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Eli Manning always at the center of the storm for New York Giants

Is Eli the problem? The solution? Let’s talk about the quarterback.

NFL: New York Giants at Green Bay Packers
Eli Manning
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

When Big Blue View was born on Feb. 19, 2007 we began our journey with a discussion of whether or not Eli Manning was the right quarterback to lead the New York Giants to Super Bowl glory.

For giggles, and because we know what happened that season, here is a small slice of what I wrote that day:

Yet, I think quarterback will not be the Giants biggest problem this coming season, or in the years to follow. The more I think about it, the more convinced I am that Eli will eventually justify Ernie Accorsi's decision to give up so much in order to acquire him.

More than nine years have passed since then. Many things have changed. Yet, one thing has remained the same throughout all those years. When it comes to the Giants the conversation ALWAYS comes back to Manning.

No matter how long he plays the questions remain the same. Is he elite? Why does he look so great sometimes, and so awful at other times? How much blame should he get for the Giants’ struggles? Is it time for the Giants to seriously begin looking for a new franchise quarterback?

Here we are again.

The Giants have lost three straight games, and Manning has had a hand in all three of those defeats. In fact, Manning has landed in the post-game “Wet Willies” section three weeks in a row, something which may never have happened before here at Big Blue View. There have been plays to be made in all three of those games, and Manning has been off-target far too often.

Manning is being shredded by the media and the blogosphere, and vilified in the fan base. Jordan Ranaan of ESPN has even gone so far as to say that Manning has been letting the Giants down for the past four years, which I find to be an over-the-top overreaction.

Manning had an awful 2013. A putrid offensive line and a bad supporting cast led him to try to do far too much, resulting in an ugly 27-interception season. He was good in 2014 and 2015, raising his completion percentage, lowering his interceptions and compiling back-to-back 30-touchdown seasons for the first time.

Two weeks into this season he was completing 71 percent of his passes, the Giants were 2-0 and he looked headed to a terrific season. Now, he’s a bum again. Such is the life of a quarterback.

Is he elite?

It’s a wishy-washy answer, but that depends entirely on your definition of elite. No matter how many words are wasted arguing both sides of that question, your opinion likely formed years ago and nothing written, said or done on the field is ever going to change it.

Manning has had two glorious Super Bowl runs during which time he unquestionably played at an elite level. He has never been that same guy during the regular season. He’s been good, sometimes very good, but never consistently great. He has also been mystifyingly awful at times, probably too many times.

What I have said in the past, and that still rings true, is that there are times when Manning plays the position as well as anyone. There are also times when he plays the position like the junior varsity quarterback at your local high school. Those things were true early in his career. They are still true late in his career. They were true in the play-action, vertical Kevin Gilbride offense. They are true in the quick-throw, completion-driven Ben McAdoo offense.

Is he elite? For me, he’s a good quarterback. Capable of great moments, great stretches. A player perfectly capable of performing at the big moments, as he has proven. He has never been in the class of Tom Brady, his brother Peyton, or some of the all-time great quarterbacks. He probably has rarely, if ever, been a top five in the league regular season quarterback throughout his career.

Is Manning a Hall of Famer? After the second Super Bowl title I would have said yes without hesitation. Now? With each passing, and losing, season I believe his Hall of Fame case grows weaker. Manning needs more good statistical seasons like the last two. What he really needs, though, are more playoff appearances. Without them, the case for inducting him into the Hall of Fame gets harder and harder to make.

Does Eli make teammates better?

A player like Brady or Peyton Manning until the late stages of his career lifted the play of the guys around him. He found ways to get production, to be successful no matter the supporting cast. Brady still does. Manning his done that at times for the Giants, but usually Manning succeeds when the supporting players around him succeed. When it’s chaos around him, when the offensive line isn’t functioning well or his receiving corps isn’t up to par, his play often reflects the nature of what is happening around him. A truly elite quarterback finds a way to rise above that. For me, as good as he has been during his career there have been times when Manning has succumbed to his surroundings rather than show the ability to rise above them.

Time to look to the future?

Manning is 35. He is in his 13th NFL season. So, the question comes up increasingly. Is it time for the Giants to draft a successor for Manning?

My answer is this. Of course it is time for the Giants to begin seriously considering a future without Manning. It is not yet time to feel like they absolutely have to select their quarterback of the future in the 2017 NFL Draft. Manning, warts and all, is the most accomplished quarterback in franchise history. The Giants, and those of you who desperately want him gone, are going to miss him when he isn’t there anymore.

Manning has three seasons left on his current contract. At this point, I fully expect him to be the Giants’ starting quarterback for those three seasons. Of course, things can change, like they are in Dallas where with each passing week more and more people are convinced that Dak Prescott should remain quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys regardless of the health of Tony Romo.

The Cowboys’ quarterback situation is, in fact, a good blueprint for the Giants. Dallas stumbled onto Prescott in the fourth round of the 2016 NFL Draft. It would be foolish for the Giants, with a roster that still needs upgrades in a number of places, to use a first-round pick on a quarterback next offseason. If they come across a guy in the middle of the draft they believe strongly in, go ahead and pull the trigger. Draft and develop the guy. If they don’t, then wait. It’s certainly time to begin looking in earnest, but it isn’t time to panic and draft a guy because you feel like you have to have a successor in place now.

Manning hasn’t played well enough the past three weeks. He has to deliver when there are plays to be made, and recently he has not done so. That much I think everyone can agree on. Does that mean he is in decline? I don’t think we can say that yet. Does it mean quarterback is the Giants’ biggest problem? Just as I believed nine years ago, I still don’t think that’s the case.

I believe the window to win with Manning is still open. It probably won’t be for a whole lot longer, but it still is. Of course he has to be better than he has been during the current losing streak, but Manning also needs more help from the guys around him.