As reigning Super Bowl Champions, the New York Giants will be targeted like never before. Just the kind of fodder Eli Manning needs to separate himself as a superior quarterback to brother Peyton.
Take nothing away from Peyton Manning. He’s the best regular-season quarterback in the game. But there are three moments in brother Eli’s short NFL career that foreshadow the greatness still to come.
In the 2004 NFL Draft, Eli was selected No. 1 overall by the San Diego Chargers. Eli (along with father Archie) decided the Chargers were not dedicated to winning and refused to play there. This was a bold move by a player thought by many as being drafted merely because of his last name.
The move showed he had the confidence to be a leader and, most importantly, the ambition to become a winner.
He became a New York Giant.
In 2005, Eli was named starter after Kurt Warner voided his contract. In only his third game, his Giants traveled to San Diego to take on a Charger team the quarterback snubbed a year prior. Amidst being booed loudly every time he touched the ball, Eli went 24-41 for 352 yards and 2 TDs in a 45-23 loss.
This was the first sign of an eager quarterback willing to step up his play in a big-game environment. And not his last.
In 2007, after losing to the Cowboys and being out-played by Tony Romo, Giants co-owner John Mara publicly questioned Eli’s ability to lead the Giants for the future. Eli bounced back to beat wild-card competitors Detroit Lions on the road and then almost single-handedly ended the Patriots' undefeated season by throwing four touchdown passes in their regular season finale.
He would get another opportunity.
After dismantling Tampa Bay, Dallas, and Green Bay; Eli’s Giants met the Patriots for Super Bowl XLII. And in the biggest game of his career, Eli became only the second quarterback in NFL history to throw two go-ahead fourth quarter TDs in a Super Bowl and beat the heavily-favored, undefeated New England Patriots.
He was named Super Bowl MVP the same season he almost lost his starting job.
Peyton Manning’s regular-season stats are too good to list here. Just picture Adriana Lima on her wedding night. Eli’s are more like a Kate Moss, after a two-day binge. Both are worthy. In Eli’s first full season he ranked top five in passing yards and TD passes. And he's only gotten better.
He has a reputation of struggling the second half of a season. But those declining numbers have more to do with key injuries to Amani Toomer and a broken leg of Luke Petitgout than they do the play of Eli.
And since numbers only sometimes lie, take a look at Eli’s playoff stats versus big brother Peyton. Eli has led his team to the playoffs every season as a starter. His post-season record is 4-2. Last season his QB rating elevated over 20 points in the post-season.
The season before that, it rose almost 30 points. As well as increases in completion percentage and YPG.
Peyton’s numbers go down after the regular season. His postseason record is 7-7. His regular-season QB rating is 10 points higher than his playoff rating. His completion percentage is down.
Not to mention the help he’s had throwing to All-Pro Receivers Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne all these years.
He does have a Super Bowl MVP Award to go along with Eli’s, but even in those playoffs, he only had the one great game against Denver and an overall 70.5 passer rating. Which was more than trumped the following year by possibly the most memorable quarterback drive in Super Bowl history, by his brother Eli.
Peyton better start getting used to it.