During one of my first few days in Argentina, my five-year-old host brother, Nico, and I were playing some soccer when he asked me: “Who is the best football team in the United States?” Initially confused as to whether he was inquiring about American football or soccer, I responded confidently with, “the New York Giants, of course.”
To much of my surprise, Nico has grown to like the Giants; it appears I’ve brainwashed him into developing a sense of appreciation for Victor Cruz’s post-touchdown salsa dance and Tom Coughlin’s incapacity to evoke any sense of emotion. While there’s no pigskin with which he can practice his carrying or throwing, we’ve been making due with a rugby ball so he can practice emulating his favorite player on the team–Eli Manning.
Everyone has her or his own opinion of Eli. Some think he’s overrated and the Giants owe most of their success to their defensive line, and others think he’s a good leader for his defending Superbowl champ Giants. Personally, I lie somewhere in the middle—as a huge Justin Tuck fan I am biased to love the defense, but I feel that this season Manning has done well, leading the Giants to a 5-2 record and a spot at the top of the NFC East division.
After the embarrassing loss to the Dallas Cowboys during the NFL season opener, Manning has communicated his capabilities through his numbers: 2,109 total passing yards (the highest total in the NFL this season) with a 63.8 completion percentage and an average of nearly 300 yards per game.
Though my access to ESPN’s website has been pretty limited (the Internet at my Argentina abode isn’t Saxanet steady), but I was able to view some clips of Stephen A. Smith referring to Manning as “the best fourth-quarter quarterback in the last year and a half.” I agree. Reminiscent of our very own heart-attack Hoyas, the Giants, and thus Eli Manning, have thus far been able to bring everything together in the last quarter and clinch some key victories.
During the second game this season against the Buccaneers, the Giants scored 25 points in the last quarter, and this past weekend they managed to get 2 touchdowns in the last few minutes of their game against their division rival Washington Redskins.
Manning may not be the best quarterback in the NFL—though he’s currently ranked in the top-10 passing rating leaders, it’s tough to objectively compare him to the likes of Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers, Atlanta’s Matt Ryan, or even his older brother, Peyton Manning.
Smith, however, believes that “[Eli] is better than his brother.” He goes on to list more comparisons to Peyton and claims that “[Eli’s] ability to shove aside the mistakes, to have no memory of what ails him…and go out there and pressurize those situations and do what he does,” are some of the more powerful aspects this quarterback has to contribute.
While it is true Eli has more Super Bowl rings than his brother, Peyton has 15 years of experience and consistent success to Eli’s 9 years of unpredictable play. Still, the rings are king in the NFL, so I have to agree with Stephen A. here.
On the field, Eli has visible chemistry with Cruz and Ahmad Bradshaw, and he’s also developed a successful passing relationship with rookie wide receiver Rueben Randle. A recent graduate from Louisiana State University, Randle has averaged 12.3 yards per catch during his first seven regular season games; for a new addition to the team, this relationship proves to be very promising for the future of the franchise as well as for the rest of the season.
In addition to Randle, Manning continues to give other wide receivers chances for game-day success. Ramses Barden, a member of the team for four years, has increased in playing time since he joined the Giants in 2009. While he only saw playing time in three games during his first season with only one reception, in 2012 he’s played in six games with 12 receptions, having 9 first downs, averaging 16.5 yards per pass for a total of 198 yards.
Manning has more than just a great arm, though; he also communicates well with the players along the line. Martellus Bennett, a new Giant for the 2012 season, has seen plenty of action so far. He has played in every game so far with the Giants for a total of 25 receptions, three touchdowns, and averaging 12.2 yards per carry for a total of 305 yards. He has seen much improvement from his tenuous time on the Cowboys. While his success cannot solely be attributed to a new quarterback, it is clear that he and Manning can communicate well to ensure the success of their team.
Smith concludes with a comment about the Giants as a whole saying, “the reigning, defending, Super Bowl champions have an elite quarterback…that’s always closing.” Eli Manning has been a great leader and has proved that nobody can question his dominance, even his kin.