Eli Manning: A Legend in the Making

Matt BertramCorrespondent IJanuary 8, 2010

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 27:  Eli Manning #10 of the New York Giants passes against the Carolina Panthers at Giants Stadium on December 27, 2009 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Nick Laham/Getty Images

Eli Manning’s illustrious pro-football career began amidst much turmoil and controversy, following the most infamous draft day trade in NFL history on April 24, 2004. 

At the time, Manning was the top NFL quarterback prospect coming out of Ole Miss, and many analysts projected him being selected number one overall by the San Diego Chargers.  So it came as no surprise to the fans and media when Manning was nabbed by the Chargers with the first pick of the draft, despite the fact that he had established his disinterest in playing for the team. 

Manning would be traded to the New York Giants shortly afterwards, and the animosity that it created would follow him for the rest of his career.  Eli would be unfairly criticized, frequently being compared to his older brother, Peyton Manning, a perennial Pro Bowl/MVP quarterback, and future hall-of-famer for the Indianapolis Colts

While some sports fans might consider Eli Manning to be inconsistent and overrated, he has proven time and again his competency in his profession.

Without question, the majority of Manning’s scrutiny stems from his sub par stats.  The critics have long been diminishing Manning’s on-field accomplishments by weighing his statistical numbers far too heavily.

What these critics fail to realize is that fantasy numbers only tell half the story, and don’t take into account the intangible qualities that a spreadsheet cannot measure. 

To be fair, Eli Manning struggled in the early going, throwing almost as many interceptions as he did touchdowns (2006: 24 TDs, 18 INTs / 2007: 23 TDs, 20 INTs).  It was clear that Eli, and even more so, the team itself, struggled to find their identity. 

Looking at the big picture however, suddenly these points become moot. Eli’s astonishing accolades include taking his team to the playoffs for four consecutive seasons, putting together the greatest two-minute drill ever seen in the waning moments of Super Bowl XLII to conquer the previously undefeated Patriots, earning a Super Bowl MVP, and receiving his first Pro Bowl bid last season. 

Add on top of all that, Manning had a career high statistical season in 2009, throwing for over 4,000 yards (a first for Manning), and single-handedly putting an underachieving squad on his back.  The argument that Manning doesn’t put up big numbers no longer holds any water.  Even despite his plethora of awards,

Eli still garners more criticism than praise.  Until the day comes when Manning finally receives the recognition he deserves, he’s content with quietly stringing together wins and proving the naysayers wrong; it’s what he’s been doing his whole career.

Eli Manning also isn’t getting any favors from his division or style of offense.  For starters, Manning plays in undeniably the toughest division in the NFL, the NFC East, home to the Cowboys, Eagles, Redskins and Giants, teams who are no strangers to the postseason. 

Additionally, Eli is on a team that prides itself on smashmouth, power running which doesn’t exactly aid in his passing yardage each season. 

On the surface, Manning may seem like just another solid NFL quarterback, but it’s the unique traits he possesses that set him apart.  His calm, cool demeanor was always a perfect fit for the stress he would face in the media capital of the world, New York.

And so it seems, try as they might, the critics and self-proclaimed experts of the sporting world fail to see Manning’s true talents, instead obsessing over irrelevant minutiae.  Maybe it’s not the true talents of Eli Manning that the sporting world fails to see, but rather a legend in the making.