Eli Manning of the New York Giants was not always a great NFL quarterback. New York Jets fans might even take heart when the look at the youngest of the quarterbacking Mannings, since there are some stark similarities in the paser ratings and completion percentages of Manning and the Jets Mark Sanchez during the early seasons of their NFL careers.
When the Giants made their Super Bowl in early 2008, however, Manning grew up. As the Giants won a surprising Super Bowl title Manning shot down quarterbacks Jeff Garcia (Tampa Bay), Tony Romo (Dallas), Brett Favre (Green Bay and finally Tom Brady (New England).
That version of Manning showed the steely nerves and ability to make big plays at crucial moments that have become typical for Manning this season, now in his eighth season and at the height of his career.
There are still those who don't understand. Still those who says "it's impossible to take him seriously" and think it is "weird" to consider him a star. Yet, clearly that is what Manning has become. Only 10 quarterbacks have won multiple Super Bowls, with seven in the Pro Football Hall of Fame and one, Ben Roethlisberger, still playing.
There are those who constantly talk about Manning as an interception machine, and who simply cannot get past the 25-interception season from a year ago.
Fact is, though, in three of the past four seasons Manning's interception percentage has been below three percent. That is the same as Drew Brees and Roethlisberger, among others.
To appreciate Manning you have to watch the way he orchestrates a game. Yes, early in his career he threw a lot of balls up for grabs. And it seemed like he was good for a couple of delay of game penalties every week. No longer, though.
Manning has reached the stage of his career where he has complete control of the Giants offense. Where there is no doubt he is making the players around him, receivers, running backs and even offensive lineman better.
If things go poorly for Manning and the Giants today, there will be those who revel in seeing the unhappy 'Manning Face.' Those who say, see, he really isn't that good. He really is the Eli we remember from before the first Super Bowl.
They would be wrong. He is a great quarterback. No matter what happens against the 49ers.