Eli Manning: Is He in the NFL Elite Class of Quarterbacks?

Samantha Cooke@sportycookieCorrespondent ISeptember 1, 2011

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - AUGUST 29:  Eli Manning #10 of the New York Giants in action against the New York Jets during their pre season game on August 29, 2011 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Eli Manning recently referred to himself as an elite quarterback. While it stirred a great deal of dialogue at the time, what team wouldn't want their starting quarterback to view himself as elite? Of course, this begs the question, what qualifies a quarterback as elite?

According to the dictionary, elite means “the choice or best of anything considered collectively, as of a group or class of persons.”

Elite quarterbacks have their own category in the National Football League. They are constantly mentioned at the beginning of the season as the front runners for the Super Bowl or NFL Most Valuable Player awards.

What other criteria constitutes an elite quarterback? Certainly, wins have to be in there somewhere. In addition, Super Bowl wins, Super Bowl appearances, playoff wins and playoff appearances have to be taken into consideration. Some other statistics taken into account should be total yards, total touchdowns and quarterback rating.

Many of this season's starting quarterbacks are only first or second year players, but to be considered elite, you should have to be a high performing starter for at least three seasons. It is easy to have one or two great years, but very difficult to maintain consistency throughout an entire career.

Also, there needs to be some criteria associated with measuring the effect of the quarterback on the team, such as their ability to prevent interceptions and turnovers, leadership abilities in clutch situations and dedication to win against all odds.

Taking this criteria into account, here is my list of the elite quarterbacks in the NFL in no particular order.

Peyton Manning, Indianapolis Colts

A statistical marvel, Manning finally got his Super Bowl ring in the 2006 season when the Colts beat the Bears. Manning was named Super Bowl MVP.

Manning is a four-time AP NFL MVP, 11-time Pro Bowl selection and a Pro Bowl MVP. He is the all-time leader in career wins, passing touchdowns, passing attempts, pass completions and passing yards for the Colts.

Tom Brady, New England Patriots

One of Manning’s biggest rivals for top quarterback, Brady does not have as gaudy of numbers as Manning, but does have three Super Bowl rings. He has been named Super Bowl MVP twice.

Brady has also won AP NFL MVP twice and has been elected to the Pro Bowl six times in his career. Brady was the 2005 Sportsman of the Year, 2004 and 2007 Sporting News Sportsman of the Year, 2007 AP Male Athlete of the Year and a Sports Illustrated NFL Player of the Year.

Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers

While he does not have the statistics that the other quarterbacks on this list have, Roethlisberger knows how to win championships. He has won two Super Bowls and made a third Super Bowl appearance this past season when his Steelers lost to the Packers.

Roethlisberger has been named to the Pro Bowl only once. He was also named AP NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year and the Diet Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Year in 2004. His number seven jersey was retired by the University of Miami (Ohio).

Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints 

A veteran of the NFL, Brees did not get a lot of recognition until he went to New Orleans and won a Super Bowl.

He has been in the top five for quarterbacks in passing yards five times and passing touchdowns for a season four times. Brees has won a slew of awards, including 2004 AP NFL Comeback Player of the Year and 2010 AP Male Athlete of the Year.

Brees has won FedEx Air Player of the Year and NFC Offensive Player of the Year three times throughout his career.

Four is a good number for the elite class of quarterbacks. If you have to stretch the number to five or six, one could argue for either Eli Manning or Aaron Rodgers. Tony Romo and Philip Rivers are up there, but neither has a Super Bowl ring.

Yes, Eli won the Super Bowl MVP, but that was more of a team award. He made a nice play to avoid a sack, but David Tyree made a spectacular catch to keep the drive going. He has only ranked in the top five in the NFL for passing yards twice and passing touchdowns three times during his six-plus years as a starter.

For comparison’s sake, Rodgers has only been a starter three years, but he also has a Super Bowl ring and named Super Bowl MVP. Rodgers has been in the top five in passing yards twice, passing touchdowns twice and quarterback rating twice. Rodgers is also the only player in NFL history to have over 4,000 passing yards in each of his first two starting seasons.

Eli calling himself elite was an overly confident statement. He obviously desired to be included in all discussions for the top quarterback, which is understandable. In reality, though, you cannot name yourself to any elite class. That is up to your peers and teammates.

Have you ever heard Peyton Manning or Tom Brady declare themselves elite? Of course not. Their declarations are made on the field time and time again.

Eli just nearly misses being included in this elite class. He does not have the statistics or wins to back up his statement.

If he goes out and leads the Giants to a Super Bowl victory, he can include himself in the elite class of quarterbacks in the NFL. With the NFL regular season around the corner, only time will tell where Eli will rank.