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Evaluating Eli at 30: You’ll Miss Him When He’s Gone


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Giants quarterback Eli Manning threw a league-leading 25 interceptions this season. Tipped balls by receivers hurt. And yes, he did sometimes try to do too much. The quarterback’s primary responsibility is to get his team into the end zone. The statistics, even of the advanced variety, are interesting but don’t mean much unless they translate into points on the scoreboard and victories in the win column.

 

Eli Manning led the Giants to 10 wins and quarterbacked an offense that scored 394 points, the fourth time in his six full seasons as the starter that they finished in the top 10 in scoring. The Giants led the N.F.C. in offensive touchdowns with 48, tied with the Chargers for second over all behind the Patriots. (The Giants were one of three teams not to have a return touchdown this season, either on defense or by their special teams.) Manning did it with his most reliable receiver, Steve Smith, missing seven games, with different offensive linemen protecting his blind side almost every week and with a street free agent, Derek Hagan, as a starter in the final month of the season.

 

Most of the post-mortems mention that Manning threw 31 touchdown passes, the highest total by a Giants quarterback since Y.A. Tittle, and that he threw for over 4,000 yards for the second consecutive season. Do these statistical achievements mean that he actually played better than in previous years? Were his pre-snap reads more accurate? Did he go through his progressions and pick the right receiver a greater percentage of the time?

 

Manning certainly might have graded out higher in these areas, but I would suggest that the spike in yards probably had more to do with the transition to younger receivers, especially Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham, who have been much more productive after the catch. The yards-after-catch of Manning’s receivers went from 1,220 in 2008, the last year of Plaxico Burress and Amani Toomer, to 1,737 in 2009 and 1,645 in 2010.

 

The elusiveness of Nicks and Manningham led the Giants to successfully incorporate the wide receiver screen as a staple in their offense. Here are some examples from the past two years:

 

2009

 

Week 1 vs. Washington: Manningham +30 (TD)

Week 4 vs. Kansas City: Nicks +54 (TD)

Week 9 vs. San Diego: Nicks +29

 

2010

 

Week 7 vs. Dallas: Manningham +25 (TD)

Week 9 vs. Seattle: Manningham +32

Week 17 vs. Washington: D.J. Ware (in motion to slot) +16

 

These were very high percentage throws completed within a yard of the line of scrimmage. As with the spread offenses in college, they make the quarterback’s stats look better.

 

Even with a shuffled offensive line, Manning was sacked only 16 times in 555 drop-backs, the lowest ratio in the league other than his brother’s. He has effectively avoided sacks throughout his career. In 2004, Manning’s rookie year, Kurt Warner was sacked 39 times in 9 games. With the same offensive personnel, Manning was sacked 13 times in 7 games.

 

Sacks aren’t just the product of the play of the offensive line, of course. Your backs and tight ends have to be good at chipping edge pass-rushers and at picking up blitzes. Having the credible threat of a running game and playing, most of the time, with the lead helps keep the defense honest. Much of it, however, falls on the quarterback. Play fast and don’t drift. Manning makes his reads quickly, stays in the pocket, and usually delivers the ball on time. It’s not a very exciting style, but it keeps the offense from too many negative plays and, more important, it has helped Manning avoid injury and stay on the field for 110 consecutive starts.

 

While the young receivers have provided some big plays, they also come with a downside. They don’t always run the most precise routes. If Nicks is required to run a 12-yard curl route, he has to run it at exactly that depth or the necessary timing between the quarterback and the receiver is lost. If he doesn’t come back for the ball, as it appears he didn’t on Asante Samuel’s interception in Philadelphia this year, he gives the defender a chance to break it up, or worse. That’s where the most talked-about statistic of Manning’s season comes in: 25, his league-leading interception total.

 

One of the many weaknesses of the passer rating is that it doesn’t take into account how, when and why interceptions take place. A pick on a Hail Mary at the end of the first half is not the same as a poor decision under pressure on first down in the red zone down by 3 points with a minute left in the game. One of Manning’s interceptions occurred in Philadelphia in Week 11 with eight seconds remaining and the Giants trailing by 10 points. The Eagles rushed 3 and dropped 8 in coverage at least 20 yards deep. That pick had no impact on the outcome of the game, but it’s included in Manning’s stats as if it did.

