Monday, September 7, 2015

...In fact, I'm pretty sure the brontosaurus was jealous of Eli...

I enjoy watching people defend Eli Manning.

He's mediocre. You know he's mediocre. But, for a few reasons, Eli's got friends all over the place, lustily rooting for him through every three-and-out and bonehead interception. It's a sad kind of funny when people cheer for someone who sucks--whether you're clapping for your kid's wounded-duck trumpet solo in a middle school band concert, or yelling, "Good answer!" on Family Feud after your teammate's cringe-worthy response, you're lying to yourself, and you look ridiculous.

Oh, yes, many of you will go through the silly charade of propping Elisha (yeah, that's his real name) up, so I'll prove my point with statistics in just a minute. The point is, Eli Manning is not an elite quarterback, and never has been, and he doesn't deserve to be the highest paid player in the game.

Eli's got a couple of major things going for him, however, and though neither one of them has to do with his current skill level as a player, he's got a lot of support for the obscene contract terms he's demanding from the Giants through his agent nonetheless:

He's a Manning. I've learned that sports fans don't like feeling inferior to their heroes. Sure, Michael Jordan could mop up the floor with any of us on a basketball court, but he gave us moments like this, in which, after winning his first championship and being named Finals MVP, he says he'll play a lot of golf, "If [my wife] lets me". See? He needs permission from "the boss", like the rest of us guys do!

The Mannings excel at that kind of stuff. The "aw, shucks" thing is programmed in their DNA, like blinking. Neither of them has uttered a syllable of trash talk in their lives. They don't insult their opponents, even in retaliation to one who's insulted them. They don't date supermodels; in fact, they even have the courtesy of being as ugly as basset hounds, so as not to give the rest of us a complex. 

The end result is that Peyton and Eli are likeable guys, easy to root for. 

He beat the Patriots in huge games. Twice. The past six months has taught me how deep Patriot hatred runs across NFL nation. If you live outside of New England, you probably can't stand the Patriots--and I'm not talking about ordinary, "Ohh, I hate this song!" hatred, either: Football fans are way more passionate than that! This level of loathing is normally reserved for Islamic terrorists, or techno versions of "Stairway to Heaven".

Think about it. The Greatest Show on Turf couldn't beat the Patriots. Rex Ryan, after a brief period of success, can't beat the Patriots. The Ravens actually beat the Patriots twice in the playoffs--and seemed to have their number--until this past season, when the Ravens blew not one, but two 14-point leads en route to a 35-31 loss at New England in the Divisional Playoff. Baltimore has never beaten the Patriots without Ray Lewis on the field, and now that he's long gone, it's easy to doubt their future chances, especially given their aforementioned collapse. 

Even the almighty Peyton Manning, Eli's brother, who some claim is the best QB ever to play the position, has an abominable 7-12 record vs. the Brady-Belichick machine. So what's a Patriot hater to do?

Eli is the only guy who's succeeded consistently in huge games against the Patriots without a dropoff. True, we're only looking at a two-game sample size. And true, the Giants have lost more games every year since their last title, and have gone 22-26 overall since then. But, quite simply, Eli is the last, best hope that someone can actually beat the Patriots.

If Eli has the cojones to ask for a higher salary than any other QB in the NFL, then his performance ought to be better than the league's best at that position, or at least comparable, no? With this in mind, I put all emotions aside and pulled together some stats to find out where he stands.

Exactly 20 NFL quarterbacks have started 50 or more games over the last five seasons. If we're trying to find the best QB in the game today, we'll likely find him on this list. Yes, Eli is there--but where does he rank among his peers?

Let's take a look at where Eli stands among The Big 20 in the major QB categories:

Not too impressive, is he? Manning only cracks the top ten in six out of the 14 categories listed. And he's dead last in both interceptions and interception percentage--and 19th out of 20 in games lost.

But who knows? Maybe all the elite quarterbacks have similar numbers! Let's compare Manning to Tom Brady, last year's Super Bowl MVP:


Brady is in the top 10 in all but one of the 20 categories, and even then he's only 12th! (And let's face it: No one pretends Brady is a running QB anyway.)

