By: Cory Vest
The totem pole of popularity for the Manning men sees Eli looking up at his dad Archie and squinting to see big brother Peyton, manning the top. In fact, Eli might as well be brushing shoulders with Cooper, his other brother. Eli has never been one to draw the spotlight. When cameras do find him, the blank stare and far out look is not exactly flattering. The amount of attention Eli is currently getting is close to the amount he received following each of his two Super Bowl victories over the terrifying tandem that is Bill Belichick and Tom Brady.
The reason for the multiple mentions of Eli Manning’s moniker is due to his benching in favor of Geno Smith. The decision by not only Ben McAdoo but the Giants’ organization from the top down, came after the G-men fell to 2-9. Their season in the cellar is a call for change at quarterback apparently. Manning’s 210 consecutive starts at quarterback is second in NFL history but will come to an end this Sunday because of the decision. The reason for the decision was to see what the organization has in the backup Geno Smith. The same Geno Smith that is 12-18 as a quarterback in the NFL. The same Geno Smith who has thrown more interceptions, 36, than touchdowns, 28. A 72.3 career rating doesn’t do much to pad his passing stats either. The appeal of Smith lies in the athleticism and ability to leave the pocket and make plays with his feet; a major flaw of the often stagnant and heavy-footed Manning. With a rushing attack that ranks 26th in the league, a mobile quarterback has its lure.
Geno Smith’s stats and whether or not he or third string quarterback Davis Webb deserve more playing time, is far from the center of the outrage and outcry displayed by those that are displeased with the decision. Twitter is currently a bulletin board of snippets and thoughts regarding the choice. Most athletes, analysts, coaches and those familiar with the NFL and Eli himself, are on Eli’s side; empathy, sympathy, anger and sadness have all been expressed.
Philip Rivers called the handling of the benching pathetic; noting many accolades and the respect Eli has earned throughout his career. The two-time Super Bowl winner and two-time Super Bowl MVP has had a long 14-year career with the Giants. Former teammate Osi Umenyiora highlighted Manning’s dedication to the organization; Umenyiora also mentioned the fact Eli has put everything on the line and has done everything right by the organization. Several more quotes and reactions could be displayed as evidence but the article would surely drag.
Complaints from Manning have been few and far between. His most memorable, and possible only, is his refusal to play for the San Diego Chargers before he even entered the league. Manning has stood tall through thick and thin, behind weak offensive lines or despite the lack of a running game. Eli has never been one to get his name in lights, he has quietly gotten the job done and quietly found himself a couple of rings. The way Manning has handled his benching has spoken volumes as to what kind of person he is. Manning has remained professional even though he was blindsided by it all. Manning declined the offer to start against the Raiders for the sole purpose of keeping his streak alive. Manning said he doesn’t know whether or not he will continue to be a Giant in the future to come. Despite the uncertainty of his future with New York, the day after the benching Manning and rookie, Davis Webb, were in the cafeteria before any other players. The two were seen sitting together alone in the Giants’ cafeteria by David Diehl, and reported by Daily Snark. Manning has proven himself to be a man who possesses class, professionalism and respect.
Not everybody is running to hold Manning’s hand, or wipe away the tears that were welling up during the interview following the announcement. The radio talent of Colin Cowherd and Dan Lebatard, Fox Sports analyst Rob Parker and Mike Sando from ESPN, all have tweets that support the decision. Cowherd and Lebatard agree that Manning is overrated, with Cowherd saying the decision to bench Manning would have come much earlier if it wasn’t for Odell Beckham Jr. Rob Parker’s tweet referenced the NFL’s cut throat mentality and lack of job security and told everyone to “stop the pity party” for Eli. Mike Sando compared the ten quarterbacks that have had 5,000 plus total pass attempts since 2004. Categories included passer rating, completion percentage, yards per attempt, touchdown rate, interception rate, touchdown to interception ratio and win percentage. As Sando tweeted “the HOF case for Eli Manning is not a statistical one. It’s about longevity + playoff success in that market”. The reason it is not a statistical one is because Manning ranked either last, or 9th, in every category among the ten quarterbacks listed, with a median ranking of 9.5.
The 2-9 record, the lack or receivers due to season ending injuries to OBJ and Brandon Marshall, an offensive line that could use improvement and a running game that needs a little more than some help, all reflect poorly on the men in blue; especially with such lofty expectations entering the season. Ben McAdoo and the Giants impressed with an 11-5 record and a playoff appearance in 2016 and were supposed to have only gotten better during the offseason. The Giants went winless through their first five games. Despite all of this, Manning has a quarterback rating of 84.1 and has thrown for 14 touchdowns against 7 interceptions. A completion percentage of 62.5 and 219.2 yards per game aren’t terrible stats either. In fact, compared to his career stats, Manning is having one of his better years. The 62.5% current completion percentage tops his career 59.8%. Though his passing yards per game are down this season, his quarterback rating is slightly better than his career of 83.8 and his interception percentage is the lowest of his career at 1.8%. Manning is not exactly on the rise, but his career is not in an uncontrollable spiral. In the right system he could do enough to manage his team to a win.
In shambles and left picking up the pieces of what now appears to be a flailing franchise, the Giants will offer a fun follow during their rapidly approaching offseason. Will Eli remain a Giant? Will Geno Smith take the helm, or will David Webb get the nod come 2018? The face that has been the Giants for fourteen seasons could fade into the shadows; which might be fitting considering Manning has spent much of his career out of the spotlight and in the shadows.