 

Some interceptions are the quarterback’s fault. Many are not. Any attempt to properly assess responsibility for them must necessarily require some level of speculation. We can’t be certain that the receivers ran the correct routes, that the quarterback went through his progression properly, and that he made the right decision each time. Those are things only Manning and his coaches know for sure.

 

Having said that, of the 25 interceptions, 8 were tipped off the hands of the intended receiver: 3 by Nicks, 2 by Ahmad Bradshaw, and 1 each by Manningham, Smith, and Ramses Barden. At least 3, 1 by Bradshaw against Carolina, 1 by Nicks versus Tennessee, and 1 by Manningham in the final game of the season against Washington, were catches that should have easily been made. Were the others just inaccurate throws, or were the receivers not in exactly the right spot?

 

Sometimes the defensive players deserve some credit, too. In Week 15 against the Eagles, safety Quintin Mikell made a spectacular catch of a ball tipped off the hands of defensive end Darryl Tapp. The next week, Green Bay cornerback Sam Shields did a terrific job undercutting a deep out route intended for Hagan to make the interception along the sideline (Shields came down with one foot out of bounds and it probably would’ve been reversed but the Giants were out of replay challenges). Against the Cowboys in Week 10, the Giants tried a double-move with Manningham that they had previously used successfully with Smith, who was out with an injury. Safety Alan Ball read it, drove on the route, and made the pick. Manningham didn’t sell the fake quite as effectively as Smith usually does.

 

If there’s a discernible pattern to the interceptions, it’s that sometimes Manning tries to do too much. Most occurred on third-and-long or third-and-goal situations (15 out of 25). Desperately trying to score a touchdown or to keep a drive alive led to some bad decisions and high-risk throws. Against Tennessee in Week 3, on third-and-goal from the 2, as most Giants fans probably remember, he threw the ball left-handed into the end zone, to the surprise of even his own teammate, Kevin Boss. It was picked off and the scoring opportunity was lost. Punts and field goal attempts are not the worst plays in football.

 

Eli Manning turned 30 on Monday. In the ongoing debate, comparing him favorably to one of his now-beloved predecessors, Phil Simms, is to evoke an emotional response usually along the lines of “you’re crazy.” Evaluating their relative strengths and weaknesses in playing the position would make for an interesting discussion. When it comes to their achievements, however, Manning’s far surpass those of Simms at a comparable age, and it’s not even close.

 

Today, most Giants fans speak of Simms with great reverence, a sentiment not widely held when he was actually playing. The same people praising him now were some of his greatest detractors, especially during his early years.

 

Simms was drafted in 1979 but didn’t play a full season for the Giants until 1984, the year he turned 30. That initial part of his career was marked by inconsistent performance, serious injuries, relentless booing and, finally, a benching that almost led to the end of his Giants career before it really got started.

 

In 1980, Simms hurt his collarbone late in the year against the Cardinals. The next year, he dislocated his throwing shoulder. In 1982, his season ended in the first quarter of the third preseason game when he tore knee ligaments against the Jets.

 

Simms came back healthy in 1983 and found himself in competition for the starting job with Scott Brunner, who had led the Giants to the playoffs in 1981. When their new coach, Bill Parcells, picked Brunner, that was it for Simms. He wanted out. He reiterated his demand to be traded during the season, and Parcells wanted to deal him, but General Manager George Young refused every time.

 

In Week 6 against the Eagles, Simms replaced an ineffective Brunner and was playing well when disaster struck again. As he was following through on a pass, his right hand collided with the arm of defensive end Dennis Harrison. Simms sustained a compound fracture dislocation of the right thumb and missed the rest of the season. All during this period, if free agency had been a viable option, Simms almost certainly would have left. As of the end of the 1983 season, his career could only be charitably be described as disappointing.

 

Manning, on the other hand, has taken every meaningful snap of every game since he became the starter in Week 10 of his rookie year, 2004. The next year, the Giants won the N.F.C. East with an 11-5 record and scored 422 points, their highest total in 42 years. He has taken full advantage of far better talent than Simms ever had to make the Giant offense consistently one of the most productive in football. Two division titles. Four consecutive playoff appearances. A champion and Super Bowl M.V.P. by age 27.

