What has been the once constant? Eli Manning.

Before the season started, ESPN senior NFL writer John Clayton attempted to rank all 32 quarterbacks, and had Eli ranked 11th, behind Carson Palmer, Donovan McNabb, Brett Farve and Ben Roethlisberger. Did John Clayton take into account those quarterback's offenses? Probably not. He, like most fans and analysts, looked at the numbers, examined the yards and touchdown passes, and compiled that list without taking into account how their offenses had faired over the years.

The quarterback position is arguably the most important position of any team, across all sports. Without a franchise quarterback to build around, teams are constantly stuck in neutral, shifting from mediocre to average year to year, but are never perennial contenders. Eli has won a Super Bowl, has lead his team to the post season in four of his five years as as starter and has quarterbacked a top ten offense since his he took over in 2005.

Doesn't that count for something?

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  1. Great write up. But why isn't Eli a top 5 QB? Why do people feel the need to apologize for that statement after writing and talking about how he is an exceptional quarterback? And yet "they" talk up QB's like Rodgers who haven't yet proven to me that they can deliver the final blow. Eli, not only has done that, but he's done that over and over again! Even based on this write up, people can wake up. Eli Manning is a top 5 quarterback. After he wins another Superbowl, it'll be indisputable. For those who think not, they need to re-examine Big Ben's "elite" status--which is completely unwarranted.

  2. Fully agree, glad you liked the post! It has always amazed me how people evaluate quarterbacks. How is Romo considered a top 5 QB? What has he accomplished? Quarterbacks are in control of offenses, so why not evaluate the offense the quarterback is in control of?