Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Eli (and Amani)

I must admit I have been delinquent at keeping the blog going during the off season. No excuses, just a bit lazy I guess. But with training camp right around the corner, it's time to start cooking. Here goes... most recent piece of news comes first.

Unless you have been living under a rock somewhere, you have heard by now that Amani Toomer, former Giants WR and possessor of a Super Bowl ring earned by him largely by virtue of the fact that he played on the same team with # 10, decided to profess his great knowledge of the QB position. He announced on his radio show that Eli was not the best QB in the NFC East, rather it was Tony Romo of the Dallas Cowboys. I am not going to beat up Amani for being nasty about it like Tiki was, but his opinion is dead wrong. Romo is a better player than most people give him credit for, and his career statistics are better than Eli's in many ways. But there is no dispute that right now, Eli is a better QB and it's not that close. Let me give a little treatise on why and to support my assertion, I am going to refer back to another great ex-Giant, coach Bill Parcells.

The thing that impressed me the most about Parcells was not only that he won two Super Bowls with the Giants, but it was how he did it. He won the championship following the 1986 and 1990 seasons with teams that were completely different in style from each other. Surely there were some common components - all world LBs LT and Carl Banks come to mind, for example, but otherwise the teams could not have been more dissimilar. The 1986 team's defense was characterized by an absolutely dominant front 7. Banks and Carson were killers and LT was the best defensive player in football. The DB-field was very weak and the strategy was all about getting to the QB before he could do damage to the unathletic safeties and the average CBs. By contrast, the 1990 defense had an excellent secondary with Mark Collins at CB and a pair of very good safeties in Guyton and Jackson and played a different style. They still had a great pass rush with LT, but they did not gamble as much, investing more trust in the DB-field. They played conservative, errorless defense, sticking with the cover-2 and waited for the opposing offense to make a mistake.

The offensive style of the two Parcells Super Bowl teams were also as different as night and day. The 1986 had a small, mobile OL with a quick, darting RB in Joe Morris. Phil Simms was the QB and the offense was a down-the-field passing team. The 1990 team had a big powerful OL matched by the power RB OJ Andersen. They threw down field rarely, tried to run the ball down the throat of the defense and set a record for fewest turnovers by an offense over the season.

Completely different teams on both offense and defense, and Parcells won with both. He could match his coaching style to the skills of the roster, the true measure of a good coach. Now look at what Eli has done with the two Super Bowl rings he won. The defense had different players but largely the same style - good DBs, decent LBs and a dominant DL that got after the passer. But Eli's offense was entirely different. In 2007, Giants were a run-first team and Eli made the most of his opportunities, throwing when he had to behind a good OL. In 2011, Giants had statistically the worst running offense in football during the regular season and while they picked it up a little in the playoffs, the offense was carried on Eli's broad shoulders, especially with several stirring 4th quarter performances.

But here's the most striking thing about the two offenses - every one of his passing targets was different on these two teams. In 2007, it was Plaxico and Toomer at WR with Steve Smith and David Tyree in 3 and 4 WR sets. Shockey / Boss were the TEs. There was not great speed among these WRs, they mostly used their size, their hands and their accurate route running to be productive. The 2011 team had completely different targets: Nicks, Cruz, Manningham and a few others that served as the 4th WR. At TE it was Ballard as the main target, which means that the entire receiving corps was different. This second group relied on speed and quickness (except for Ballard of course) rather than size like the 2007 group, showing the great versatility of the QB who can bring out the best in all of them. Eli has become a remarkably accurate passer, with a strong arm and the football IQ to be a great QB. When you win with one style team, you show you're a player. When you win twice with two completely different teams, you show greatness.

In 2008 the Giants came out and had a great regular season, validating their Super Bowl win the year before, quieting the doubters who said the 2007 Giants were a mediocre team that just got hot at the right time. Those 2008 Giants were 11-1 when Plaxico had his nightclub shooting incident, they limped home at 1-3 and lost in the first round.  I am looking for a good regular season this year as well to quiet the critics who are saying the same things about this year's title.

More on recent developments later this week.

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