If it is not New York baseball players, then it is New York football players. With the announcement of retirement from Giants quarterback Eli Manning, we have another case on our hands of an overrated “legend” from the Big Apple.
The son of an overrated NFL QB from the 1970s and 1980s, Eli Manning is also the younger brother of deserving legend Peyton Manning. He has never been as good as his brother, and basic statistical analysis actually shows him to be a rather mediocre QB for his era.
Yet that will not stop many pundits from claiming his greatness deserves a spot in Canton. Why? Because little Eli won two Super Bowl MVP awards, although at least one of them came with a lot of controversy.
But back to the basics: His career won-loss record is 117-117 in the regular season and 8-4 in the postseason. All those eight wins came in the Giants’ very unlikely two Super Bowl runs in 2007 and 2011. Eli never won a playoff game in any other season, and in fact, he only led the Giants to six postseason appearances in a 16-year career.
He may be the worst NFL QB to ever win two Super Bowls, in fact, considering the above. His career QB rating (84.1) ranks 45th all time, although the list is skewed by NFL rule changes in 1978 that opened up the passing game for the modern era. A quick look at some 21st-century names above Manning’s on this list demonstrates just how poor he looks in comparison:
- Marc Bulger (84.4)
- David Garrard (85.8)
- Andy Dalton (87.5)
- Matt Schaub (89.5)
- Derek Carr (90.7)
Not exactly a quality list of amazing QBs. Yes, Manning’s durability allowed him to make a lot of starts and rack up counting stats, but his efficiency in doing so was mediocre. He never led the NFL in any positive single-season statistical category, either, although Eli did lead the NFL in interceptions thrice (2007, 2010, 2013).
The fact he led the NFL in picks during a season where his team won the Super Bowl tells even the average fan that Manning was not the reason the Giants won the title that year. Even his postseason QB rating (87.4) is not stellar, although it does rank 18th all time—trailing non-champion QBs like Tony Romo (93.0), Mark Sanchez (94.3), Alex Smith (97.4), and Matt Ryan (100.8).
Manning was not the reason the Giants won the Super Bowl in 2007 and 2011, even if he did take home some hardware. The most famous play of his Super Bowl career—the “Helmet Catch”—also is problematic, since the officials should have seen at least three blatant holds on the Giants offensive line (not to mention being “in the grasp”) that occurred before Manning threw the ball up for grabs. His receiver just out-jumped a defender and then got lucky hanging on to the ball at all.
Furthermore, just prior to that play, Manning basically threw a game-ending interception, too, that was simply dropped by a New England defender. Giving Manning the MVP award was simply a marketing ploy by the NFL to package the “Manning Brothers” together for a quick cash grab. Eli had no business winning that MVP designation in 2007.
Finally, we have sabermetric measurements of Manning’s career: In the NFL, it’s called Approximate Value (AV). Eli retires with 165 AV, which places him 30th on the all-time list. That seems impressive until you remember he played 16 seasons and 236 games. Here are some players on the list above him, for comparison’s sake, all of whom have played fewer games:
- Matt Ryan (179, in 12 seasons and 189 games)
- Aaron Rodgers (184, in 15 seasons and 181 fewer games)
- Ben Roethlisberger (185, in 16 seasons and 218 games)
- Philip Rivers (204, in 16 seasons and 228 games)
Remember, Rivers and Roethlisberger were both drafted in the same year as Eli, so those comparisons are very apt. Rivers has been the best QB of the bunch, although he never won a Super Bowl. Roethlisberger won two titles with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Overall, Manning has been nothing close to “great” in his career. The bottom line is that circumstantial moments, where a player was merely in the right place at the right time, seems to only mean “greatness” in places like New York.