We could spend the day making excuses for Eli Manning.
The running game has averaged just 3.3 yards per carry, which ranks 28th in the NFL.
The defense has given up 119 points, which ranks 28th in the league.
Almost everyone surrounding Manning has been terrible, and 50 percent of his games have come against teams that are currently unbeaten. Quarterbacks get far too much credit for victories, but they also take far too much of the blame for losses.
However, we still can't let Manning off the hook. I hate the term "elite," because it's too vague. But I think we can agree that, regardless of how much support they have, "elite" quarterbacks don't throw a league-high nine interceptions in four games.
Eli's brother, Peyton, put up Hall of Fame-caliber numbers for years with a weak line, a weak defense and an inconsistent running game in Indianapolis. Tom Brady continues to win in New England, despite the fact he's throwing to a bunch of guys casual football fans have never heard of. But since the start of the 2012 season, Eli has failed to rise up and lead this franchise in spite of its flaws.
Manning currently ranks in the bottom six in the league with a passer rating of 69.1 and a completion percentage of 56.3. That rating is his lowest since his 2004 rookie season. The only qualifying NFL quarterbacks ranked lower: Chad Henne (backup in Jacksonville), Christian Ponder (sidelined in Minnesota), Geno Smith (rookie with the Jets), Brandon Weeden (benched in Cleveland), Josh Freeman (benched and now cut by Tampa Bay) and Blaine Gabbert (the Jaguars' only option). His QBR of 29.96 ranks 39th in the league, seven points back of Smith.
And it's not as though he was much better in 2012. He still ranked 16th in completion percentage and 14th in passer rating last season.
Even after taking hits, throwaways, batted passes, dropped passes and spikes into account, PFF has determined that Manning has been the league's second-least-accurate quarterback this season, ahead of only Josh Freeman. Last year, he ranked sixth-last in the same category.
And while his pass protection has been lackluster, Manning is getting 2.78 seconds in the pocket per pass play, which ranks ninth among starting quarterbacks, according to ESPN. So you can't just blame it all on pressure.
After Sunday's ugly loss to the Chiefs, I put a blueprint in place for how this troubled franchise could retool in the 2014 offseason. I didn't touch on Manning, mainly because the guy was the Super Bowl MVP 20 months ago, but a debate about his future sprung up in the comments section.
Now, the vast majority of the comments defended Manning against the dude above, but the fact that we're even discussing this is telling. Manning will turn 33 at the end of this season. Yes, he's won two Super Bowl MVPs with this team, but he's been pretty ordinary outside of those two magical runs.
Jay Cutler, Andy Dalton, Matthew Stafford and Jason Campbell have higher career passer ratings. Chad Henne, Matt Cassel and Cam Newton have higher completion percentages. Newton, Stafford, Cassel and Philip Rivers have lower interception percentages, and Newton, Cutler, Michael Vick and Matt Schaub have averaged more yards per attempt.
Only six active starting quarterbacks are older than Manning. Three of them—brother Peyton, Drew Brees and Tom Brady—are legends. Tony Romo has posted much better career numbers but takes even more heat than Eli, and that leaves Vick and Carson Palmer, both of whom are living year to year at this stage in their careers.
Statistically, Manning is closer to Vick and Palmer's range than Peyton, Brees and Brady. If it weren't for those Super Bowls, we'd probably think of him like we do those guys. I think quarterbacks probably receive too much credit for team accomplishments, but Manning's Giants are also well on their way to missing the playoffs for the fourth time in five years. If we're going to keep giving him brownie points for those championships, we have to take those failed seasons into account too.
Luck hasn't been on Manning's side, but superstar quarterbacks don't rely on luck. You can't succeed in this league without a quality signal-caller, which is why the Giants always have to be thinking about potential successors.
They began to think that way when they drafted Ryan Nassib in the fourth round this past offseason. He may or may not be the long-term answer. The odds aren't in his favor, though, and there's no doubt that Manning is the best option the Giants have at the moment.
That doesn't mean, however, that someone won't emerge very soon. Shelf lives are short in this league, and Manning can't afford to slump much longer.
Just something to think about over the next 13 weeks, starting Sunday when Manning and the Giants host the Philadelphia Eagles.
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