Eli Manning: The Unfair Criticism

Eli Manning is down and out. He’s washed up, past his prime, and cannot be a starting quarterback in the NFL anymore. Right?

If any sports fan has watched any New York Giants games within the two years, they would think so. No one can sugar coat that Manning had a terrible 2013 season, but that season warranted some unfair and harsh critiques of Manning. With a stat line of a 69.4 QB Rating, a 57% Completion Percentage, 3,818 yards, 18 TD’s, and 27 INT’s; it’s pretty clear that Manning had an awful year in 2013. Unfortunately, because of these statistics Manning had been thrown under the bus for the 2014 season.

It is hard to put all of the shortcomings Manning had in 2013 all on him. The 2013 Giants was just a horrid team. The offensive line was well, offensive. The receivers, with the exception of Cruz, were inconsistent all year. Hakeem Nicks looked downright awful and I won’t go as far to say that he gave up on the Giants, but it was obvious that he was not putting 100% effort into his game. For example, Nicks played 15 games in 2013 and had a stat line of 56 catches, under 900 yards, and 0 touchdowns.

The biggest red flag was the game against Seattle; he did not go up and contest for balls. He also put no effort in coming back to the ball to help Manning. He looked like he did not care anymore. It could be attributed that, some of the lack of effort is due to his injuries, he has had way too many of them in his career. However, that is no excuse for him being a complete no-show for most of those games in 2013. Ruben Randle was not and still is, not a good route runner. 7 of Manning’s 17 interceptions in 2013 were thrown towards Randle.

According to Football Outsiders, Randle only caught 52% of the balls that were thrown to him in the 2013 season. So many times the report was that Manning and Randle had “miscommunications” but how many times could that excuse have been used? Combine that with the mediocre play from Brandon Meyers and the Giants running backs and the offense was in a prime position to not succeed.

Eli Manning was a total question mark as a player going into the next season. He had to prove himself. The 2014 season has come and passed and things are seemingly better than they were last year at this time. With new Offensive Coordinator Ben McAdoo running the offense looks way more competent than it did under Kevin Gilbride. After 10 years of Eli Manning being in the same offensive system, he had to make a huge switch.

Going from the “Run and Gun” style offense to a West Coast Offense, it would be a tough transition for sure, as the offense would need some time to get going. Once Eli Manning had the no-huddle running, it was unstoppable. Even pre-Beckham, the Giants showed that they could take the ball down the field with no problem. The Giants offense shredded a talented Houston defense, then completely ripped apart the Redskins the next week, running the no huddle for a good part of those games.

That sounds like an over exaggeration, it might be, but it’s not too far off from the truth. When Eli Manning was firing on all cylinders, the offense would just move so fluidly.

Manning’s stat line for the 2014 season ended like this: a 92.1 QB Rating, a 63.1% Completion Percentage, 4,420 yards, 30 TD’s, and 14 INT’s. Those statistics are dramatically better than the previous year. Still, it seems like Manning gets absolutely no credit. Before the season even started, many analysts felt that Manning could not run the West Coast Offense McAdoo was bringing in. This is a tweet from Ebenzer Samuel:

“@ebenezersamuel: Is Eli Manning even a fit for the WCO? With every incompletion you have to wonder.”

Also, both Jemele Hill and Michael Smith ripped into Manning on their show ‘Numbers Never Lie’ as the “numbers” supposedly made both of them conclude that Manning was destined to fail.

Let’s look at the facts. Manning was statistically better than he was in 2013. He was also under significantly less pressure than he was in 2013. He also had a rookie wide receiver named Odell Beckham Jr. playing as his number one receiver. This is after Victor Cruz went down and Beckham Jr. took over the duties as the true number one.

Manning went on a streak of seven games from weeks 3 to 10 where he threw only two interceptions. Another great fact is that during the seven-game losing streak the team had from weeks 6 to 13, Manning never once put the blame on anyone but himself.

