Thursday, October 21, 2010

Giants: Eli overrated in SI poll

There is a poll in SI which rates the most overrated players in the sport as voted on by a sampling of some 240 NFL players. Eli made the list as the 5th most overrated player, behind TO, Mark Sanchez, Tony Romo and Albert Haynesworth. He received 4% of the vote, which equates to about 10 of the 240 votes. My guess: they were all Cowboys who voted for Eli. I don't get why Eli makes this list - it has to be jealousy of him succeeding on the biggest stage in sports in NY. Perhaps there is a touch of dismay left over from his perceived manipulating of the draft, refusing to play in San Diego and forcing a trade to the Giants. Nobody likes it when someone makes himself out to be above the league. After all, other players have to go where they're drafted and can't force a trade - what makes Eli so special? (John Elway did the same thing, BTW, a trade that Ernie Accorsi was also involved in.) Is he somehow football royalty? Is it possible for a player to be both on the "most overrated" list and also on the "top 10 QB" list simultaneously. Eli's numbers, performance, leadership and wining percentage stands up to most anyone in the league. I'm not comparing him to brother Peyton, Brady or even Brees. But other than those three, he's as good as anybody around. There's this perception that his colleagues in the 2004 draft, Roethlisberger and Rivers are somehow better than him and that is simply wrong.

Eli was the hero of the greatest Super Bowl victory in the history of the game, making the greatest play in the history of the Super Bowl to get there. But it's more than just that one play to Tyree or that one drive and the TD pass to Plaxico to win the game. Eli displayed the best characteristic that he has in winning the Super Bowl. While other QBs may have a stronger arm, may be more athletic, may even be more accurate than Eli, no QB in football is as calm, as composed or raises his game under pressure of the 4th qtr or when the game is on the line like Eli does. Here's a statistic for you: in the history of the Super Bowl, there are two QBs that threw for 150 yards and 2 TDs in the 4th qtr of the game: Joe Montana and Eli Manning. Two QBs threw 2 TDs in the 4th qtr to put their team in the lead both times: Montana and Manning again. Eli put his team on his back in that entire playoff run, not just the Super Bowl and did more to carry his team to victory than his brother did to carry his Colts to their Super Bowl title. Peyton had a cake walk against the Bears and the Colts were a vastly superior team to some of their early round playoff opponents where they coasted to lopsided victories. Peyton was great, but he didn't have to be because of the superiority of the Colts. The Giants, on the other hand, were a 10-6 team, had extremely close games in all 4 playoff wins and needed their QB to be near perfect in order to get the title. Here's a comparison for you: in 1986 when the Giants won their first Super Bowl, the Giants outscored their opponents in the 3 playoff games by a cumulative score of 105-23 (including a missed extra point by Raul Allegre in the Super Bowl, otherwise they would have had 106 points). By contrast, in 2007 the Giants outscored their opponents by a cumulative score of 95-75 in the 4 games. Looking at it another way, the Giants outscored their opponents by an average margin of 27 points in 1986 and the 2007 title team had an average margin of only 5 points. One bad throw, one big turnover, one failed opportunity by their QB and the Giants of 2007, because of the smaller margin of error would have been an also ran.

Eli outplayed two sure fire HOF QBs in that playoff run in Favre and Brady, beat the #1 and #2 seed in his own conference and the #1 seed of the other conference in the Super Bowl, which was probably the best regular season team in the history of the NFL. How can anyone call that overrated. Some highlights of that 2007 playoff run and Eli's precision, in case you forgot:

Wild card round vs. Tampa Bay: Giants were ahead 17-7 late in the 3rd qtr and the Bucs pinned the Giants back inside their 10 with a good punt. If the Giants don't move the ball at all, the Bucs get the ball back in great field position and can move in for a TD or a FG to make the game really close. Eli leads them on a masterful 9 or 10 minute drive, eating clock and resulting in a 2 yard TD pass to Toomer right over Rhonde Barber who was victimized by an Eli pump fake on the play. That TD gave the Giants a 3 score lead and iced the game.