 

Eli Manning seems destined, like Simms, to be fully appreciated only retrospectively. The Bills are still trying to replace Jim Kelly 14 years after he played his final game. With all due respect to Jay Fiedler and Jeff Garcia, the same holds true for the Dolphins and Dan Marino and the 49ers and Steve Young. Those guys are hard to find.

 

Many fans have been down on Manning for years. Someday, the Giants will have to replace him. Perhaps only then, when they witness what is likely to follow, will they finally embrace him. By that time, of course, many of them will probably be saying that they supported him all along.

 

 

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I remember back in the Phil Simms years, there were plenty of fans that hated his guts, until he won the Super Bowl. And even a few of the diehards still never gave him the credit he was due.

 

And, then, it got alot worse.

 

 

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Joe...Joe....Joe....you will be banished to the nether hells forever more for showing the hated image of the Despised One...your crime is a foul one indeed. Luckily for you ...you did not show the Nameless One...who took over from the The Prostitute/Slut..... :furious: Its always burning in hell man. :furious:

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Joe...Joe....Joe....you will be banished to the nether hells forever more for showing the hated image of the Despised One...your crime is a foul one indeed. Luckily for you ...you did not show the Nameless One...who took over from the The Prostitute/Slut..... :furious: Its always burning in hell man. :furious:

 

 

Check it out.....it's like Brown and the loose ball are locked in a dance of death.

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I don't agree with this guy picking apart each interception and saying these weren't Eli's fault. I'm sure there were others that should have been interceptions but weren't. Do we add those back in? And the tips- Eli said himself if he doesn't throw so high, they don't get tipped.

 

 

I tend to think as BILL PARCELLS says "You are what your record says you are" and total interceptions, in this case 25 means you threw a lot of bad passes.

 

By the title of of this thread the message is we shouldn't criticize Eli because he's the best we've had. We can point out his flaws without condemning him. He had a high risk/high reward, gunslinger type season. I think he'll work to bring down those iINT's next year.

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I think he and the team are going to be fine. Eli was frustrating on plenty of occasions this year but so was just about every Giant at some point during the season. Another year for Eli and the young receivers to get further acclimated should go a long way toward eliminating the interceptions and miscommunications. If you have the time, take a look at Elways first years in the league. I know the game has changed quite a bit and its certainly more difficult for defenses now but Eli has had a very nice career up to this point.

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I don't agree with this guy picking apart each interception and saying these weren't Eli's fault. I'm sure there were others that should have been interceptions but weren't. Do we add those back in? And the tips- Eli said himself if he doesn't throw so high, they don't get tipped.

 

 

I tend to think as BILL PARCELLS says "You are what your record says you are" and total interceptions, in this case 25 means you threw a lot of bad passes.

 

By the title of of this thread the message is we shouldn't criticize Eli because he's the best we've had. We can point out his flaws without condemning him. He had a high risk/high reward, gunslinger type season. I think he'll work to bring down those INT's next year.

 

I am starting to get the feeling that Eli may turn out to be like Favre. Great stats but not a lot of championships because of his mistakes. Also does Eli ever throw the ball away?

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I am starting to get the feeling that Eli may turn out to be like Favre. Great stats but not a lot of championships because of his mistakes. Also does Eli ever throw the ball away?

He used to. He also should be in Mets spring training learning how to slide.

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Well there were the other 17 you can blame Eli for. If you don't want to break down the game, well good luck to ya. :thumbs:

 

I don't agree with this guy picking apart each interception and saying these weren't Eli's fault. I'm sure there were others that should have been interceptions but weren't. Do we add those back in? And the tips- Eli said himself if he doesn't throw so high, they don't get tipped.

 

 

I tend to think as BILL PARCELLS says "You are what your record says you are" and total interceptions, in this case 25 means you threw a lot of bad passes.

 

By the title of of this thread the message is we shouldn't criticize Eli because he's the best we've had. We can point out his flaws without condemning him. He had a high risk/high reward, gunslinger type season. I think he'll work to bring down those iINT's next year.