Also remarkable is the huge difference in average rank between the two QBs. Brady is clearly one of the league's best--not bad for a man who was being fitted for a casket last year at this time.

Is Brady the only one who beats Manning that clearly? What about some of the other superstars? Let's take a look:

(click for enlarged view)

Rogers, Brees, and Eli's brother Peyton all clearly outpace Eli by a wide margin. For example, there's exactly one last-place finish in any category by the other four QBs combined, and Eli has two by himself.

I know what you're saying: "So Eli's not as good as Brady, Peyton, Brees, and Rodgers. Those are probably the four best QBs in the league. Eli is still better than everyone else besides those four."

I'm glad you brought that up. Let's see just exactly who Eli beats!

Here are the only QBs in the Big 20 whose average rank is lower than Eli's:

  • Andy Dalton (12.2)
  • Matt Schaub* (14.3)
  • Cam Newton (13.7)
  • Carson Palmer (15.1)
  • Mark Sanchez (15.4)
  • Ryan Fitzpatrick (16.7)
  • Josh Freeman** (16.9)
* Currently playing as a backup to Joe Flacco
** Currently out of football

Fun fact: Of the seven QBs shown above, all of them are younger and have less experience than Eli, and two of them have lost their starting jobs! Ryan Fitzpatrick would have been the third, but he'll be starting in Week 1, thanks to Geno Smith's broken jaw. That leaves four quarterbacks out of 20 who averaged lower than Eli Manning and still have a starting job in the NFL.

"But Eli really turned things around last year," you say. "He had one of the best seasons of his career!"

First off, what does it say about a player who has to "turn things around" at age 34? Is he still trying to figure this whole NFL football thing out?

But more importantly, we've apparently all forgotten that the Giants installed a new offense with Ben McAdoo in 2014. McAdoo had never served as an offensive coordinator, at any level, prior to last season, so the Giants' opponents were unfamiliar with his style. As you might expect, Eli's numbers looked good early in the season; but as time wore on, and their opponents got used to the new offense, Eli looked more like, well, Eli:

Eli Manning - 2014 Statistics

Yes, his completion percentage was 1% higher in the 2nd half of the season as compared to the first half, and he did throw for more yards in the last eight games than in the first eight. But, in every other major category, Manning's performance declined--and he had identical 3-5 records in each half of the season.

Oh and BTW, under McAdoo and Manning, the Giants treated us to a seven-game losing streak in weeks 6-12. Let me say that again:

A seven-game losing streak.

Forget everything else I've said for a moment. Just explain to me how an 11-year veteran can lead his team to that many losses in a row, and then become the highest-paid QB in league history.

I'm waiting.

"But what about those two Super Bowls?" you ask.

Ah yes, of course, those two Super Bowls, in which the Giants defense held their playoff opponents to an average of 15 points per game (over the 2007 and 2011 playoffs). In fact, the 2011 Giants held their opponents to 14 points per game, which was the lowest number since 2002.

Look, give Eli all the credit in the world for leading his team on TD drives, under huge pressure, with less than 2:00 left in each one of those games. He earned it both times. But the defense, and specifically, the defensive line, was able to keep those games close for Eli. Now that the defensive linemen are playing like mere mortals, the Giants haven't sniffed the playoffs, nor even a .500 record, since then. Do you think Eli is going to swallow a can of "spinachk" and win another championship next season? Or the one after that, when Tom Coughlin will likely be retired, and the Giants will be starting over under a new regime?

The Giants have problems, and with the huge salary Eli wants, they'll have less money to solve them. Players like Brady, who want to win championships, take one for the team and accept far less than their market value. But Eli is a man with a surprisingly big ego, a man who, as a college senior, had the brontosaurus-sized scrote to tell an NFL franchise that he didn't want to play for them. Are you shitting me?! 

We could ask Eli why he did such a thing, but... he can't remember why he didn't want to play for San Diego. Yes, of course. Any other player would have been hounded about such a thing until his dying day. But Eli is a Manning.

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