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New York Giants Quarterback Eli Manning is Good, but He's Not Elite

Yahoo Contributor Network
COMMENTARY | If ever there is a good time to rekindle the old argument about whether or not Eli Manning is an elite quarterback, that time is now.

Manning is just days removed from his second trip to San Diego, the team he spurned back in 2004. He was outplayed by Philip Rivers, the Chargers quarterback who is in Southern California because Manning is not. And now it's official: Manning is playing the worst football of his career.

Come to think of it, maybe it's not such a good time to be having this discussion.

In any event, here are five reasons why Eli Manning is not an elite quarterback:

What it means to be elite: It's like entry into the Hall of Fame: only the best of the best get in. I say that there are only four elite quarterbacks in the National Football League right now: Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, and Aaron Rogers. That's not a knock on anyone else, but those four are the cream of the crop. There's a second tier -- Tony Romo, Ben Roethlisberger, Eli Manning, etc. -- and those are very good quarterbacks. They're just not on the level of a Brady or a Peyton Manning. Very few in the history of the game have been.

Bad vs. out of sync: When Manning has an off day, he's bad. When Brady has an off day, he's out of sync. You can recover quickly from the out-of-sync mode. If you're bad, it's game over. Case in point: Brady's performance at the end of the Patriots' come-from-behind win last Sunday against the Cleveland Browns. Brady did not have a good game, and you could see his frustration that things just weren't clicking for the New England offense. Eventually, they did. In the Giants' loss to San Diego, Manning was bad. He stayed that way throughout the game.

Yes, we're talking about playoffs: You certainly can't fault Manning for anything that's happened in the playoffs. In the 2007 postseason, he led the Giants to three road wins and a Super Bowl title. In the 2011 season, the Giants again won the Super Bowl with Manning leading the way. A two-time Super Bowl MVP, Manning has an 8-3 career record in the playoffs. That's not the issue. The issue is getting there. While it's far from being his fault, the Giants, if you include this year, have missed the playoffs in five of Manning's 10 seasons. Brady gets there every year and so does Peyton Manning.

Numbers don't lie: I agree that stats don't always tell the whole story, but when you compare Manning to the quarterbacks who are considered elite, while his numbers may be pretty good, they're not on the same level. His career quarterback rating (81.9) is far below that of Brady, Peyton Manning, Rodgers, and Brees. Those four have completion percentages in the 60s. Manning's is at 58.6. He's had great seasons, but leading the league in interceptions, which he's done twice and is again doing this year, is not desirable.

What have you done for me lately: Two years ago, you could actually make the case that Manning belonged in the elite quarterback discussion. Now, not so much. Last year, Manning's quarterback rating dropped to 87.2. With a league-high 20 interceptions this season, it's down to 74.2. His completion percentage, throwing yards, and touchdowns are down from a couple years ago as well. As you might expect, the Giants have struggled. While it's not all on him (New York has issues on both sides of the ball), an elite quarterback would do better.

None of this is to knock Manning. You don't have to be elite to be a Super Bowl MVP. You don't have to be elite to be a franchise quarterback. Maybe, then, the argument is a silly one to begin with. There are plenty of teams in the league who would take Manning. The Giants are one of them.

Charles Costello has followed the Giants for 30 years and was a beat reporter assigned to cover the team during the 1997 season. He writes about the Giants and New York Yankees on the Yahoo Contributor Network.

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