We often have this discussion about whether or not Eli Manning is elite and while I think more people have come to mine and Tito's side (I mean, come on my handle is Eli Man Crushing-and I think Eli is one of the goofiest looking celebrities out there). I don't think enough people use the right argument to why Eli Manning is Elite.
Why is Eli Manning Elite?
OR the Giants are the luckiest drafting team in the N.F.L., which I do not believe at all.
In 2008, the New York Giants were one of the best teams in the league and then Plaxico Burress had the "shot heard around the world" . The Giants had to turned to the recently cut Broncos WR Domenik Hixon for the remainder of the season. And from week 12, in 6 games Hixon had 351 yards receiving (58.5 per game) and if not for a big drop vs the Eagles might turned Hixon into the hero of the 2008 season. Hixon played so much better than people expected that some were wondering if he could be a viable number two WR in the league. (No, he can't)
Then entering the 2009 season the Giants had "no wide receivers" so the Giants drafted rookie Hakeem Nicks out of North Carolina to pair with Steve Smith, Domenik Hixon, and Mario Manningham. Nicks was considered lazy and over-rated by some and "not a deep threat" by nearly everyone.
With this 'rag tag' group of wide receivers Eli Manning threw for slightly over 4,000 yards 27 touchdowns and 11 interceptions, as each wide receiver not named Hakeem Nicks seemed to have a career year. Steve Smith went from 574 yards receiving in 2008 to 1,220 yards receiving and 7 touchdowns in 2009.
Mario Manningham had 822 yards receiving and 5 touchdowns and Hakeem Nicks had one of the best rookie seasons in franchise history.
On top of that former 5th round pick TE, Kevin Boss racked up 567 yards and 5 touchdowns. When the Giants had "no tight ends" (this has become a common theme, I think).
The Giants didn't make the playoffs in large part because they had one of the worst defenses in league history in the second half of the season in terms of points per game.
Then 2010 started and all of a sudden (after just a year before with no wide receivers) the Giants had one of the best receiving corps in the league. But happen as these things tend to do, wide receiver injuries piled up.
Hakeem Nicks officially broke out and is clearly a stud, but he missed time throughout the season.
Steve Smith was on his way to another productive season before having to be shut down for the year ,tand Ramses Barden got hurt and there was no more depth at the WR position. Domenik Hixon was already out for the entire year.
Enter Derrek Hagan. Hagan who was brought off the street to come back to the Giants. From week 13 on Hagan had 192 yards receiving (nearly 40 yards per game) as fans begin to question why we ever cut him in the first place (again he's not that good. That's why he was cut), better than Duke Calhoun, but that's for another day).
Sure, Eli Manning threw a lot of INT in 2010, more than anyone would like because of poor routes, tipped balls, and because he took many chances, but Eli also made a lot of big plays.
(Speaking of taking chances, for everyone who complains about him taking too many chances go and watch the MOST PATHETIC two-minute drill in history when the Chargers played the Jets on Sunday and Philip Rivers threw the ball three yards down the field,, three more yards down the field and then OUT OF BOUNDS. COME ON, MAN.). I'll personally take the quarterback who at least gives his receivers a chance to win the game.
And now it's Jake Ballard and Victor Cruz. In 2011, the Giants lost both Steve Smith and Kevin Boss and it was gloom and doom time for Giants fans. But the silly fans forgot what Jerry Reese and Tom Coughlin never forget and what No One Outside of New York EVER acknowledges-Eli Manning makes scrubs look like prized catches.
Jake Ballard has responded (jake Ballard the "blocking tight end") with 15 catches for 273 yards and two touchdowns early this season. Ballard has fooled people into thinking that we no longer need a dual threat at tight end.
But let me stop you right there: Jake Ballard is not a dual threat TE at the N.F.L. Level. He's just playing with an Elite quarterback. (for evidence see Tame, Jacob).
Victor Cruz, the undrafted Victor Cruz who is barely 6 feet tall, has 21 catches for 398 yards and three touchdowns. Again, another man inserted into the lineup another player who exceeds expectations.
These are not the only players to benefit from the effects of playing with Eli Manning. The WR position has a high bust rate in the N.F.L, but how many busts have the Giants really had? Even when Sinorice Moss was here people always wondered why doesn't he get on the field more. Eli always seems to find him for touchdowns every time he's on the field. It's because Sinorice Moss is awful. That's why he's not on the field more. But lo and behold when he's on the field with Eli Manning it always seemed like he was coming up with a touchdown.
I often wonder. What would happen if the Giants did end up with Darrius Heyward Bey and not Nicks. Would we be talking about the future All-Pro DHB while Nicks was floundering out in Oakland? (Nawh, Nicks is really good).
The Mark of Greatness in a quarterback is how much better do you make the players you play with?
In the N.F.L., to me, there are only five guys who do that consistently in this league.
Aaron Rodgers-Every Reciever the Packers touch turns to gold (sound familiar)
And Eli Manning.
You think it's easy? Check out Philip Rivers and his no named WR this year. VIncent Jackson is there, Malcolm Floyd is good, but there is no depth.
How's Rivers playing? (7 touchdowns and 9 INT with a 82.3 QB rating).
I said this during the off-season and I'll say it again.
The loser in the Steve Smith sweepstakes is not the New York Giants. It's Steve Smith. I truly believe that unless Smith goes on to play with the Colts, Patriots, Packers or another team of that ilk he'll never look as good to the league as he did when he was playing with Eli Manning, the elite quarterback.