Divisional game vs. Cowboys: Giants scored first on a 52 yard catch and run by Toomer, but the Cowboys dominated the rest of the 1st half with two 10 minute drives both resulting in TDs. They scored that 2nd TD with less than a minute to go to take a 14-7 lead, the Giants defense looked overwhelmed, looked completely gassed and it sure appeared like the Giants were toast. They were going to go into the locker room with their tail between their legs, with no reason for hope and with the home standing Cowboys with all the momentum, pumped up for a dominant second half. But wait - Giants got the ball back with 47 seconds left in the half. 1st down - Incomplete pass. 2nd down - 20 yards to Steve Smith. Next play - 15 yards to Steve Smith with a face mask penalty tacked on to it. After two incomplete passes (one knocked down at the line of scrimmage by current Giant Canty), Eli hit Boss for about 20 yards down to the 2 yard line on one of the prettiest throws you will  ever see - over the LB, in front of the safety, while Ware was collapsing the pocket over Diehl on the back side. A quick throw to Toomer over the middle and the Giants in the space of 40 seconds on the game clock had completely reversed the score and the momentum of the game. In a half in which the Cowboys had the ball for about 22 minutes, the Giants came out tied 14-14. The life that he breathed back into the team was palpable and the breath going out of the Cowboys and the stadium was obvious. Everyone can talk about the two 4th qtr Super Bowl drives and the incredible game in the freezing weather in Green Bay. But for me, that last 40 second drive at the end of the half of the Cowboys game was the turning point of the entire playoff run and it had Eli's fingerprints, his determination, his cool under pressure stamped all over it.

Championship game vs. Green Bay: It's tough to win under those harsh weather conditions. Giants had two mild weather games in Tampa Bay and Dallas and now were going to the frozen tundra in Green Bay. This was Favre territory. He NEVER loses outdoors in the bad weather. In this game, there was one QB who was supposed to sling it all over the yard and the other who was weak and timid and would not stand up to the elements. Except, it was Eli who was throwing rockets all over the field for 250+ yards passing and it was Favre who threw the INT that led to the Giants victory.

Super Bowl: 3rd and 20. David Tyree. Nothing more to say. Like I said above: the most remarkable play in Super Bowl history in the most remarkable Super Bowl in history against the best regular season team in NFL history. Overrated. Right.

That was the playoff run, but perhaps my favorite game that showed Eli's character was an early season game against the Eagles in Philadelphia early in the 2006 season. Giants scored first on a blown coverage by the Eagles and a 50 yard pass from Eli to Toomer. After that it was all Eagles - their defense was all over the Giants and Eli was sacked 10 times. Going into the 4th qtr, the Eagles had a 24-7 lead, they were dominating the scoreboard, the clock, the yards and the play on the field. There was no reason to think the Giants could come back. But the 4th qtr started with Eli hitting Plaxico on a long in cut and he almost broke free but he fumbled, the ball rolled into the end zone and Tim Carter recovered for a Giants TD. Then Eli hit Toomer for a  TD. Then Eli directed a long drive for a game tying FG with less than 10 seconds left in the 4th quarter and with no hope coming into the 4th qtr, suddenly Eli had tied the game. In OT there was an exchange of punts and Eli took the Giants deep into Eagles territory. Brandon Jacobs ran down inside the 15 and it looked like they were set up for a chip shot game winning FG. Except that on Jacobs run, Tim Carter was called for a holding penalty that was a rather dubious call and the Giants were suddenly on the edge of FG range. Another penalty pushed them back further and on a 3rd and long from about the Eagles 35 yard line, the Eagles called an all out blitz to sack Eli yet again, maybe force a turnover and at least push the Giants out of FG range. Eli saw the blitz, knew that Burress was going to be 1-on-1 with a CB that he had a physical advantage over, he dropped back, held the ball as long as he could, knew he was going to get hammered by the blitzing safety and threw the ball up for Burress a split second before being nailed by Eagles S Dawkins. It was an easy TD for Burress on the other end who outfought the CB for the ball. Eli's cool under pressure and 4th qtr play distinguish him as a leader.

That's the QB that I want leading my team. You can keep Romo with his sincere look, goofy hats, his soulful eyes and sincere apologies when the Cowboys blow another game; you can keep Roethlisberger and Rivers with their tough demeanor and angry stares. I'll take Eli every time.

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