Forget debating whether or not New York Giants' quarterback Eli Manning is elite, or where he ranks if you accept the common wisdom that Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees are the Big Four of NFL quarterbacks. Eli is one of the best quarterbacks playing the game today. As ESPN's Colin Cowherd is fond of saying, if you can't see the reality of that statement, that's a you problem.
I'm not here today to debate his standing among current NFL quarterbacks. I'm here to say that I think after what we have witnessed from Manning this season we can say without any doubt he is the best quarterback to ever play the position for the New York Giants.
Sorry, Phil Simms. Sorry, Y.A. Tittle, Charlie Conerly and even short-timer Fran Tarkenton. The idea that Manning could eventually be the best quarterback in the history of the Giants' franchise has been out there for a couple of seasons now. I think the time has come to stop talking about eventually. From where I sit, he IS the best who has ever played the position for the Giants.
Here are a few numbers to chew on:
- Manning passed for 400 yards Sunday, the third time he has done that this season. He has 21 300+ yard games, tied with Simms for the franchise best.
- His 4,105 is a career high, and third straight season he has gone over the 4,000-yard mark. He is on pace to pass for 5,052 yards.
- He has thrown 14 fourth-quarter touchdown passes this season, tying a record set by Johnny Unitas in 1959 (a 12-game season) and Peyton Manning in 2006.
- He has 303 completions this season, the fourth time in his career he has completed 300 or more passes. That is a franchise record.
- He has led five fourth-quarter come-from-behind wins this season and 20 in his career.
There are more numbers, but that is enough. The case for him as the best Giants quarterback of all time goes beyond the numbers, and even beyond the belief his team has in him. Simms, Tittle and Conerly all had the rock-solid support of their teammates, and deservedly so.
Manning, as I said, has led five come-from-behind victories in the fourth quarter this season, and helped the Giants win a sixth game against Buffalo that was tied, 24-24 with less than nine minutes to play. There were two other games (Seattle and Green Bay) where Manning put the Giants in position to win late, but the team fell just short. You can easily argue that without Manning the 2011 Giants could be a two- or three-win team.
The quarterback position has changed so much. No quarterbacks technically do not call their own plays. A quarterback like Manning, though, is actually calling his own game much of the time. He often has a couple of plays to choose from, and his teammates say he changes around 40 percent of the plays at the line of scrimmage, anyway. So, he is calling the game.
Manning is one of the best in the league pre-snap, getting the Giants set and getting them into a play that has a chance to succeed. Maybe only his brother does that better.
He is fearless, both of the pass rush and of the situation on the scoreboard. He is not a scrambler, but he has an uncanny ability to set protections, to slide in the pocket, to get the ball out of his hands just quickly enough. Manning was not sacked Sunday in 47 pass attempts, and that is not because the line did a great job. There were free runners all night. It's because Manning moved cunningly and got the ball out decisively.
For me, there is little doubt Manning has ascended to the throne of best Giants' quarterback ever. Best of all, at the age of 30 he very well could only be halfway through his career. Giants fans will get to see a whole lot more, and that is a good thing.