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I don't agree with this guy picking apart each interception and saying these weren't Eli's fault. I'm sure there were others that should have been interceptions but weren't. Do we add those back in? And the tips- Eli said himself if he doesn't throw so high, they don't get tipped.

 

 

I tend to think as BILL PARCELLS says "You are what your record says you are" and total interceptions, in this case 25 means you threw a lot of bad passes.

 

By the title of of this thread the message is we shouldn't criticize Eli because he's the best we've had. We can point out his flaws without condemning him. He had a high risk/high reward, gunslinger type season. I think he'll work to bring down those iINT's next year.

 

Totally agree.

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Well there were the other 17 you can blame Eli for. If you don't want to break down the game, well good luck to ya. :thumbs:

 

 

 

i guess you didn't read my post just decided to give your usual snarky comment. i was breaking down the game-read it again, morphy.

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I enjoy reading your posts, I disagree with this one. I agree with the writer that not every single one of the interceptions this season was Eli's fault. Saw more than one ball hit a receiver in the hands then wind up in the hands of an opponent. If you want to blame every interception on Eli, well then once again :thumbs:

 

i guess you didn't read my post just decided to give your usual snarky comment. i was breaking down the game-read it again, morphy.

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He used to. He also should be in Mets spring training learning how to slide.

 

Unfortunately that's not going to happen as Eli said so himself, that he won't work on sliding. To be honest Eli pisses me off with his cavalier attitude towards INTs. In the Redskins game he just shrugged his shoulders and started walking off the field while the defender was still returning the ball. I don't expect Eli to be hitting players but when was the last time you saw Eli jacked up or throw a block? The guy is the text book definition of a laissez-faire attitude.

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he is not a good field commander, but what you see is what you get

he studies well, is prepared and makes most throws well

he needs some oline help and a more dependable running game to flourish

he absolutley needs to work on throwing the ball away and lowering his short passes to chest level

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he is not a good field commander, but what you see is what you get

he studies well, is prepared and makes most throws well

he needs some oline help and a more dependable running game to flourish

he absolutley needs to work on throwing the ball away and lowering his short passes to chest level

 

he could also build some of those teardrop passes Hasselbeck was throwing into his routine. Those are killers since the YAC is usually a TD. It takes a true QB to throw those......you have to have guts, touch, good field vision, and trust your receivers to get tot he ball 1st

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I enjoy reading your posts, I disagree with this one. I agree with the writer that not every single one of the interceptions this season was Eli's fault. Saw more than one ball hit a receiver in the hands then wind up in the hands of an opponent. If you want to blame every interception on Eli, well then once again :thumbs:

 

 

 

i agree as well not every interception was his fault. but not every TD pass is a result of his prowess either. Sometimes he throws a 5 yard screen that turns into a 50 yd TD. Do we analyze those away? When it comes to Eli, it seems an extraordinary effort is put into explaining away his gaffs.

All QB's have tips and WR's not running the right routes. In comparison, he threw the most INT's. Live with it. I still love him. And you.

 

 

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i agree as well not every interception was his fault. but not every TD pass is a result of his prowess either. Sometimes he throws a 5 yard screen that turns into a 50 yd TD. Do we analyze those away? When it comes to Eli, it seems an extraordinary effort is put into explaining away his gaffs.

All QB's have tips and WR's not running the right routes. In comparison, he threw the most INT's. Live with it. I still love him. And you.

 

What about me? :(

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Barring injuries, Manning should end up with all of the Giant's passing records. He already owns as many Superbowl victories/MVPs as Simms, and Simms wasn't above the heart-wrenching INT, either. He's even getting close to Tittle's team record of 36 TDs in a season.

 

They all throw INTs. They all have bad games, they all throw incompletions when they need one more first down. But the QBs you remember are the ones that more often than not get the job done.

 

You'll remember Eli Manning.

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Barring injuries, Manning should end up with all of the Giant's passing records. He already owns as many Superbowl victories/MVPs as Simms, and Simms wasn't above the heart-wrenching INT, either. He's even getting close to Tittle's team record of 36 TDs in a season.

 

They all throw INTs. They all have bad games, they all throw incompletions when they need one more first down. But the QBs you remember are the ones that more often than not get the job done.

 

You'll remember Eli Manning.

 

to be fair, we remember Dave Brown too :rules:

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