Monday, November 26, 2007

Eli's Biggest Fan

Well, after me, anyway, no one has been harder on Eli Manning than SI’s Peter King. Mr. King didn’t waste any time piling on Eli in this week’s MMQB:

a. This is not the negative New York media speaking. This is the impartial New Jersey media speaking. The more I see Eli Manning, the more I think he'll never be a championship quarterback.

b. I mean, taking a 26-yard sack in the fourth quarter? Ridiculous. And could he please get mad once? Punch the ground, kick the dog, cuss out his linemen, something. You know what the Minnesota game plan for playing Manning was in part? Hit him a couple of times on his first few dropbacks, and the book on him was he'd start throwing off his back foot. Which he did.

Okay, aside from the fact that this is what I’ve been saying for years pretty much verbatim, it’s also absolutely true. Eli is just one of those QB’s who’s good enough to play in the NFL (sorry, Dave Brown) but not good enough to take his team anywhere. Just too many mistakes waiting to be made; too many bad throws waiting to happen. And that Vikings “game plan” ties in exactly to the SI player’s poll that ranked Easy Eli as the 2nd-most easily intimidated QB in the league. I half expected him to wet his pants at some point.

Unfortunately, there really isn’t anything that the Giants can do. Unlike Dave Brown, who didn’t belong in the NFL, and to a lesser extent, Kerry Collins, whose negatives ultimately outweighed his positives, Eli doesn’t merit an out-and-out ejection. He’s good enough to play in the NFL, but if you look at the current QB landscape in the league, that’s not exactly a ringing endorsement.

I think the lack of consistency we’ve seen from Eli – good game, average game, awful game – is how it’s going to be with him. After 50 games, it’s time to stop talking about development and improvement. For that matter, there hasn’t been any. They showed a stat during last week’s Giants-Lions game comparing Eli’s first 9 games in 2006 vs. 2007: they were virtually identical. And that was before yesterday’s debacle.

You look at almost any starting QB and three years should give you an accurate picture of what you get. Guys like Roethlisberger, Palmer, Peyton, Brady, etc. have what it takes and showed it early on, if not from the start. On the flip side, guys like Carr, Couch, Akili Smith, etc. made it clear before too long that they weren’t up to NFL standards. From what we’ve seen, Eli falls in between these two groups. However, I don’t see him in the Trent Dilfer / Brad Johnson category of guys who also fall between those groups but ultimately won championships despite their shortcomings. Eli just makes too many mistakes and is too easily intimidated to lead his team where it needs to go, even if he had a great running game and defense as compliments.

The silver lining is that Eli's continued struggles will likely spell the end of General Coughlin's reign of error in the Meadowlands. Not so great, though, is the fact that at least one more coach is going to have to suffer the Eli Experiment before he’s through (or at least through with the Giants)…