This still did not help Manning’s cause in the media. As soon as he had the five-interception game against the 49ers in week 11, He was put on blast in countless articles and TV spots on all networks. Articles with titles like “Eli Manning is the Problem” from Newspapers like the New York Post appeared everywhere in the New York area after that game. This is when the Manning naysayers came back from the dead like Vin Diesel’s career, fast and furious All of this criticism for one bad game. A game where he threw five interceptions, somehow made people come to the conclusion that Manning was done for his career. It was a complete heat of the moment reaction from everyone.

What Manning did thereafter was go out and throw three interceptions in six games. This showed that Manning still has “it” and that he still is able to maintain focus and bounce back easily from a bad game. He is still the same cool, calm, and collective guy he has been throughout his whole career. This is the same guy that took his team and beat the then undefeated New England Patriots, a game where no one gave the Giants a chance to win.

Another takeaway from the 2014 season is that Manning has changed. He can longer escape out of the pocket and make a play when the pocket collapsed, like he used to. He needs protection, plain and simple. The belief is that the offensive line needs major help, but that’s not the case. An offense of line of Beatty – FA/Draft Pick – Richburg – Schwartz – Pugh could actually be a solid offensive line, barring any injury, of course.

The receiving corps is also looking much better than it did this time last year. A corps of Beckham Jr., Cruz, Randle, and Parker is one of the better ones in the NFL. It is safe to assume that Beckham Jr., will perform at a high level and continue his perpetual jaw dropping, catches every single game. The question marks come with Cruz and Randle. The hope is that Cruz comes back close to 100% from his knee injury and that Randle retain some consistency as he showed a little of it was able to towards the end of the season.

There is, however, one tweet that really caught my eye. During the NFC Championship Game, Ebenezer Samuel tweeted this:

Now, this tweet came after Russell Wilson threw one of his four interceptions in that game. The tweet is obviously a joke on Manning’s interceptions. Samuel is a beat writer for the Giants working for the New York Daily News. I personally feel that there is more than what meets the eye in the above tweet.

When Russell Wilson was throwing those interceptions in the game, people on twitter were not laughing at him. Instead, it felt like everyone believed that Wilson was going to have a great game after the interceptions. If that was Eli Manning, he most likely would have been crucified. Social media would have been ripping him apart, putting “Manning Faces” everywhere, and just laughing at him for completely blowing the NFC Championship Game. This sounds out there, but it is a distinct possibility given the market in which Eli plays for.

Going into the 2014 offseason, Manning takes up a big chunk of the salary cap, $20 million of it. Is Manning a $20 million dollar cap hit a year quarterback? No. Neither is Andy Dalton nor Joe Flacco. Quarterbacks get paid money, plain and simple. I do think the Giants will extend Manning to relieve some cap space and this will probably be the last extension of his career. It’s worth it.

To me, Eli Manning is in the Rich Gannon phase of his career. Rich Gannon won the MVP at the age of 34 and took his team to a Super Bowl. Eli Manning is better than Rich Gannon. If all the pieces are in place, the Giants are primed to go on another Super Bowl run with Manning at the helm. The Giants cannot waste another Manning year. The Giants need to win now, that much is obvious.

It feels like no one saw the defense play the way they did this year, there were a few times where Manning set up the Giants to win and the defense just collapsed. Some examples are the Week 12 clash against the Cowboys. Although Manning threw a late interception, he rebounded by taking his team 92 yards down the field for the go-ahead touchdown.

Then, what does the defense end up doing? They let Tony Romo just expose them; he threw into the off and soft cover 2 defense that Fewell was calling like he was playing with just the offense on the field. 1:59 seconds later, Romo finds Dez Bryant in the back of then endzone for the game-winning touchdown. Another would be the Jaguars game in week 13. The defense completely crumbled after half time, allowing Blake Bortles (69.5 QBR, 2,908 yards, 11 TD’s, and 17 INT’s) to run all over them using read option plays.

The defense gave up a 21-point lead and the Giants lost to the lonely Jaguars

Eli Manning is always the butt of a joke and is arguably criticized more than any other quarterback in the league, but he can still play. Next year will be better, with more pieces in place and a better overall team.

The Giants and us fans should be confident going into the 2015 season. Eli Manning is the right man for the job. He gives the Giants the best chance to win, period.

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