fringe Posted December 21, 2009 Share Posted December 21, 2009 Celizic: Eli for MVP? It’s not as crazy as it sounds Giants quarterback has kept his team in contention with little support OPINION By Mike Celizic updated 11:16 p.m. PT, Sun., Dec . 20, 2009 There’s still a shot for the Giants to make the playoffs, and if they beat Washington, Carolina and Minnesota to do it, let me be the first to start the campaign. Eli Manning for MVP. Go ahead and say that suggesting Manning the Younger could be a more deserving MVP candidate than his big brother, grizzled old Brett Favre, Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Philip Rivers or Donovan McNabb is like taking the rice cakes over the aged prime rib. I’ll understand, because when the idea was first suggested to me, I thought the same thing. But if you look at what the Giants have to work with, you have to admit there’s merit to the idea. In a year in which the Giants’ defense has played worse in each succeeding week, Eli Manning has without any fanfare been putting together the best season of his six-year career. Despite a month-long losing streak, the 7-6 Giants still have a shot at the postseason, and it’s all because of Eli Manning. I’m not suggesting he’s the best quarterback in the league. Even I’m not that foolish. But we’re talking most valuable here, not best. And the reality is that the only way the Giants are getting into the playoffs is if Eli puts them on his shoulders and drags them there. I’m not going to say that automatically makes him more valuable than Favre, Brees, Rivers, McNabb, Brady and Peyton have been to their teams. But it sure puts him in the discussion. The guy is that good. Before you guffaw at that, picture him in a Dallas uniform for the past six years. If you don’t think the Cowboys would have won some playoff games, you’re not being honest. Eli isn’t leading the league in anything, but he’s among the leaders in most categories. With 23 touchdown passes, he’s one behind his career high, and he has thrown just 11 interceptions. His yards per attempt are at a career high of 8, 1.2 yards better than he’s ever done before. His 60.4 completion percentage is also a career high, as is his 93.0 quarterback rating. Quarterback ratings are probably the most abused and least telling stat ever concocted by the numbers wonks. If you go strictly by ratings, Aaron Rodgers is the fourth-best quarterback in the league and Matt Schaub is the seventh-best, ahead of Tony Romo, Brady, McNabb, Eli and Kurt Warner. In Eli’s case, the rating is only an indication of the improvement he’s shown. His previous best number was last year’s 86.4, and to jump to 93.0 is a considerable increase. It reflects his improved completion percentage and his higher yardage per attempt. Before the season started, the Giants laid a $97.5-million contract extension on Eli. With his 2009 salary, it gave him a seven-year package worth $106.9 million. That’s more than his big brother is making. When he signed it, it was more than anybody was making. In New York, eyebrows were raised higher than the Empire State Building at that contract. If he was going to get that kind of money, shouldn’t he at least be the best quarterback in the league? But that’s the wrong question. Better is to ask how valuable he is to the Giants. The numbers the team threw at him show that the Giants believe he’s the one player they cannot live without. They say he’s the best quarterback the Giants have ever had. With all due respect to Charlie Conerly, the Giants called it right. This kid has already won them a Super Bowl. He could yet get them into the playoffs this year. He’ll never be viewed as being as good as Peyton. But there shouldn’t be any more shame to that than there is to being judged not quite as good an artist as Michelangelo or not as incisive a thinker as Stephen Hawking. Even so, Eli won 47 of his first 80 games while Peyton won 42 of his first 80. Also, Eli is 4-3 lifetime in the playoffs while Peyton is 7-8. Each has one ring. But all four of Eli’s postseason wins came in the team’s 2007 Super Bowl run. Other than that, he’s 0-3, which isn’t anything to brag about. That record keeps him from getting the recognition his brother gets, and nothing will change the perception. The big stats are on Peyton’s side of the board, and they’re going to stay there. Eli may be destined to be the best Giants quarterback ever, but Peyton will be the NFL’s best ever. Eli seems to understand that, and if there’s anyone who can handle playing second fiddle, it’s him. There seems to be no sibling rivalry with his big brother, no neurotic compulsion to somehow outshine the sun itself. If Peyton is Mozart, Eli’s no Solieri, brooding about seeing his own genius eclipsed. This is part of what makes Eli so valuable. He’s comfortable in his own skin and worries only about the things he can control. If other quarterbacks get more acclaim, let them. He’s also incredibly even-tempered. This is a good thing to be in New York, where the gentle attentions of the media can be overwhelming. As the quarterback of the city’s flagship franchise, Eli has taken his share of abuse. Even winning the Super Bowl two years ago hasn’t given him the lifetime exemption from second-guessing that other quarterbacks have gotten in other towns. At times this year, it’s been open season on him. It’s probably not fair. For all the records Peyton Manning is likely to retire with, so far he has exactly as many rings as Eli — one. That’s also the same number that Brett Favre has after 19 years in the saddle. So as great as those two have been over the years, they haven’t brought home any more trophies than has Eli. And isn’t that what it’s all about? © 2009 NBC Sports.com Reprints URL: http://nbcsports.msnbc.com/id/34506406/ns/sports-nfl/ Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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