It has been a loooong time coming, New York Giants' fans. That rumble you hear growing louder in the distance, though, is the sound of R-E-S-P-E-C-T building for your defending Super Bowl champions.
The Giants spent the off-season listening to the experts say they were champs, but they still weren't the best team last season. And they spent the pre-season listening to a host of predictions that they wouldn't make the playoffs, and might not even finish .500.
Eli Manning wasn't really that good. Michael Strahan was gone. Osi Umenyiora was hurt. Jeremy Shockey was in New Orleans. How could they possibly be any good?
Well, two impressive season-opening victories and the tide of opinion seems to changing.
The latest example, as pointed out Thursday in the comments by 'Bajaserge,' is this ESPN article ranking the top 5 young quarterbacks in the NFL.
In a ranking of the top 5 young quarterbacks in the NFL, Scouts Inc. came up with this:
That is Ben Roethlisberger of Pittsburgh first. And, yes, Eli is ranked second -- well ahead of Tony Romo in the rating scale used by Scouts Inc.
No way that happened a year ago -- or even two games ago.
When asked the question 'Which of these QBs would you want running your team right now?' three of the seven experts selected Manning. Here is what they said:
Gary Horton: I want Manning because he is the unquestioned leader of a good team in a pressure-cooker market. He has a calm demeanor that permeates to his teammates and he can follow a bad play with several good ones. His footwork is excellent and he can make every play necessary. Plus he has developed into a good decision-maker who, like his brother Peyton, can make good pre-snap adjustments. There doesn't seem to be a situation that is ever too big for him.
Keith Kidd: Without a doubt, it's Brady. But I can't have him, so I'll go with Manning over Cutler. Manning was simply amazing in the postseason, outplaying Jeff Garcia, Romo, Brett Favre and finally, in the Super Bowl, Brady. Manning is playing with a tremendous amount of confidence, and he's in the toughest market of any player on this list. I'm impressed by his arm strength and maneuverability in the pocket, but what I love most is his laid-back demeanor. He doesn't allow a bad play to affect his overall performance. When he's in rhythm with the offense, Manning is a big-time quarterback who puts a lot of pressure on opposing defenses.
Tag Ribary: Manning is the guy I want from this list because he has made unbelievable progress. He can manipulate safeties and linebackers with his eyes. He is accurate and releases the ball with confidence. Plus, Manning has a strong arm with an efficient throwing motion. My quarterback needs to be smart, able to read coverage quickly and have some mobility in the pocket to avoid the rush. Manning can do all of these things effectively, and he now has a proven track record of playing well in the biggest of games -- which most of the players on this list have yet to prove. He may not be the best in each of these individual categories, but right now he is good enough in all of them.
So, it appears that Eli is finally being looked at as something more than Peyton's little brother. And the Giants are finally being looked at as something other than a nice team that got lucky.
Here are a couple of other examples of the respect the Giants are suddenly getting.
- Football Outsiders, a terrific site I don't pay enough attention to, has the Giants ranked No. 1 in its weekly DVOA ratings. DVOA stands for Defense-adjusted Value Over Average, a complicated formula Football Outsiders uses to measure various parts of a football team.
- Both of the bloggers I have interviewed recently, 'Van Ram' from Turf Show Times and Josh Kirkendall from Cincy Jungle have mentioned wishing Tom Coughlin coached their teams.
- The Giants are No. 3 in the ESPN power rankings. A meaningless achievement, but a nice number.
- CBS Sportsline has the Giants at No. 2. With this tantalizing comment:
They can throw it and run it and they can pressure the quarterback. Repeating is definitely possible.
Wow! That's respect.
Of course, all of this won't mean a thing if the Giants lay an egg Sunday against 0-2 Cincinnati.
It sure is nice to see, though. And long overdue.